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Top 3 Retouching Tips to Create Great Fashion Photos

fashion photography

After 25 years of Photoshop, you might think fashion photo editing has become a no-brainer. Hardly so! While it’s true that most professional editors now get trained to stay away from over-editing and generally know the tools well enough to deliver on clearly defined instructions, (regarding color correction, curve smoothening, etc.), there tends to be a gap in an aesthetic sense. Some of it is cultural, but most of it is a deviation from the basics that are necessary to make any photo achieve that fashion-magazine look. Here is a list of our three top tips to create that Pro-feel for your fashion shots:

  • Go Natural– These days brands and customers shun over-edited images with unnatural looks. Some brands have even adopted an “un-edited” look (the pictures are usually still edited, but a lot of work goes into making them seem otherwise). Natural skin is hardly smooth. It is made up of multiple layers and has a natural texture. At the same time, product photos with models are ultimately commercial commodities where the model (or unwanted blemishes like pimples) should not take attention away/create adverse sentiment about the product. Therefore photoshop artists need to use tools and develop techniques that help them achieve that “natural” look. In-built Photoshop features like “Lighten” Clone Stamp and plug-ins like Imagenomic Portraiture are useful here. This isn’t a blog on the technical features of the software so we will leave that to another day, but suffice it to say it shouldn’t take more than an hour of exploration online to find a great many tools to get you on your way to achieving a natural look that will wow your client!
  • Know your World– Graphic artists and photographers who work with color understand the effects of filters, aperture, ISO, White Balance and so on, but few understand how color themes turn into trends that affect clients’ aesthetic sense. Color themes are affected by, and in turn, affect all kinds of marketing activities. For instance, did you notice a marked increase in orange hue (specifically, Saffron Hue) in last year’s Instagram photos, especially those posted on accounts of major fashion brands? There’s a reason for that: The Pantone Institute announced in late 2018 that the “Color of the Year” for 2019 would be- you guessed it, Saffron! Sure enough, Saffron hues began to show up in fashion photos! As an image-editor, you would do well to keep abreast of developments and changing trends in the fashion industry. For instance, if you keep track of the Pantone Institute’s Color of the Year (By the way, the 2020 color is “Classic Blue” #COY2020) which is announced in December, you can practice incorporating that color into your sample photos. You would be surprised how well that works to get a “wow” from the client!
  • Where Will They View It?– Think about where the finished photograph will be viewed. Will it be on a huge digital billboard in Times Square, on an Indie site on the web somewhere, or on a brand’s Instagram account, mostly seen on smartphone screens? A lot of effort goes into optimizing content for different platforms, but the actual look and feel of a photo is often lost if it is viewed on the wrong device. The solution? Normalize the photo to match the most likely platform where it will be viewed. For instance, if it is a 72 dpi shot it will most likely end up on an eCommerce site. If it is a complex, advertising shot, it will probably end up on Instagram. The print really has stopped being the major focus for most brands, and anyway print needs 300 dpi shots which have to be worked with a lot of detail, so they tend to follow an entirely different workflow.

But back to digital media. Say you have surmised that the shot will most likely be seen on Instagram. Adjust the look to make it in-line with the prevailing Instagram look (again, research and staying up to date helps here!) Desaturate the reds and enhance the green and blues, or use the “Orange and Teal” look. Replicate popular Instagram filters (but sparingly- the modern trend on Instagram is to move away from heavy filters). The idea is to make the photo look vivacious and juicy, like it was taken on a perfect Sunday morning or in the light of a gorgeous sunset. Going Black & White? Use settings to add some smoke to achieve a mysterious, sexy look. Just remember where the audience will see the shots, and what you want them to focus on.

To reiterate, use your skills and whatever tools you can to achieve a natural look, keep your knowledge up to date about aesthetic trends, and don’t forget the ultimate medium where the image is going to be viewed, and adjust it to become a hit there. Use these three tips to great effect to make eye-catching fashion photos! A good image editing artist is really the last major production workbench in a brand’s visual messaging workflow before the message reaches the end customer. Good image editors can really help a brand and the photographer achieve their messaging vision, but great image editors become full consulting partners who help shape that vision.