Re-Thinking Retouching and Elevating Your E-commerce Photography

No one has to tell you about the variables of still shooting. When you’re on location, you’re always watching the weather, the sun, and the shadows. You’re always thinking: “Is the model’s hair right?” “How’s their make-up?” “What’s the wind doing?” Or, “How does the product look?” “Does it stand out?” And while shooting in a studio is more controlled, it comes with its own set of challenges and being inside is certainly no guarantee of perfection. No matter where you shoot, it’s always a race against time. All of which inevitably means, retouching will happen.

Perhaps you’ll want to change the background color, remove that freckle on the model, soften skin tone, or add natural greenery to an eco-friendly product. We all understand the numerous benefits of retouching: from cleaning up little things not initially seen on set, to saving money on reshoots, to enhancing a brand’s overall image. But just like there are good chefs and then there’s Michelin star chefs, there’s photo retouching and then there’s–well–photo retouching. It’s imperceivable when done right, but the right creative production studio can set you apart in a world full of photographic clutter. Think of the high standards of magazine covers like Harper’s Bazaar. Photos so captivating, they capture your imagination and draw you in before you even read a word. That’s what View Imaging does. Our company mantra is “Make More Beautiful,” and that begins with meticulous photo retouching.

Mastering the Craft of High-Quality Retouching Services and Color Enhancement

Retouching usually refers to the elimination of some defect, while color enhancement can bring anything from a model’s skin tone to a bottle of perfume to a more vibrant life. But just because everyone has access to retouching and color enhancement tools, that doesn’t mean they’ve mastered the craft. Or can do it consistently. Or can do it at high volume. Although technically different disciplines, retouching and color enhancement are always woven together in the hands of a master retoucher and have as much to do with creating long-term impressions as just about anything you can imagine.

Think of any attractive celebrity, male or female, who appeared on the cover of a fashion magazine with amazing fashion photography ranging from GQ to Vogue. You knew the celebrity was good looking to begin with but, on the magazine’s cover, they look exquisite. Or think of the 2019 film Joker, where the film has distinct color palettes of blue, red and yellow that represent the critical steps in the central character’s journey. Retouching and color enhancement can help tell a story whether it’s a tentpole film or a banner ad. Conversely, we’ve all seen Photoshopped heads that didn’t quite fit on bodies, wrinkled clothing on models that shouldn’t have been wrinkled, people casting shadows where no shadows should be, leftover hands on a shoulder from a group shot—the list is endless.

©View Imaging

Typical Retouching

Skin has been blurred so much it looks plastic-like. Lack of contrast makes colors look dull and expression lines too subdued.

Elevated Retouching

Pores are intact and skin looks realistic. Highlights resemble real reflections of lights on skin tone.

©View Imaging

Typical Retouching

Skin texture is much too consistent. There's no dimension. Skin tone looks grey and rubbery.

Elevated Retouching

Skin texture looks authentic, fresh and conveys warmth.

The Consistency of Consistency

In marketing, we try not to be redundant. But when it comes to high-quality product photography and high-volume product retouching, consistency is nonnegotiable: photo to photo and channel to channel, whether it’s print, PDP production, a banner ad, package design, or any other visual media. Ad agencies like MDG Advertising claim that nearly 70% of online buyers place image quality as the single most important aspect of their buying decision. Consistent photography and retouching don’t just establish your brand’s personal style—they forge trust and build reputation. Some helpful tips for product photography would be to shoot everything raw, set the white balance, and process to ensure there is detail in highlights and lowlights. And always create a brand photoguide. This will help with consistency regardless of photographer or studio.

Over several decades, View Imaging has mastered consistency issues. We know what questions to ask and how to avoid pitfalls whether you’re shooting inside or out, and whether you’re working with live talent or pure product. We combine our knowledge of fashion photography, beauty photography, and e-commerce photography with resizing, color correction, shape adjustment, defect removal, and several other proprietary techniques. The end result is we take many worries off the plate of our clients and provide the highest quality and most consistent production and post-production work you can find in the industry. Because our roots are based in the fashion space and we’ve worked with many luxury brands, it’s tempting to say that consistency is especially important in these categories. But the truth is, it’s important for every brand category. That’s why our partnerships include CPG clients, makers of personal care products, and automotive manufacturers.

