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What Is Photo Retouching? Everything You Need To Know

Do you know that 75% of online shoppers depend on product images to make their purchases? That’s why brands use professional quality flawless photographs on social media, eCommerce stores, and other platforms to attract their target audience. So, how do they make images look so perfect?  Photo retouching! It is the advanced level of post-production every small and large business owner uses for branding, advertisement, and other promotional purposes.  Today, in this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through photo retouching in detail. You will learn about its different types, techniques, benefits, common mistakes, software recommendations, and many other valuable insights.  Let’s dive into our discussion.

What is photo retouching?

high-end retouching of a model

Photo retouching is one type of image manipulation technique. Photo editors and graphic designers use this technique to enhance the visual appeal of photographs. It includes making basic to advanced adjustments within photographs. For example, fixing exposure, color correction, removing blemishes, smoothing skin, removing background, adding or replacing elements from the photo, and so on. 

This editing technique is mostly used in photography, graphic design, advertising, and digital art. It can be done for various purposes, such as correcting flaws, improving image quality, giving images a professional look, or achieving a specific artistic effect.

There are several free and paid software programs you can use to retouch photos, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, GIMP, and many more. Although numerous apps are there to retouch your photographs automatically within minutes, the images retouched by professional photo editors will always have top-notch quality.

Different Types of Photo Retouching

There are different types of photo retouching techniques. They are used depending on their specific purposes. Let’s check out some of the retouching types.

High-End Retouching

This comprehensive retouching is usually used in the advertising, fashion, and beauty industries. In this type of retouching, multiple techniques are used to give the images a flawless and polished look. Since the subjects are either models or products, skin smoothing, blemish removal, detail enhancement, color correction, shadow removal, and other techniques are applied to fix every minor issue.

Portrait Retouching

portrait retouch of a model

This technique is used to give portrait images a natural appearance. In portraits, the face and upper body of the subject remain inside the frame. So in this type of retouching, the problems in the images, such as spots on the skin, wrinkles, yellow teeth, creases on the clothes, and other issues are fixed. 

Photo editors enhance facial features through skin smoothing, eye color correction, teeth whitening, blemish removal, light and shadow adjustments, color cast removal, and other techniques.

Headshot Retouching

Headshots are used mostly for professional purposes. The main focus of this type of image is the face of the subject. So, all the makeover techniques are used to enhance the clarity of the facial features as well as portray professionalism. The tools and methods used for this editing category are similar to those used for portrait editing.

Product Photo Retouching

eCommerce product retouch

Product photo correction is necessary to improve your product photos. This technique enhances the aesthetic appeal of products to draw in customers. eCommerce platforms use this makeover service widely to meet their high-quality image needs. Companies usually outsource photo retouching services for product photo post-processing.

This category includes background removal, color correction, adding or removing shadows, exposure adjustment, clipping path, and other processes.

Commercial Retouching

The commercial retouching technique is applied to commercial photographs. These photos are generally used in advertising and marketing campaigns. The purpose of this category is to make models, products, or settings look so eye-catching that the target audience can’t resist checking them out. Professional editors providing photo retouching services fix lighting, color, and other flaws to make the images picture-perfect.

Skin Retouching

This type of correction is necessary for every type of image that includes models and parts of the body such as the neck, ear, hand, or feet. Professional skin retouching techniques include removing blemishes, wrinkles, oil, and sweat. It is also used to make the skin tone even, smooth the skin texture, and correct other flaws. Its goal is to improve the appearance of the skin while maintaining a natural look.

Hair Retouching

Hair digital makeovers are also related to the fashion and beauty industries. The hair of models or furry animals in images can have various problems. For example, flyaways give a messy look, frizz or flat hair making photos unappealing. Editors use this technique to give volume, add shine, reduce frizz, or fix the scattered hair strands to make the hair look perfect.  

Glamor Retouching

glamour retouch of a model

Glamor is mostly related to the fashion, beauty, and advertising industries. This type of retouching technique is also known as digital makeup. It is used to make images look fancy or sophisticated. In this technique, photographs are edited at an advanced level. 

For instance, making the face smooth like porcelain dolls, reshaping features to make them symmetrical, and so on. Lighting and color correction are also edited in a dramatic way. The combination of all these corrections results in a polished and glamorous aesthetic.

Creative Retouching

Photo editors show their creativity using this technique. It is about giving images a dramatic or surreal look. The artistic manipulation of this editing method includes adding special effects, altering color, or blending multiple images. This is all about giving the images a unique visual style or narrative.

