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Image Retouching E.K. Hudson

Retouching images in the digital age

Retouching is not only for restoring old, faded or torn images scanned from paper to digital. The quality of the processing your images go through after the shoot make a world of difference in your final result.  Even in this day of digital photography, images still need to go through a post processing step.  Above is an extreme example. This is not my image so I don’t claim ownership - it was sent to me several years ago as a “test” for a project I wanted to work on, but I’m showing it here because it’s a great example. I did the retouch work myself.  In the “old” days when I shot with film, I had to airbrush the actual negatives in order to prepare them for print. Now, with the use of the computer, it seems “anyone” can get software to touch up images - but beware, the results vary greatly due to experience! 

An even more extreme example

Taking out a few lines and shadows on a face is one thing  and many people can rely on a number of automated functions, filters and “buttons” that can do some of the work for you - but not all. At the left you can see an example of this.  Great photo opportunities don’t wait for you and this is what happened here. This is my shot and in this case, I was not ready for what I saw coming at me! This great pack of Peruvian hairless dogs looked great but they weren’t going to stop and pose. So I just grabbed my camera with whatever settings it was set to and snapped a quick image.  You can see the exposure is terrible, the detail is not great, there is a person behind the dogs, the tree is unbalanced and there are houses and a road at the upper left. Not a great result. I knew I wanted this shot so I went forward with it and took care of all those issues with computer, software, and digital “painting.” It’s important to pay attention to matching the entire image, not just the small portion you are adjusting, so that the tone, color, texture, focus, blur and even the grain match the rest of the image. That way, especially if you enlarge a print, you won’t see a strange blurry or unmatching part where the touch-up was done. I think you’ll agree the final after processing is a far cry from the original!

A little about me and retouching

I’ve been retouching images, first on negatives or on prints, then digitally, for around 26 years. For the U.S. Navy and Air Force, I had to prepare print images and retouch them for their books and manuals after I processed and printed them in my darkroom.  Later, when I worked out of my studio in Los Angeles and later in Ventura, CA, the head shot, portrait, and product negatives had to be retouched with an air brush.  Enter the digital world.  Although digital photography is relatively new, I worked with the same software (largely Adobe Photoshop) since the early 1990’s and I created computer images all that time, but not photographs - I was an aritst, animator and art director for 15 years, working in the computer and mobile game industry.  I also led teams and taught others on the software and I taught Photoshop and computer classes at my gallery and art school in Ventura, CA a few years ago. I have also oil painted for as long as I’ve done photography.  This combination of skills comes in handy when retouching images and I hope it shows in the results!  Here are samples of my paintings.