Humans are contradictory creatures. We know life is full of change, so we crave and seek consistency elsewhere—particularly in the products we choose to buy. And the anchor to consistent product presentation is photography and high-quality retouching. But even if the photography comes from different sources, retouching can go a long way to making things look consistent.

©Sephora | Photography, Retouching by View Imaging

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Refining The Retouching Process

There are common mistakes in retouching where many people trip. In no particular order, some include

  • Over-boosting colors to unreal proportions.

  • Over-sharpening a photo.

  • Red hands, feet, and ears. They tend to have different skin tones than the rest of the body and this is often missed.

  • Turning a grey day sunny. This never works unless you have a pro photographer on set who knows how to simulate a sunny day.

Einstein said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” View Imaging has made photo retouching a true art by our decades-long study of the science behind it. We do our own world-caliber photography, but we can also work with client-provided photography, or even do stock photography retouching.

©View Imaging

Typical Retouching

All the color and veins have been removed. The whites of the eye are too bright. This is a common mistake, which gives the face an unrealistic, doll-like feel.

Elevated Retouching

Blood vessels in the eyes are a completely natural occurrence. Here, the retoucher has retained them, ensuring the eye looks realistic and lifelike.

There are three important pillars in our approach: Process, Creativity, and Scale. Our retouching moves seamlessly from pillar to pillar. The Process part is pretty self-explanatory: this is where we map out and plan the stages of your project.

The Creativity pillar involves ideation, which will also include the intent of what we’re trying to accomplish visually as well as the long-term brand strategy behind it. Not every photograph has to be pixel perfect. Sometimes the brand strategy requires minimal or selective retouching. Say, for example, you’re retouching hands. When you remove all, or too many veins and tendons, the hand can become swollen looking. Or eyes. Many retouchers remove all of the veins from the white of the eyes which looks unnatural. Still another example is knowing the difference between a wrinkle and a fold in clothing. You don’t want wrinkles in the clothing, but folds are a natural part of the draping effect of clothing and many retouchers don’t know the difference. When folds are removed, the natural shape of the body is lost and the model becomes flat or mannequin-like. A good rule of thumb for retouching is don’t start off trying to reinvent the wheel. Think deeply about your intent, then retouch in small degrees as you move forward.*

Scale asks how many iterations you need, and for what channels? Can you imagine the wrong version of your ad going to the wrong retailer? Or the wrong social media platform? It happens more than you think. All of this is taken into consideration by View Imaging. It has to be. Your brand reputation is too important for it not to be.

The Enemy Of Beauty Is Time

If you search them out, there are plenty of embarrassingly bad retouching projects on the Internet. Lack of expertise is certainly a culprit, but in most cases, it’s time—specifically how much of it a retoucher needs to deliver your imagery.

Time is a reality with us, too. That’s why View Imaging’s Master Retoucher and Head of Creative, Peter Rundqvist, has trained resources around the globe. We utilize the 24-hour cycle which means we’re working for you even as you sleep. We have quality assurance protocols, and talent with every skill set to focus on different things so your imaging looks amazing in every way. Earlier, we mentioned the cover of Harper’s Bazaar as a standard. That wasn’t random. Peter Rundqvist applied his retouching craft to over 80 Harper’s Bazaar covers.

The Honesty Of Retouching

No, that’s not an oxymoron. We as Art Directors, Creative Directors, Photographers, Brand Managers, and everyone who makes a living marketing brands has a duty to our clients. We owe them our honest best efforts to make their products both beautiful and memorable through high-quality retouching services. Consumers are very smart. They know there’s expertise and magic used in advertising, just like a recording artist will use overdubbing and mixing techniques. And just like how we can get caught up in a song, well done retouched photography can take us away—if only for a few seconds—with an image that entices, boosts confidence, piques our curiosity, and motivates action.

Make More Beautiful With View Imaging

View Imaging eats, sleeps, and breathes all things luxury, beauty, fashion and retail—from building creative campaigns to web design. But our first love will always be the high-quality, meticulously detailed photo retouching we've been doing for top brands since day one.

As a somewhat famous artist named Michelangelo once said, "gazing on beautiful things acts on my soul." When we Make More Beautiful content, we drive customer action. We've done it for Sephora, Versace, Puma, Target, Harry's and more. And we can do it for you, too, with our creative production studio expertise.

©Sephora | Photography, Retouching by View Imaging

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Header Image ©Rolling Stone | Retouching by View Imaging

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