Jewelry retouching

jewelry retouching of a ring

This is a special category editing process used to make jewelry items look their best. Photo editors or graphic designers use clipping path, background removal, and other techniques to make accessories look high quality. It is also used to retouch intricate details, add or remove shadow, create or eliminate reflection, adjust color, and so on. The jewelry images you see on social media or eCommerce platforms are all edited through this technique.

How is photo retouching different from photo editing?

Photo editing and photo retouching are both post-production techniques used to enhance the visual aesthetics of photographs. Although they have similar roles, there is a thin line that makes them different from one another. 

Photo editing is the process of making basic technical adjustments. It involves fixing minor issues, such as adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation, white balance, etc. This is a fast and easy process compared to retouching photos.

Photo retouching is a holistic editing process that includes basic to advanced editing tasks. With this technique, photo editors and graphic designers make basic changes, such as adjusting color correction, exposure, contrast, etc. Moreover, they do complex editing tasks, such as removing background or unwanted elements, selective color correction, masking, and so on. 

This technique is also used to make skin smooth, spotless, and wrinkle-free. Additionally, you can adjust fine details, reshape facial or body features, manipulate images to express your artistic skills, and do so much more.

Hopefully you have understood the major difference between these two post-production techniques. Don’t use them interchangeably from now on.

Common techniques in photo retouching

Do you want to know how to retouch photos? 

The following are some of the common techniques you can use to retouch your photographs.

Brightness adjustment

Your lighting setup, camera settings, or photographing angle can make your images appear either too bright or too dark. You can fix this issue by using the brightness adjustment tool.

Hue and saturation adjustments

Color cast or unnatural color is a common issue in raw photographs. You can use the hue and saturation adjustment tool to adjust the intensity of the colors.

Curve adjustment

You can use the curve adjustment tool to control tonal range precisely. This tool also allows you to adjust the brightness and contrast of different elements of an image. Photo editors use this tool to remove color casts as well.

Frequency separation

The frequency separation technique is mostly used in skin retouching. You can adjust the skin tone, blur the texture, or make the features sharper. This tool allows the editing of different elements separately.

Spot healing

Spot healing is an essential tool for skin makeovers. This tool is used to remove blemishes on the face or skin of models in fashion or model photography. It can also remove spots or stains from product photographs.

Dodge and burn

The dodge and burn tool is also used in fashion or commercial photo editing. This tool allows you to precisely control the lightness and darkness of specific areas without affecting others. You can also add depth or even out skin tones with this tool.

Eye retouching

Eyes in photographs can have various types of problems. For example, there may be unnecessary shadows or reflections. Models can have dark circles, eye bags, or wrinkles. You can use this tool to fix all these flaws. It also allows you to change the eye color.

Toning & color balance

Toning and color balance are two techniques for color adjustment. Using the toning feature, you can add color casts to the photos to create various moods. This method is mostly used to express the artistic vision. On the other hand, color balance is there to fix the color cast issues.


You can use the resizing process to change the dimensions of your photographs without cutting or cropping them. This process stretches or squeezes individual pixels to make the images look bigger or smaller. Professional quality resizing is crucial to maintaining the quality of the images, otherwise, the images may appear distorted.

Clone stamp

The clone stamp tool can copy pixels from images. You can use it to duplicate elements from images and paint them over other areas. It is a great tool for removing unwanted objects from your images. This tool can be used in any type of photograph.

What are the benefits of photo retouching?

Regardless of which industry you belong to, you need photo retouching if photographs are the key to attracting and engaging customers with your brand. Some significant benefits of retouching photos are:

  • Visual aesthetics of your subject or products can be enhanced 
  • It makes your photographs look professional
  • You can ensure color accuracy in the photos
  • It can help you restore your old and damaged photographs
  • You can get rid of unwanted elements from the images
  • It allows you to show your artistic creativity
  • You can optimize your images for use in multiple purposes, such as print, website, eCommerce platform, etc.

Which Software Professionals Use to Retouch Photos?

Do you want to try photo retouching on your own? 

Here are 10 popular software recommendations that professional editors use to retouch photographs.

Adobe Photoshop

Let’s begin with the industry standard software Adobe Photoshop. This professional photo retouching platform is the first choice of every professional photo editor. It has a wide range of advanced tools that make retouching the most convenient. Almost all retouching service providers use this tool to create professional-quality photographs. However, it is not free. You have to purchase the subscription plan to use this amazing software.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is another popular Adobe product. Professionals also use this software to retouch high-quality images. This software allows you to do basic to advanced editing, batch editing, non-destructive editing, and many more features. If you want to get a streamlined workflow to manage and edit images, you can try it. Unfortunately, this one is also a premium software. That means you have to buy the subscription plan to access it.


If you are looking for free software, then try out GIMP. It is an open-source platform with advanced features like other premium-quality platforms. You can use it on various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. This software offers some amazing features, such as customizable interface, wide range of file format support, active community support, cutting-edge tools, and many more. 

