Portrait Editing: Can I re-touch without it looking fake?

How do professional photographers get senior portraits to look so good? I’m on a quest to answer that question among others. I set up a portrait shoot for fun, but decided to use the portraits to explore the vast abilities of Photoshop and unlock answers to my questions.

On an overcast day at the lake, my cousin, Sydney, and friend, Deana, were kind enough to let me practice my portrait skills on them. I was very pleased with how they turned out without any touch ups in Photoshop. Beautiful subjects make for great photos!

The pictures look great, but my question actually became more complex. How could I enhance the photos just enough to make them stand out without taking away from the girls’ natural beauty? I searched for video tutorials and blogs about photo re-touching and stayed up way too late experimenting with them. My favorite tutorial so far offered specific, flexible techniques that using blur, layering, and masking techniques that were familiar to me. I tweaked it to suit my taste and tried not to make the photos look “too” airbrushed. I want professional quality, but I don’t want “fake.” I look forward to continue experimenting. Here’s the finished product.

I love these photos with or without Photoshop! And I definitely learned a lot as a result of creating them. And, hey, I had a fun day with my cousin and made a new friend in the process! Sounds like a success to me!

Check out my next post for behind the scenes of this photo shoot!

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5 thoughts on “Portrait Editing: Can I re-touch without it looking fake?

  1. The question I always ask myself, Is why do photographers use photoshop to edit their photos and then say they are professional photographer when they are just a professional photo editor. If you are photographer should your images come out great. I understand there will be time when you have to use photoshop, but why make a photo or person look fake. Great Photos! Keep at it.

    1. And that’s a good question! I don’t want my photos to look fake, but I recognized the need to know how to make slight edits edit (smooth out skin, brighten eyes, bring out colors) in order to be potentially marketable. I’m rejoicing in the personal victory: I have now officially done a re-touching job that I like! But I’m also noticing how good the original pictures were. And that might be more of a victory! Thanks for the comment!

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