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Image retouching

01/04/2016

As the famous idiom goes: "a picture is worth a thousand words" - a statement just as true today as it was 100 years ago. Although we're bombarded by images in this digital age we live in, an image can still be highly evocative and can connect with an individual very powerfully in a way that prose often can't do as instantaneously. With approximately 1.5 billion smartphones in the world, most individuals in Western society now carry around a camera with them at all times. It's no surprise therefore that we now use images to communicate with each other in a much more prolific way than ever before – in fact, we have entire social platforms where the sole method of engagement is the sharing of images, e.g. Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. 

Most consumers would agree that the quality of an image can have an impact upon the level of engagement it attracts. We're all familiar with the allure of that perfectly shot car, shoe, bag or piece of tech as the case may be. Great photography will ensure your images say much more than they might otherwise do, and this a tool successful brands and marketers know how to use very well. Take Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver for example; with over 4.1 million Instagram followers, Jamie Oliver has harnessed the power of the image to communicate his brand and message in a personal and meaningful way (and people seem to like it!).

A great image can subtly communicate allsorts of things about a brand you may wish to convey without having to spell it out in a clumsy way. Retouching is an essential part of this process and can really help to ensure an image is used to its full potential. 

What is retouching?

Retouching is the process of getting an image ready for its final application – this could be for printed material such as a magazine ad, for digital use on a website, or in motion video. Retouching techniques vary considerably depending on where the image will be used and what message the editor is trying to convey. Ultimately, retouching can't transform a bad photo into a good one - it's simply an extra layer of enhancement that can make the difference between an image looking amateur or professional.

We are all familiar with the often-controversial use of extreme retouching on images of celebrities and fashion models, which can involve altering the subjects' body shape, skin texture and facial features quite dramatically. But retouching can be used in much subtler ways that are still highly effective, such as colour profiling, sharpening and removing unwanted noise.

When does an image need retouching?

Any image, even taken by the world's best photographer will benefit from retouching, even it is just basic dust removal. In retail for example, product images will often benefit from being brightened and more vibrant so the products are really eye-catching. Textures may need to be smoothed and blemishes or even fingerprints may need removing to give the image a really professional edge. Removing or replacing the background can often help to put the product in the right context, whether it's something very clean and crisp or potentially more atmospheric.

How does retouching work?

There are two primary types of image retouching for advertising: Image Manipulation and Technical Retouching. Here are some of the most common techniques employed:

  • Spot Healing: the removal of unwanted blemishes in an image, whether on the skin or elsewhere.
  • Smoothing: the process of removing texture from area of an image to make it appear less visually complex and more polished.
  • Frequency Separation: the removal of mismatched tones when a more consistent colour is required.
  • Dodging and Burning: helps to bring out the desired parts of an image, such as facial features, lightening the desired parts and darkening the unwanted parts.
  • Colour Toning: adjustment of the colour tones in the image to achieve a specific look. The key to great toning is to use complimentary colour grades throughout the image, which is very popular in cinematic photography.

If you would like to discuss how we can help with professional photography or retouching services, please contact a member of the team.

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