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The Difference Between Photo Editing and Photo Retouching

by Lyn Pasco February 10,2020 305 Views

Digital photography plays an important role across many industries. Photo editing and retouching are integral processes wherein businesses are able to build brand distinctiveness and create images that portray the brands’ characteristics. Photo retouching services, nowadays, are sought not only by big companies but also among individuals. Whether it is for professional growth or as a means to express one’s personality, retouching photo using a photo editor makes it possible to project an image that best suits a person.

Many people, however, are confused between photo editing and retouching. In photography, photo editing and photo retouching are used interchangeably and it tends to be confusing. Even photographers are sometimes caught unaware of using either editing or retouching without explaining the context behind using both terms. The goal of this post is for you to better understand how to use the correct term and avoid confusion.

Photo Editing vs Photo Retouching

What is Photo Editing

To simply put it editing means altering an image using the most basic photo manipulation techniques. Light adjustments, such as cropping, straightening, and adjusting the different photo elements, such as temperature, exposure, contrasts, and white balance are considered basic. These “minor” alterations are meant not to present the final photo but to create a nice and clean base photo. It would take a few minutes to create these edits because only the obvious imperfections are touched by the editor.

What is Photo Retouching

With photo retouching, certain effects are added on top of the editing process in order to create an artistic style. The process goes beyond the basic photo adjustments. For example, with portrait photos, there may be a need to use extra tools to make the skin look smoother, wrinkle-free, and blemish-free. The different processes typically demands plenty of time, like 15 minutes and more, to complete. These are done using many software, like Photoshop, Elements, and even the built-in photo manipulation software in Smartphones.

Editing vs. Retouching

The major difference between photo editing and retouching is that with editing, the goal is to have a picture that looks sharpened, has the right exposure, and is cropped at the right size. Meanwhile for retouching, the purpose is to achieve the artistic vision of the editor, whether based on the photographer’s perspective or the model’s. Simple manipulation is required for an edit while high levels of photo manipulation techniques are demanded for a retouch.

Which of the services do I actually need?

Photo editing and retouching services will vary according to your needs. If all you need is an enhanced photo that still has the essence of the original picture, then you must go with photo editing. 

Photo Editing

The different techniques involved in editing photos will include but not limited to the following services:

  • Noise Reduction – Noisy photos sometimes make the picture look poor in quality. Unless it is the photographer’s style, smoothening the picture will reduce the noise and make the photo look more appealing.
  • White Balance – The color temperature of a light source can be corrected by adjusting the white balance. This makes the photo look either warm or cool.
  • Contrast and Exposure – the brightness and contrast of a picture makes it look either flattering or dull. Too much exposure will cause other details to look washed out so balancing it together with the contrast will sharpen the picture and show off the details.
  • Color Adjustments – It is possible to adjust, remove, or replace the color of a picture if needed.
  • Cropping and Resizing – Photos must be properly cropped or resized before they can be used for other purposes. Online retail stores, for example, use specific photo dimensions before photos are uploaded on the website.
  • Basic Background Removal – Some photos may need to isolate the subject from the background. A basic background removal will delete the background and prepares the image for a background change.

As for photo retouching, more alterations are going to be applied on the photo manipulation process. These adjustments involve mastery of using the preferred photo editor and a lot of work for the photo retoucher. 

Photo Retouching Services

It is usually categorized in two:

  • Basic Retouching – With a basic retouch, the image is subject to simple alterations to create a pleasing and high-resolution photo. For portraits, blemish-removal, teeth whitening, and skin smoothening are the usual services that are required to complete the enhancements.
  • Extensive/Complex Retouching – Generally requires more time to do; an extensive retouching is basically transforming the photo to look perfect. Some services that are applied for an extensive retouch include advanced techniques to make the facial features and the body slimmer, remove or add objects in the picture, compositing images together, adding fancy effects, and applying digital makeup among many others.

Photo Retouching
Extensive photo retouching is also used for specific photography styles such as newborn photography, wedding photography, headshot photography, and product photography. The photo manipulation techniques that are going to be used will depend on which type of photography is used and how the photographer or the photo owner wants the final photos to look like. There is a need to be very specific with the style that is to be achieved for the final photos because the photo retouchers can literally make it according to different preferences.

It is essential that before having anything done to your photos, you will have to discuss how you want the enhancements to be. You need to consider if all you need are minor edits or you want to make the photos look surreal. Either way, an expert photo manipulation should make the photo look professional. A photo does need to be extensively retouched to make it look exceptional. Some photos only need minor tweaking for it to be appropriate. At the end of the day, you do not want to make the photos look complicated just because you requested for a professional retouch instead of a basic edit. 

For expert photo editing and retouching needs, only Ephotovn can offer reasonably-priced services that are completed at the fastest possible time.

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  1. Kate Yelkovan March 19, 2020

    Great explanation between editing and retouching. Thanks for the article.

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