Is Photoshop and Retouching Essential in Commercial Photography?

In commercial photography, more time can be spent on post-production than the photo shoot itself. But, is post-production essential? Can one just use the images straight out of the camera as they are? After all, most full-frame cameras nowadays offer really high resolution and a lot of in-camera capabilities.

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Just About Any Image Can Be Improved After Exporting It from a Camera and Into Post-Processing Software

However, even with today’s high-end gear, there probably isn’t a single photo coming right out of a camera that couldn’t be improved with post-processing. Even if just a little bit, though most images can be improved upon quite a bit, usually enough to easily notice a difference.

Getting the Shot Right

It certainly is possible to get a great picture right out of the camera. However, for every image a photographer creates, they might benefit from asking themselves two questions: “can I improve upon this in-camera next time I shoot it” and “can I improve this photo with post-production?” For the post processing – and probably for both questions – you’ll typically answer yes.

While it’s just about every commercial photographer’s goal to get as much correct in camera, visible improvements can almost always be made in post-production. Even just minor improvements are often noticeable.

Retouching a Fashion Photo Shoot

Let’s quickly look at some improvements that can be made with post-production to an ecommerce fashion shoot. First, if you’re selling on Amazon.com you’ll need to ensure your background is true white – best done in post-production software. In addition, you’ll need to verify or adjust color matching of fabrics with images. These are just the basics.

Stylists will do their best to make clothes appear great on a model but not all things are avoidable. A loose thread will be missed, as will a wrinkle, and so on. Going through the images in Photoshop or other processing software will let the photographer or retoucher address these blemishes.

Retouching a Lifestyle Photoshoot

With a lifestyle photoshoot, basic improvements might include color-grading in addition to possible minor adjustments to shadows and highlights. Often, images require a specific crop factor for whatever medium they’ll be used on.

Here too, there might be the need to fix blemishes on clothing or in the environment. Say you did a lifestyle photo shoot in a downtown area. Later, you notice in the background there are trash items on the street. This is the opportunity to remove them. Or, perhaps you just now caught there is an advertisement in the background from some company that you’ll need to remove. These things are common.

Retouching a Product Photography Shoot

When shooting products, there are many possible improvements that can be made. Some of this starts with background corrections, again, especially if you’re using the images on Amazon.com. Then there might also be the need to do basic color corrections and adjustments to highlights and shadows, to name a few things.

Another consideration for product photo processing is the file size. Often there are crop size and maximum file size requirements to meet for an ecommerce platform or simply to optimize for SEO. Also, products often have blemishes too. It might be a tiny scratch on a phone case or a loose thread on a backpack.

Post processing is an essential part of the workflow and it requires the use of very powerful software and machines to do it. There are some very talented retouchers out there that can make your jaw drop at what they can do to a photo. As mentioned, you might spend more time on one photo in post than you did the entire photo shoot for a hundred shots. And, that’s not necessarily because the image needed fixing. It’s often for creative reasons.

There are many great photo processing tools to use: Capture One, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc. They are powerful applications for photo editing. It is the power of these applications that makes for a definitive answer that, yes, retouching is essential in commercial photography.

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