Article by one of the best Headshot Photographers in LA; Vanie Poyey


For many years, before owning Photoshop became affordable, and before digital media replaced film, photographers used the word ‘retouching’ to mean the following (as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary):

  • to alter (something, such as a photographic negative) to produce a more desirable appearance.
  • to make small changes to (something, such as a photograph) in order to improve the way it looks.

Lately, the trend is actors asking that their photographs be ‘edited’ to look better.  What they mean to say is they want the image ‘retouched’ for improved appearance.  According to Meariam-Webster, the definition for editing is:

  • to prepare (a film, recording, photo, etc.) to be seen or heard : to change, move, or remove parts of (a film, recording, photo, etc.)
  • to assemble (something, such as a moving picture or tape recording) by cutting and rearranging edit a film.

The key difference here is in the terms altering or changing an image (retouching) vs. removing, cutting or rearranging (editing) an image.  I felt compelled to finally write about the difference because when I explain to actors my process from start to finish, I catch myself using the correct terms, but then using the incorrect terms just so that I’m understood.  Call me a purist, but to set the record straight…

The common workflow with photographers is to remove (delete) photos that are not going to be presented in the final selection (see below of grayed out images).  This is called editing.

From that final selection (or ‘edit’) of images the actor makes his or her selections, and the photographer alters them by making a series of retouches, usually by first custom color correcting them, then perhaps reducing smile lines, neck lines, and removing stray hairs etc. (see below).

In the above example, from left: the RAW image out of the camera, the color-corrected image, and finally, the ‘retouched’ (not edited!) image.  And now the record is straight!


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