All these fantastic features, that too free of cost! It definitely can be one of your great selections of retouching software.

Affinity Photo

Affinity is a budget-friendly photo retouching software. It is considered one of the alternatives to Photoshop as you will get similar features in it. It has a wide range of tool collections.  You can do non-destructive editing, retouch in layers, and enjoy other powerful features. Although it is also a paid software like Photoshop, it is not that much expensive. You just need to buy it once and use it for a lifetime.

Corel PaintShop Pro

Corel PaintShop Pro is the ideal software for beginner to intermediate-level photo editors. It has a user-friendly interface and a comparatively smooth learning curve. This is another budget-friendly option for you with powerful tools and features similar to Photoshop and other high-range software. You can use it for basic retouching and expressing your creativity. This one also offers a one-time purchase option.

PhotoDirector 365

PhotoDirector 365 is an image editing software program ideal for both hobbyists and professional editors. It offers comprehensive editing tools for adjusting basic elements such as brightness, contrast, saturation, and others. Its AI integration allows advanced retouching features like skin smoothing, dodge and burn, frequency separation, and many more. This subscription-based software offers a free trial option to test the features before purchasing it.

Pixler E

Another budget-friendly Photoshop alternative for you is Pixlr E. You can refer to this web-based software as a clone of Photoshop. The interface, tools, and features of Pixlr E are all similar to Photoshop. You can work in layers, use advanced retouching tools, and do a lot more. Moreover, it has generative AI that can create images from text prompts.

Capture One

Capture One is a popular choice for professional-level editors. This software is ideal for editing portraits, fashion, and other types of photos that need advanced color correction. This platform is specifically designed for professional retouchers. This is one of the best high-end image processing tools.

This software is famous for its exceptional RAW conversion ability. It has advanced color editing tools that allow precise adjustments of color tones, saturation, and other elements. You can use the layer masking feature to edit models or retouch their skin, hair, and other types of correction.

ACDSee Photo Studio

ACDSee Photo Studio is a good software to start your photo editing journey. This beginner-friendly tool has a comprehensive toolbox containing basic as well as advanced tools. For example, color adjustments, white balance correction, resizing, etc.  Also, the user-friendly interface makes it easy to navigate throughout the workspace. 

It has both free and paid versions. That’s why, layer editing, which is an advanced feature, is allowed only in the premium version.

PhotoDirector Essential

PhotoDirector Essential is a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. This is a free retouching software with powerful correction tools. Its photo processing and organization functions will provide you with a great user experience. You can do basic retouching manually with the tools. 

For advanced tasks, it offers AI. Its AI has powerful features, such as removing objects, restoring old photos, clearing spots, and so on. The content-aware fill feature automatically fills in the blank portion. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, it doesn’t matter; you can use this tool to create amazing quality photos.

Applications of Photo Retouching

Photo retouching has become a basic need for almost every industry that needs to attract customers through photographs. Product images are the only source of interaction that brings customers closer to a brand. 

The following are some of the common industries that have the most applications for photo retouching:

Professional Photographers

Professional photographers who shoot headshots, weddings, events, or commercial photographs use it mostly to make their photographs look the best and of high quality. Color correction, removing distractions, or making the appearance of the subject flawless is the main goal of using it in these industries.

Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is all about showcasing clothes, beauty products, shoes, accessories, and other items on models. So obviously, the subject of the images must look their best to attract customers. Photo retouching is used in this type of industry to fix facial flaws in the models, make the clothes or products perfect, highlight intricate details, and solve technical issues like color, exposure, contrast, and so on.

Advertising Industry

Advertising is related to branding, product promotion, storytelling, etc., to attract the target audience and increase sales. Hence, digital makeovers are a must to make the offerings of the brands appealing and irresistible. From basic to advanced all editing techniques are used in this industry. 

For example, brightness adjustment, adding or removing both shadows and reflections, skin retouching, altering shape or body features, and many more.

Magazines and Print Media

Headshots, fashion, products, models, and other photography are printed in magazines, newspapers, flyers, brochures, billboards, and other print media for advertisement. Therefore, retouching techniques are used here to improve image quality and resize them in different dimensions.

Social Media

Brands are using a huge amount of resources for social media marketing. Creating a strong online presence has become the most important thing for businesses to stay ahead of the competition. Customers using social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or others prefer aesthetically pleasing product photos to make their purchasing decisions. Brands take the help of photo retouching to make their products steal the hearts of customers.

eCommerce Platforms

Product photographs are the foundation of the eCommerce industry. Customers decide to interact with the brand through product photos. So, brands have to use high-quality product images. Also, every eCommerce platform has different requirements. For example, there are restrictions on the background style, image dimension, file format, and so on. 

