How to retouch like a professional
The secret to efficient photo editing
Viktor Fejes is a professional retoucher and founder of GILD Studios, a boutique retouching studio that collaborates with clients such as AT&T, Hasselblad, Wired and Reader’s Digest. Handling vast quantities of work on a daily basis, Viktor understands the need for a fast and efficient workflow, but it’s not all about actions and presets.
“Many people think there are professional techniques and tricks that you can use to speed up your workflow, but that isn’t true,” he revealed.
The Hungarian-born retoucher said that while there were a few things you could do to speed up the process, “you have to just sit and do” the bulk of the work. The shortcuts and quick fixes that many of you might have hoped for simply don’t exist.
Processes such as cloning, burning and dodging and color correcting images always have and always will take hours. But before you get discouraged, there are a few other things you can do which, although they won’t save you hours, will make your process easier.
Actions are a common Photoshop feature used by many and although they won’t save you hours, they may help save a few minutes here and there.
But don’t just use actions for the sake of it, Viktor said. He stressed the importance of using actions that are useful to your own workflow.
“You need to spend time creating the actions you need,” he said. “Think about what features you use frequently.”
The initial setup may take time, but it will be time well spent.
Photoshop presets are simply saved versions of a particular tool and, like actions, setting up your own presets can help to speed up your workflow by cutting out the repetitive task of entering specific variables for different tools.
While some Photoshop tools come with built-in presets (which can be helpful), you’ll only truly realize the full benefit once you’ve created your own.
“Create presets for your most common adjustments,” Viktor suggested.
He’s set up his own presets for tools such as his brushes, curves and gradient maps, but you can create them for anything from text effects to crop sizes.
As useful as actions are in Photoshop, they can only do so much. For anything more advanced, you may require scripts.
“I don’t usually mention scripts as a way to speed up your workflow because they can be hard to set up,” Viktor said.
“Use a tablet.”
Viktor’s advice for this was simple. He said using a tablet skillfully would allow you to produce more organic and precise movements, making you far more efficient than working with a mouse.
“A mouse can result in much more jagged results, but a tablet will give you organic shapes and a natural flow, which means you won’t tire as quickly when you’ve got a lot of retouching to do.”
While practice itself won’t speed up your workflow, the experience it gives you will, Viktor explained.
“The experience practice gives you will help you identify mistakes and know what to avoid.”
Work on different genres of images, experiment with new tools, and, perhaps most importantly, watch and learn — understand what makes good retouching effective.
To learn more about effective retouching, you can watch a selection of our post production classes here.
6. Personal workflow
Streamlining your personal work might seem like strange advice, but Viktor said it was crucial as a professional retoucher.
“There’s more to being a retoucher than just working in Photoshop. It’s important that you have an efficient business workflow, too.”
Viktor suggested streamlining tasks such as responding to e-mails, image archiving and file naming.
To see Viktor’s retouching workflow, watch our Advanced Photoshop for Photographers course. Our Key Workflow Essentials Photoshop class also covers useful practices for creating an efficient workflow.