Simple Men's Portrait Retouching Workflow

As I spend more and more time around other photographers, I’ve had the opportunity to sit back and listen to everyone’s take on what makes a retouched image successful. Some photographers spend minutes retouching, while others spend literally hours on an individual image. Regardless if you spend 15 minutes or 3 hours retouching in image, it’s important to have a strong workflow so that you maintain your sanity.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a professional retoucher. I leave that title up to retouchers like Pratik Naik and Julia Kuzmenko McKim, who’ve both earned that title. I personally make the majority of my income behind a camera, so I feel like I’ve earned the right to label myself as a professional photographer. I digress.

As a professional photographer, I would prefer to spend most of my time either: (a) booking clients for shoots, or (b) shooting clients. Anything that distracts me from doing either of those is losing me money. That includes spending too much time retouching images. Yes, I can outsource images for clients who have the budget to do so, but not every client can afford or justify spending an additional $35–$65 an image.

If you feel like you’re in the same boat, welcome to DIY retouching. Now, considering that a lot of photographers that I know are pretty neurotic (including myself in some cases), I always recommend that they stick to a step-by-step workflow. By adhering to a step-by-step workflow, you’re less likely to go off track and spend extra unnecessary time pushing pixels.

In the video above I deconstruct the process of male portrait retouching into six basic steps:

  1. Shoot RAW Format
  2. Global Adjustments
  3. Removing Blemishes and Defining and Shaping the Face
  4. Enhancing Eyes
  5. Style Hair
  6. Export and Delivery

Using those six steps, I can run through images relatively quickly and not pull my hair out while going through a client’s set of images.

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Jeff Rojas's picture

Jeff Rojas is an American photographer, author and educator based in New York City. His primary body of work includes portrait and fashion photography that has been published in both Elle and Esquire. Jeff also frequents as a photography instructor. His teaching experience includes platforms like CreativeLive, WPPI, the Photo Plus Expo, and APA.

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Very Informative

Thank you! :)

I really hate to see the retouching on the low layer. I agree that you need to develop a good workflow but I can't agree with your techniques.

That's okay. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. :)

i liked the workflow,, but the retouching... on the forehead is not very realistic :s

Thank you! :)

This is very useful and informative, thank you very much! If you could make some more, I would be very thankful. I don't know much about photo editing, I am currently in the learning process and all I know I know from tutorials like yours and this but it would be awesome to learn more in practice and improve! :)))