Some photography purists HATE the idea of retouching a photo. I understand why photo retouching might be a big no no for something like photo journalism, where you’re reporting news and the photo is a visual representation of that news.
But as far as commercial photography goes, I personally think that retouching is essential. The goal is to end up with a perfect photo — so if retouching is going to take a good photo to GREAT, then I’m all for it! Of all the professional photo shoots I’ve art directed for my advertising clients, I’ve NEVER not retouched a photo after the shoot.
For the cover shots I took for Tails Magazine, I ended up doing some significant photo retouching on one of my favorite shots. Mochi’s pose was great, and I loved the way the lifeguard stand looked in the background. Except one problem — he was looking the wrong way! I pieced together elements from other photos I had, and ended up with one solid image.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Find your base photo — the one you need retouched. I’ve highlighted the areas in the image below that need to be fixed in order for this image to be perfect and ready for the cover of a magazine!
Step 2: Find other photos shot under THE EXACT SAME LIGHTING CONDITIONS to use as your reference images. I stress THE EXACT SAME LIGHTING CONDITIONS, because if you don’t, you’ll end up with an image that looks really, really obviously photoshopped.
I cut out the head from the above reference image, and carefully MASKED out the elements I didn’t want (NOT ERASED. NEVER, EVER, ERASE BITS FROM YOUR IMAGES! You never know when you might need the data back. MASKING is your best friend!) Mochi’s nose in the original photo sticks out a little far to the right — so when you replace the new head, you still see a bit of the original nose!
Most people would reach for the clone tool to try and clone in bits of the lifeguard stand to take out his nose. But using the clone tool to remove his nose would take long and would probably end up looking blotchy and cloned. The better — but harder — thing to do is to look through all the images you shot and see if there’s a reference photo of the background that you want.
Copy and paste it in, distort it to match the perspective of your original shot, and mask out the pieces you don’t need. Voila — the Corgi nose is gone, and it looks really, really good.
Step 3: Remove the leash. I very carefully used the clone tool to do this. The trick to using the clone tool, is to use it very, very liberally and very, very carefully. This is to avoid any blotchiness and patterning, which are dead giveaways that you’ve used the clone tool. Another trick to the clone tool is to make sure you use a VERY VERY soft brush, and play around with difference opacities. Zoom in AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE when you work, so that you’re truly only cloning out the points you need removed. And lastly, if you do end up with some blotchy bits, try to see if you can smooth them out using the blur tool.
AND THAT’S IT! I’ve glossed over a lot of parts to this, but if you need any more tips or advice on retouching, please feel free to contact me. I’d be glad to try and help.
Here’s Mochi looking straight at the camera, and no leash in the photo! What a handsome fella.