Today’s topic is common photo editing mistakes of a portrait photo. The photographer’s work does not end immediately after shooting. No matter how accurately you exposed the light, how perfectly you caught the shadows and shapes, there is always room for enhancement through processing. However, retouching is not a one-size-fits-all remedy for all flaws. On the contrary, it is often that who causes problems in the photograph. Therefore, I decided to consider the 13 most common mistakes that beginner photographers and re-touchers make during photo editing.
1. Too Saturated Colors
Correctly adjusted settings help us get the most realistic frame colors. But when processing, many people want to add brightness and saturation. So that the photo stands out. This can be done, but the solution must be approached very carefully. If you’re working in Photoshop, to Ctrl + U is the first solution that comes to mind. It is there that you can slightly stretch the brightness or change the basic tone of the frame. Nevertheless, this function is extremely imperfect, and it must be used in a balanced way.
In order to avoid this mistake, it is also important to keep an eye on the calibration of your work monitor and, as in most creative tasks, sometimes distract yourself and give yourself a break to look at the photo with a fresh eye.
2. Excessive Sharpness
There is one important rule in photography: if the photo is blurry, you cannot stretch it. This rule is worth remembering for all re-touchers, especially those who expect to correct blur using the sharpen function. This feature in PS is very dangerous and rarely used. When used ineptly, it creates an effect that emphasizes flaws, and the picture ceases to look realistic.
So, it is better to think about focus in advance, especially since now many cameras offer a special option to shift focus if the photographer did not catch it the way they would like.
In a word, all manipulations with sharpness are carried out only during shooting. Not after.
3. Too White Teeth
A snow-white smile is wonderful. Unfortunately, not everyone gets it and we don’t always come across models who can boast of it. The way out, of course, is obvious: you can whiten your teeth slightly during retouching.
But the mistake of many beginners is that in an attempt to do what is best or to please the customer, they whiten their teeth too recklessly to fantastic shades, forgetting about lighting, realism and common sense.
To avoid this, stick to the most natural tones. Remember that the center of the portrait is not the teeth, but the eyes. So do not entice attention, and flaws or yellowness can be removed neatly and inconspicuously.
4. Blurred Bags Under the Eyes
Again, we always want to remove all skin imperfections, and they certainly are in everyone. Part of the responsibility falls on the makeup artist, but the rest falls under the jurisdiction of the photographer or re-toucher.
You can hide bags under the eyes as much as you like, but sometimes they are still noticeable in the picture. And novice re-touchers very often try to get rid of them even when it is not worth doing. The result is a lower eyelid that blends smoothly into the cheekbone, and the model’s face becomes absolutely flat.
It looks extremely unnatural, and in the photo the person resembles a plastic doll, and even made not of very high quality. So do not forget that some of the features are just normal facial structure. You don’t have to clean everything up.
5. Defects or Distinctive Features?
How many famous models do we know with specific details in their appearance? These can be moles, freckles, scars, etc. Some of them cause discomfort and embarrassment in a person, and some become a visiting card.
While experienced photographers know exactly how to smooth out or emphasize these defects or features with the help of light while shooting, then beginners often rely on retouching. At the same time, many seek to remove not only unsuccessful elements, such as acne and temporary scratches, but also distinctive features. If the first is nevertheless necessary to achieve an ideal result, then the second is the freedom of the re-toucher and should be politely and delicately discussed with the model or the customer.
Ideally, you should never hide what makes a person special in a photo. It is much better and more positive to show him how impressive it can look, and why you should not hide behind retouching and makeup. This carries a much more positive message, and the amount of work for the re-toucher will significantly reduce.
6. Too Much Blurring of Skin Texture
The climax of the previous two mistakes happens when the photographer decides to add a glamorous effect to the picture and give it absolute smoothness. Of course, perfect skin is every model’s dream, but we must not forget that skin still has its own natural texture named collagen. This is not just a smooth surface as silk, so there is no need to strive to give it a similar look.
When a re-toucher applies a special filter or uses a blur brush to remove absolutely all defects, the result is not only unattractive but intimidating. The photo comes out unnatural, and anyone who sees it will immediately notice not only the fact of the re-toucher’s participation in the process, but also his mistakes.
