The Magic Frame: The Sexiness Of Retouching


Screenshot 2017-06-07 11.06.56

I thought that I would make a slight departure from my more philosophical ramblings on photography, to something that is harder edged, but with a bit of philosophical rambling in it

Now, some of you who have seen my posts on Facebook will notice that I have added portraiture to my arsenal of misdemeanours. This does not mean that I have gone away from landscape or street photography. This is an addition.

Anyway, I have been getting these comments about how I am photographing these ‘lovelies’. Sadly, men don’t seem to want to be photographed.

There is also the general feel that retouching is essentially sexy. It is almost as if I get to see a Playboy centre spread every day. Incidentally, I did get to see a picture of a camera man filming a hardcore porn film once, and it has to be the most unsexy job ever.

What happens when it comes to retouching? I don’t do fashion retouching, and creating impossibly perfect men and women. If that needs to be done, I prefer to use a professional retoucher. It is too time consuming.

However, I digress.

My philosophy when I shoot a person, and retouch them, is to be able to capture some of the magic that is in their soul. Something in the expression of the eyes, the body language, the smile, must speak to me. There is a connection between me and the model that needs to be established. Else, it falls flat. All the technology in the world cannot capture the spark in the eye, or the spirit of the soul.

Now, when it comes to retouching, you enter a whole world of techniques. I learned most of mine at the ‘feet’ of the master – Aaron Nace. His site – Phlearn.Com is a superb place to learn photoshop.

Anyway, when you retouch, what do you do? You start with removing the blemishes. You clear up patchiness, you add sparkle. You go down to the pixel level, as you can see in the screenshot above. You go in. You go out.

It is tedious. It takes me about 60-120 minutes per photograph, which is why I don’t do that many photos these days. The same applies to landscape work, by the way.

Then, sometimes, I come back to the photo, and I ask myself if I have done justice to it.

In all this tedious work, the essential thing is to be able to keep the magic alive.

That is the blend of technology and art –  of finding joy at the end of the road, before starting off on the next journey.


  1. great post. It is true that no one can understand the labor that goes in post processing. I generally don’t do post processing except for color and brightness correction that too with basic editor. I haven’t used PS or LR till date. Former is too complicated and later just didn’t work with me. I use whatever I click. Lately I stumbled on Luminar referred by a fellow UK blogger. I have only used it once or twice, it is worth a try. Will use it and let you know.

  2. Tell me, after all this work on the photo, is it the same person? Are we the same without all our blemishes and imperfections?

      1. That is true.. it’s also a little bit “my grandfather’s axe”, where my dad changed the handle and I changed the blade !

  3. Agree that retouching can take quite some time. When I retouch a photo I usually do different versions, and it can be so hard to decide which version I like best in the end.

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