Creative | Manchester

Photography Retouching: E-commerce vs High-End

Photography Retouching: E-commerce vs High-End

Wondering what the difference between Ecommerce and High-End beauty retouching is? Read on! I explain all I know and have learned from my personal experiences, as well as break down some of the jargon and answer common questions.

Think of retouching as like going to the gym or building a house; you’ve already got the framework in place – but you then have built on to or improved what was already there. You are not creating something, but rather that you are working with what you’ve already got; that perhaps makes it more suitable for its purpose.

What exactly is Retouching?

Often referred to as ‘airbrushing’; retouching is a method of editing photographs. It is usually meant to appear natural and unnoticeable and is done to correct errors – such as colours that appear different from the true pigmentation in real life. Retouching is also done to enhance images such as alterations of light and shadows, and sometimes to change the mood and style of the shoot – making it look more stylized or consistent.

Tip: many retouchers do not use the phrase ‘airbrushing’ to describe their job role! Airbrushing is better known as a method of painting or applying makeup – rather than a form of virtual image manipulation or editing.

Painting over an image virtually destroys the texture, therefore this method is not usually used (particularly in higher-end campaigns and retouch work for print and larger visual displays).

What is the difference between E-commerce and High-End Retouching?

Retouching that is done for E-Commerce usually refers to editing a larger amount of images, but doing less to them. Basically speed is key; but quality also matters. It is when the images will be used online – product listings on websites, images on mobile apps, and sometimes social media campaigns. As images used for this purpose are usually fairly small and of a lower resolution (especially after editing), you may not notice all of the detail – so not everything needs to be perfect! It is more raw and natural, the aim is to make each image look relatively consistent and sellable; especially when placed closely together. Also that they usually seem to appear unretouched.

Now let’s talk High-End retouching – those billboards you see, prints in magazines and larger format images that require a little more attention to detail. As a retoucher for E-Commerce, you can get away with a few small imperfections. However, if you are editing images that are going to be printed or used on a much larger scale, you will want to make sure you go into a lot more depth. Those small imperfections will be amplified and most likely, stand out more than ever on a billboard – as opposed to your PC screen.

As this role is more time consuming, in my opinion, it involves more artistic skill and understanding of lighting, composition, and proportion. Also some technical skills such as image formats and how to set up layers to ensure you can easily review your work; as well as quickly go back and add back in something you removed that your client wants to keep.

Tip: try not to assume too much, always check and ask your client if you should keep or remove a particular item in the background, or mark on a person’s skin. Always keep things like beauty spots, moles, scars – and other distinctive markings – on a separate layer, so they can quickly be removed or added back in.

Examples of E-Commerce and High-End retouching

High-End retouch: usually head and shoulder shots, or more stylized and fashion-based featuring dynamic posing, higher amounts of detail and/or colour treatments and filters. Take a look at some more beautiful examples of headshot photography by clicking here.

High-End Retouch – Kelvin Fletcher – Photographed by Neilson Reeves & Retouched by Aleena Sharif

E-Commerce retouch: often a similar style of posing of a product on guides or model wearing a product; consisting of a front, side, back and detail shot to sell a product. Sometimes also an additional image including a dynamic pose or showcasing a particularly unique feature of the product. These images are usually taken in a studio; either on a model, just of the product itself, worn on a mannequin or flat laid and placed on guides. They are usually used on websites and social media, so are displayed smaller, therefore, require less attention to detail.

E-commerce Retouch – Manchester Gin – Retouched by Aleena Sharif

Tip: event photography is usually unretouched. However, if it is retouched, it is done similarly to E-Commerce imagery – in the sense of it being a higher volume of images, but with minimal editing. The difference being (as opposed to E-Commerce retouch) that there is no need to edit each person or element individually. Think of the overall framing and cropping, composition, contrast, filters and lighting more than anything!

About the author

Aleena Sharif administrator

Creative based in Manchester, Owner of

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