Deficiencies are removed, as a rule, using a small stamp brush. It transfers the image from the selected point to the one where the part you do not like is located. Thanks to this, the natural appearance and texture is preserved. The main thing is to choose the right area from which you are going to borrow the image.
7. Using Filters
Professional photographers always strive to keep the need for post-processing to a minimum. This is not always possible, but it is still worth trying. But what you don’t need to do is resort to using filters, especially those offered by the standard PS collection. To make it clearer, let us explain: among these filters there are several useful ones, but they are used in rare cases when it is necessary to achieve a certain visual result. Most often, this concerns a specific design, and filters are applied for a reason, step by step.
It is absolutely not worth using them in vain, and even more so, there is no need to try to hide the flaws of the photo itself with their help.
If you’re a photographer, it’s best to forget about filters altogether and practice improving your photography skills. And it is much more useful for a re-toucher to master brushes and professional techniques.
8. Adjusting Tones to One Standard
There are several areas on the human body that always differ in tone. These are the tips of the fingers, elbows, legs, noses, etc. A re-toucher with experience knows about this, and tries to keep their differences, so as not to violate the realism of the photo.
Beginners very often strive to bring the picture to perfection by removing all the highlights. So, it turns out that the hand rests on the leg, changing the skin tone, for example, to a more red one, and the re-toucher removes the redness, depriving the frame of volume. Remember that we are not working on a drawing, but on a photo. And you can’t hide from realism here.
9. Artificial Bokeh
Bokeh in portraits creates the effect of depth and space. Therefore, experienced photographers always use special lenses and settings for natural bokeh. Some even use creative tricks and filters. All this works great and is very acceptable, but you shouldn’t try to reproduce bokeh during processing. Even smartphones’ cameras with special AI and a depth sensor that are responsible for simulating bokeh make mistakes with enviable consistency. And fake blur is all the more noticeable and rarely done with high quality. So again, either do the bokeh right away or don’t do it at all.
10. Too Much Focus on The Overall Plan
The task before the re-toucher is not an easy one, especially if you have to work with other people’s pictures. Therefore, the photo must be studied very carefully. Even if you are working on the perfect monitor in a completely greenhouse environment, never forget to look at the full resolution of the image and follow every square inch of the photo.
Sometimes during the shooting process, you can’t keep track of everything, and unaccounted for dust particles, hairs, dust on clothes, etc. The job of a re-toucher is not only to bring the entire photo into a finished form, but also to notice and correct the smallest flaws.
11. Too Bright Eyes
Like teeth, eyes are often the result of the inept work of a re-toucher. In trying to make them brighter, richer and deeper, many make mistakes so that the eyes stop looking realistic. If you are not dealing with fashion photography where it was originally intended, then it is best to stick to reasonable limits.
You should not use brightness or contrast tools with excessive passion in order to give the pupil a showiness.
Likewise, it is undesirable to make the eyeball too white. Defects or excess vessels can be muted, but it is not necessary to remove all of them.
12. Unequal Attention to Different Areas
An equally common mistake in retouching is associated with uneven distribution of efforts. Those who have been involved in photo editing for a long time have a certain idea of what elements should be paid attention to, and the whole process does not take much time.
Many novice re-touchers are fond of one area, quickly get tired, and a blurry look stops noticing differences. However, if you retouch one part very carefully and then do not pay attention to the rest, it can be noticeable in the big shot. Therefore, it is undesirable, for example, to smooth the skin too much and leave a natural texture to the hands. Ideally, everything should have texture.
13. Trying to Save A Bad Shot
Perhaps the main thing that all re-touchers need to remember is the ability to remove an unsuccessful photo. It doesn’t matter how much you like it or how much you hope to correct processing flaws. There are cases that simply cannot be corrected. If you come across such a shot, do not waste time and effort on it. Just remove it, because in this case, the best is not only the enemy of the good. Trying to save a failed shot will distract you from those photos that can actually be pulled out and tweaked.
Avoid these popular mistakes, practice your craft, and remember to learn new tricks and techniques.