10 Common Portrait Retouching Mistakes

Whether you're just getting started on portrait retouching or have been at it for a little while, there comes a time when you will realize you're doing it all wrong (I know I did). The list of things that can go potentially awry in the beginning is massive, so I've narrowed it down to 10 amateur mistakes I've seen most often in this video.

I don't care for top ten lists any more than you do, but it turns out that the errors I see the most ended up rounding out to an even 10, so stay with me here. Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One Pro: all are unquestionably complicated applications. When we first start editing digital photos in earnest, we tend to believe in the wrong "tech." That is, we innocently believe the tech-nology is what makes retouching work, but don't realize tech-nique is how you appropriately leverage these digital tools. 

Everyone Makes Mistakes!

Oversaturating color, over sharpening, the dreaded white vignette, blurring skin – the list goes on. Retouching is an art form that is wrought with all manner of technical considerations and seldom mastered by clicking things at random. Regardless of how you go about trying to learn more about photo retouching, sometimes simply being aware that you're making the common mistakes helps you improve at a faster pace because you know what to avoid. 

It's Healthier for Your Career to Admit It.

I'm reminded of when I first was asked to teach retouching workshops around 5-6 years ago, and I thought to myself "Sure thing!" followed immediately by "Oh shit," because it occurred to me my retouching was, at best, erratic and at worst, random. In a panic, I became laser-focused on learning the proper ways to retouch over a summer because I simply could not reconcile still being delightfully average at it – much less able to teach it. While I still have tons to learn (everyone does, always), mercifully, I managed to embed a thing or two on the subject in my grey matter before I started staking a claim as a retouching educator.

Check out the video above, and let me know how many are you or have you been guilty of. Me? 10 of 10. It's been a hell of a journey...

Log in or register to post comments

2 Comments

david squire's picture

Great article! I like where it's coming from- be honest with yourself. I've been guilty of 9 out of the 10. I'm still guilty of a hand full of them, but my mentality is always learning and growing. This resonates, "...at best, erratic and at worst, random..."

Chad D's picture

and then some get over these mistakes and feel they made it cause they found fs then abuse frequency separation like its the new spot color ;) hahahhhahah and make everyone look like an orange peel texture

when you say the really high end is mostly done with dodge and burn they look confused :)

good vid for many that we all see way to often