What Does a Retoucher Do?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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A retoucher is responsible for touching up photographs in a way that brings out the best features of an image while reducing or eliminating any flaws or imperfections. This is often done using digital software and a computer, which gives a retoucher the ability to quickly and effectively work with a digital photograph. The actual changes made to an image usually depend on the specific nature of that image, but in general any flaws in the picture itself are removed and the subject of the image is usually made to look its best.

Also called photo retouchers, they are primarily responsible for editing and changing a photographed image to make it more ideal or perfect. This is usually done for commercial applications, though someone may request that personal photographs be retouched to fix imperfections that occurred due to poor lighting or flaws in photographic technique. Many retouchers work for photographers or magazines, providing correction on images to be used in that magazine. A freelance retoucher, however, often looks for clients in need of retouching services, such as freelance photographers and advertising agencies, as well as businesses working on their own print advertising campaigns.


The work of a retoucher often entails the use of photographic software in which a digital photograph can be opened and modified. General corrections and changes a retoucher is likely to make include overall color correction for an image, adjustments to highlights and shadows, alterations to color data such as changing from a color photograph to a black and white image, and cropping. More specific responsibilities vary depending on the type of photograph a retoucher is working with.

Glamour photography, for example, usually requires retouching to make a model look more perfect and correct any imperfections in hair or makeup. While most models found in professional photography are already quite handsome or beautiful, imperfections in the skin, stray hairs, and other problems may still be present. These are often altered through retouching to make the model appear flawless. Other adjustments made by a retoucher may simply be intended to make the photograph more vibrant and lifelike, such as enhancing the color of a model’s eyes and bringing out highlights on the lips and hair.

Retouching of wildlife photography, or commercial product photography, often centers on improving a scene or object in other ways. A photograph of an outdoor scene, for example, often contains flaws or imperfections beyond the control of a photographer, which can be corrected or removed by a retoucher. Objects used in advertising, such as cars, can also be retouched to appear more perfect and attractive to a viewer. Many advertisers have begun using completely digital models for products in an advertisement, however, to create perfect images that eliminate the need for retouching.


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Post 2

It's amazing what photographers can do with digital photo retouching these days. I've seen examples where a photographer took a picture of an average looking woman and added so many details that she ended up looking like a top fashion model. They could add make-up, even out her skin tone and even change her body type. They could retouch digital photos right down to individual pixels.

I remember back in the days of glamour shots, the photographer would use all sorts of lighting tricks and soft focus to improve the appearance of the subjects. Now they can hire a digital photo retoucher and create an entirely new image.

Post 1

When I had my senior high school graduation picture taken, I had a really bad case of acne. I was really self-conscious about it, too. The photographer brought proof copies of the pictures to the school, and I was mortified. I looked like one giant red blemish. The photographer noticed I was upset, so he told me that he had a photo retoucher on staff and he would make me look acne-free in the finished photo. This was in the 1980s, long before things like Photoshop or digital photography.

Sure enough, my face looked perfectly clear in the yearbook photo. It didn't look fake, either. I think the photo retouchers at that time would use actual tinted dyes and paint away the blemishes and other imperfections. Whatever technique they used made me feel a lot better about things.

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