Fstoppers Reviews Digital Photo Retouching: Beauty, Fashion and Portrait Photography E-book

Fstoppers Reviews Digital Photo Retouching: Beauty, Fashion and Portrait Photography E-book

Beauty retouching can be an arduous task in any photographer's workflow. The amount of detail that can go into retouching a glamor portrait can easily run into several hours. Learning the secrets of the pros can be even more difficult. Julia Kuzmenko McKim has made learning easy with her new book entitled  'Digital Photo Retouching: Beauty, Fashion and Portrait Photography'


In this review I am going to cover a few points on what makes this book an amazing stepping stone in furthering your retouching education. I am going to go over the content of the book, the layout and other interactive features. First though, I would like to point out that this book is not for a Photoshop beginner. If you're new to Photoshop I suggest taking the time to learn all of the basic functions like blend modes, adjustment layers among others before picking up this book. I also recommend picking up Julia's other  book 'Creative Retouching Essentials in a Day'. I believe that these two books are the perfect companions to each other. Pick up the Essentials book first to learn about color theory management, the tools that you will need to properly retouch (brushes, clone stamp tool, patch tool ect...) and even how to customize your workspace.

Download and Initial Reaction

Download times were extremely fast once I was sent the email from Julia's website, although this will vary depending on your download times and service provider. The files were compressed in a .zip file and easy to open on my iMac. My initial reaction while going through the .pdf file was just how colorful the book is. The pages are all different colors and is also packed full of images. This can be both a good break between the information in the book, but can also be a distraction depending on how you read and your attention span. The images are mostly full paged and are extremely detailed. They also come with all of the EXIF data and an estimate of how long the image took to retouch, attached to the image along with an extra tip to help you along your way.

 Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 3.51.17 PM

Content and Workflow

Julia begins where all retouching starts, your camera. We all know that the more correct you get an image in-camera the less post processing you'll need to do in Photoshop or other editing programs. She goes over tips on things that we sometimes over look, like white balance, file formats and even the LCD screen on your camera. Following those tips she gives an interesting look into the photographer-model relationship and what you should expect out of your models and what you should ask of them. Some of the smallest details that she goes over I have found to save me a good amount of time in post work. I never knew that just asking your models to follow some simple pre-shoot regimens could save me that much time.


Now, we get onto the retouching portion of the book. Let me start off by saying that after reading just one page of this section I had to stop myself and take a moment to retain all of the information. It's a lot of knowledge packed into one page. I am not a beginner of Photoshop by any means, but there were so many things that I learned from one simple page that I didn't know where to start. I was tempted to open a few images to start practicing what I had just read, but I stopped myself and kept reading knowing that if I jumped ahead I might just miss a step in the workflow that she explains.


For every portion of retouching that she goes over, whether that be retouching skin and how to make it silky smooth but with the right amount of texture, to fixing unwanted upper-lip hair, or reducing shadows that can make your subject look older; each major workflow step comes with a retouching tutorial video. Oh, wait... did I forget to mention that this book is packed full of video tutorials? Silly me. Yes, the tutorials are a great extra feature. It's nice to see her tips and techniques in an actual video format instead of just reading them. There are retouching videos spread across the vast internet field such as Youtube, but what's so special about these particular videos is that you can also read along. I usually watch Youtube tutorials and have to pause the video several times just to catch up, with Julia's, I also have the same tutorial written, so it's easier to follow. I will point out that the video tutorials only come with the electronic version of the book and not the printed version.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 12.53.30 PM

The e-book also comes with Julia's beauty actions set and a set of beauty brushes, which I have found extremely useful in my everyday retouching. The action set alone is worth the purchase, and I think it's a lovely addition to the book. With actions such as silky skin texture, frequency separation for both 8 and 16 bits and sculpt and contour it will cut your retouching times dramatically. She has another set of actions available with her previous book which I also use daily, (the actions that you see above the beauty actions set).

