Photography Retouching: Art Over Manipulation

Techniques/ Tips

Photography Retouching: Art Over Manipulation

Retouching, often referred to as “photo manipulation,” is the process of altering an original image using digital post-production technology. Sophisticated software such as Photoshop and Lighthouse allows retouching artists to add or remove elements to an original image with relative ease.

The reasons for retouching an image span a wide spectrum, with entire divisions of brands, advertising agencies and creative companies (including Duggal) housing full-time employees solely dedicated to retouching. While many media outlets have rightfully vilified extreme retouching, true artists understand retouching to be a delicate and ethical craft.

A Brief History of Retouching

The earliest forms of retouching date as far back as the 19thcentury, when artists were altering photographic mediums such as glass and tin. One of the most famous original photography “retouches” depicted Abraham Lincoln, whose head was cropped onto the body of fellow politician, John C. Calhoun. As it would turn out, this doctored photograph of Lincoln would famously become the image used on the $5 bill.

In the 20thcentury, photography purists rejected most digital photography because it could not compete with the quality of film photography. However, as digital cameras have grown more sophisticated since the start of the 21stcentury, most retouching artists exclusively use digital files.

The Ethics of Retouching

One of the negative developments with retouching in the digital age is the way media outlets have used the practice to misrepresent or over-represent celebrities and public figures—especially women. Although some companies, such as Dove, have tried to reverse this practice, impossible standards of beauty are still controversial and polarizing.

Using Sound Judgment in Retouching

When it comes to retouching, it is not the practice itself that is creating the ethical issue, but rather, the misuse of what is very much an art form. When used appropriately and properly, retouching brings immense value to image making and helps photographers fulfill their creative visions. Learn more about Duggal’s approach to retouching and creative studio services in the video below.