Hence, retouching is used to correct imperfections, remove or replace backgrounds, resize images, and other purposes.

Outsource Photo Retouching Services

Photo retouching is a complex and lengthy process. Businesses such as photography, advertising, or other industries prefer outsourcing professional photo retouching services. Some of them do not have the professional level skills required for photo correction, while others who are skilled don’t have enough time to invest in editing. 

However, there are numerous outsourcing companies to choose from. So, how do you choose the company to hand over your project? 

We are here with a few tips to help you out. Make sure to consider the following while selecting the service provider:

Do Research

The first step is to do research and find out who is offering the retouching services as per your needs. You can ask your friends and family for recommendations or rely on the internet. Create a list of all the providers and check out their websites to learn more about their services.

Check Portfolio & Sample work

A portfolio serves as the resume of a company. So you must assess it to get an idea about their work quality, techniques, and other important information. Also, ask for sample work to see which type of work they have more expertise in. Some companies specialize in model retouching, while others specialize in headshots, eCommerce, products, jewelry, or other industries. 

So, narrow down your list after considering who can be the best one for your industry.

Reputation and Reviews

Customer reviews are one of the best possible ways to measure the quality of service. The testimonials from the previous clients show proof of their satisfactory service. You can check Google and other third-party sites, such as TrustPilot, Yelp, and others, to look for reviews. A reputed company will never compromise its quality. So you can definitely trust them.

Turnaround Time

Considering the turnaround time is also important. Make sure the company can deliver projects within your required timeframe if you don’t want to miss your deadlines. You can also consider choosing companies that offer urgent delivery. That service will come to your help in case you have emergency needs.

Free Trial

Companies that are confident in the quality of their service offer free trials. You can use this option to find out whether the retouching quality meets your standards and expectations. 

Price Structure

The most important thing to consider is the pricing of the services. There are numerous providers offering their services at a reasonable cost. However, make sure the service you choose provides transparent pricing structures. In case they have hidden fees, it will be an extra burden on you. Many companies offer discounts on large orders. If you have large projects, you can take advantage of it.

Common Mistakes in Photo Retouching

Below are 5 common photo retouching mistakes you must stay aware of:


Retouching is done to make images appear natural as well as pleasing to the eyes. However, over-retouching makes your images unnatural and less attractive. Make sure you never do the following:

  • Excessive smoothing of skin texture
  • Over-whitening of teeth
  • Completely removing laughing lines or other facial features that give a natural vibe
  • Making images too sharp
  • Over-brightening that gives a washed-out effect

Incorrect Color Correction

Proper color correction is important to make the retouching look professional.  Color cast, mismatched skin tone, oversaturation, etc. are all the results of not balancing colors properly. Also, the color of your images may vary on different devices. So before editing images, the monitor must be calibrated using the device’s built-in calibration tool.

Ignoring Background Details

Although the focus of the images remains on the subject, you must not ignore the background. The imperfections in the background downgrade the overall quality of the images. If the background has irrelevant or unappealing elements, make sure to remove them. If your image has a busy background, you can replace it with other distraction-free backgrounds.

Retouching The Raw File

Retouching the raw file will change the original image data. If you need to retouch the same image in a different style or make a mistake while editing, you cannot get the real image information back. Hence, make sure to make a duplicate layer every time you start your editing tasks.

Not Maintaining Client Preferences

Clients provide instructions on how they want their images to look. You may sometimes feel that the client’s preference won’t be ideal for that specific image or subject. You can share your idea with the client. However, if the client sticks to their instructions, you must maintain them. Ignoring client’s expectations can make them dissatisfied with your service.

Frequently Asked questions

The cost of photo retouching depends on its complexity level. You can check out our pricing. Our price per image starts at $1.10 and the maximum cost is $2.49. We also offer discounts on bulk orders.

Many professional photographers who have expertise in using Photoshop or other tools retouch photos. However, they have a busy schedule, so making time for photo retouching is not always possible. Therefore, despite being skilled at retouching, they prefer outsourcing.

You can find image retouching services in the online marketplace or search engine results. You can ask your friends, colleagues, or industry peers to recommend someone they know. You can also get them through social media. Once you get the services evaluate their portfolio, previous work, client review, and other factors to hire them.


Photo retouching is like the magic wand that transforms a simple image into a masterpiece. However, flawless photo retouching requires the hands of professional photo editors. That’s why, for promotional needs, it is best to collaborate with a professional photo retouching service company.

Hopefully you have gained an in-depth knowledge of photo retouching. Use the insights you have received in your upcoming projects. All the best!

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