Additional Content

What's also great about the book, is that it doesn't just cover retouching subjects, but also touches on valuable information that you won't find in your typical retouching books. There's a section about copyright myths written by a lawyer, a chapter all about modeling agencies and booking agents, a chapter on self-promotion and the most impressive in my opinion is the section of the book that features some of the world's leading and most successful photographers, retouchers and digital artists. People such as Sue BryceNathalia SuellenJean Osipyan, and Emily Soto among others. Each artist reveals a little bit about their work, some insight on the industry and each gives a tip to all of those learning to become great photographers. This to me solidifies Julia's work and her teaching techniques. It proves that the techniques taught in this book are not only top quality, but also has the support and backing of some of the best talent in our industry.


How has my own personal work improved? 

Before I read this book I was like countless others and desperate to find retouching advice and help on the internet. I would spend hours searching for online tutorials on the subject and the majority that I did find were mediocre at best. After I read the book it was easy to follow the workflow that Julia has laid out and the techniques that she teaches. It still took some time though. When learning a new technique I find it's better to take your time and learning it throughly instead of rushing through it and creating something that is sloppy. With some time and practice you'll find that the techniques taught in the book will become second nature to you and your retouching speeds will increase.

retouchingylianna2©Rebecca Britt Photography
Model: Ylianna Guerra

Here is the first image that I retouched after reading the book. It's far from perfect, but I think it's a great start. I was never an amateur at Photoshop, but I am still very much a pupil to the complex program. I saw a dramatic improvement over this single portrait. I know that the more that I practice with these new techniques the faster and better my retouching will become.

In Conclusion

This is a book for any of you struggling to figure out just how the fashion and beauty photographers of the world create the amazing work that they do. If you know the basics of Photoshop and can handle some more of the advanced features of the program then this book is perfect for you. If you're new to Photoshop, lighting or photography in general, then you might want to wait it out, learn and master the basics and then invest in this book, because after all I don't see this book as just another instructional book, I see this as an investment into furthering my photography education and will help broaden my skill set as a photographer.


You can buy the book at Julia's website for the price of $89.48. This is for the digital copy with all of the extra video tutorials and the actions/brushes sets.

Buy the book here: http://retouchingebooks.com/shop/mad-artist-ebook/

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Am I missing something or do all the videos in this ebook link out to Youtube or Behance? I am particularly disappointed by the one on page 29 that links out to a Youtube video with a muzak soundtrack instead of commentary. There is even an overlay stating that there will be a version with commentary with the ebook! The fstoppers review does not make this clear, I was expecting something along the lines of Gry Garness' ebooks with embedded video. I feel that I have been misled here.

Found the videos with commentary linked from page 44, slightly strange layout with different content in between, but the videos are good.

Dear Philip,

To make sure our readers find all the narrated videos easily we've made it very clear where to find them and marked the pages linked to the videos red on the INDEX page right in the beginning of the book. You are the first reader to even mention that it wasn't easy to find them.

Moreover, there's also red text right in the middle of the page where the text workshop begins on Page 24 saying that the narrated video workshop is on Page 44.

We're are not connected with Gry Garness or her publishers, and we make our own choices. Because there are over 90 minutes of narrated videos in our eBook we chose to have them out as PRIVATE Youtube videos, so the size of the eBook isn't too large for our readers in other parts of the world where they may have slower internet speed and might have problems downloading the eBook package in a ZIP file.

Also, embedded videos can be viewed in small sizes only (again, the larger the videos the larger the ebook size), and we wanted to allow our readers to ACTUALLY see the details and be able to watch the videos in full screen, or at least in larger windows as Youtube allows.

So far, nobody has complained about how easy and more convenient we made it for our readers.


i like the ebook but if you have included few raw pictures for practice then that would be much nicer. In addition, i think writing the tool names in bold would be helpful for readers(ex: write Healing Brush in bold).


Being very impressed with Julia's work and reading a few comments I decided to buy the Ebook....and I am sorry to say I was disappointed. A lot of the 97 pages are about other artists profiles, fullpage photo's and ads( more than 50%). Allthough I love fullpage photo's, I buy an Ebook about retouching for the info on retouching, not for a portfolio of someone or other peoples profilepages. Only about 20 pages or so with really indepth info on retouching. A big thanks to Julia for refunding my payment

I just bought it <3

Will there be any discount on Black Friday?

Just bought this e-book...
Can't wait to read it

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Thank you Zach!
Just saw your comment now, 9 months later :)