When it comes to photography, the most time consuming part of the process is the editing. Retouching a beauty photo can take 3 hours with no breaks. Because of this, I’ve been trying to find new ways to be more efficient without cutting corners.Below you will find some of the ways I’ve been able to cut out distractions and become more efficient with my retouching. These tips aren’t just for beauty work, they’re universal tips for all styles of work.
Use a Tablet
This is seriously the best way to cut down time with retouching. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Wacom, Huion, or any of the brands out there, the natural motions you get from a tablet are quicker and more accurate than using a mouse... I know it’s tough to learn when you first start, but I’ve been using one since I was in high school and if High School Dave could figure it out, so can you. If you're about to take the leap into a tablet, here's a video to help you get started.
Learn Your Keyboard Shortcuts
When I use Photoshop and Capture One, I try to keep my cursor in the artboard area as much as possible. Being able to switch tools without looking at the toolbar helps you keep your concentration on your work. Here is a quick resource to learn some of the more used hotkeys that every photographer should know.
Create Photoshop Actions for Your Workflow
My Dodge and Burn layers and Luminosity Masks are done in Photoshop Actions that are keyboard shortcuts linked to the function buttons. I create actions for every piece of my workflow that is setup exactly the same every time. Here is an article on how to create your own actions for your workflow.
Put Your Phone Away
When it comes to limiting distractions, nothing is better than getting rid of your phone. If I’m on a deadline crunch, I put my phone on Do Not Disturb and put it in another room or throw it in a drawer. For me, seeing a random notification can turn into a 10-15 minute session of playing Bricks & Balls.
No Visual Entertainment
For the longest time, I used 2 monitors, 1 for editing, 1 for entertainment. The problem is when it comes to efficiency, putting a Raptors game on the 2nd monitor isn’t the best way to stay focused on an edit. What I’ve found is podcasts and radio broadcasts of the games are still immersive enough for me and let me focus on what I'm doing at the same time.
I very recently removed the 2nd monitor and noticed there's a real jump in efficiency. Just having the second monitor there pushed me towards Reddit and Twitter when I should've been working.
Create a Separate Login Just for Work
When your personal PC and your work PC are the same, a great way to separate business vs personal time is by creating a separate login that has access to all the work apps and nothing else. You may have heard people say you should get a freelance office so you can always keep your work in a professional environment. This is the same thing… just for less successful people.
That may sound like an unnecessary step, but not having your personal bookmarks on Chrome and not seeing the Apex Legends logo on your desktop might keep you more focused on work-mode.
Get Comfortable, but Not Too Comfortable
This is all about creating a professional mindset, similar to the last tip. If you’ve ever heard someone say “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” it’s the same thing. You’re putting yourself into work mode by putting on real work clothes. Wearing gym shorts and no shirt might be more comfortable to wear in your home, subconsciously it puts you into a relaxing mood. Whereas wearing actual clothes makes you feel like you’re a part of the workforce. You don’t need to put on a dress shirt and khakis, but something that makes you feel like you’re actually about to do some work. I just put on what I'd wear to a photoshoot and I swear I feel different from doing that.
Eat Clean Foods
When you’re working for long sessions, having a snack with you isn’t a bad idea. But when you eat something messy or greasy, it will not only make you feel worse later in the day but having to clean your hands after every Dorito will only distract you from your work. Lately I've been trying apple slices and broccoli with dip.
Get a Midi
Now this one is more for those who work in Lightroom a lot. There’s a lot of products out there that help you edit even faster in raw processors like Palette and LoupeDeck. If you have the space on your desk for a specialized keyboard, it could definitely be helpful. I could see an event photographer or wedding photographer really benefiting from one of these. Here's Fstoppers' review of the Palette system from 2017.
As a beauty photographer, most of my work is in Photoshop. What I would love is just a single scroll wheel or knob I could use to change brush size/hardness easily. If you’re looking for a new keyboard, this Logitech Craft Wireless Keyboard could be perfect for you if you’re willing at that price. I’ve also seen some photographers use this from Razer, but overall I don’t think for a MIDI system is there yet for heavy Photoshop users.
At the End of the Day
Efficiency in editing is very important as you grow as a retoucher. Being able to cut down on time without cutting corners is a skill you’ll need as you progress into more advanced techniques that take longer accomplish. Hopefully you can utilize some of these tips into your process and make your own retouching more efficient.
If you have any tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below! I would love to see what you do to cut down on your retouching time.