Retouching – What’s it all about?

Pete Bartlett Colour Actor Headshot Photography



I often get asked by headshot clients what exactly does retouching involve. So I thought I’d explain with the help of a few recent acting clients who have generously agreed to let me show their headshots.

Retouching gets a lot of bad press these days and in some instances rightly so, impossibly perfect images of celebrities don’t make any of us feel better about ourselves. However, don’t think for a minute that this is something that is a solely product of the digital age. Images have been manipulated in the dark room in various ways since studios studios and advertising companies realised how powerful a perfect image can be. Photoshop is just a more sophisticated extension of age-old methods.

The way to view headshots is that it’s you but you on a really good day. It’s essential that it looks exactly like you and any hint that it might have been manipulated, or ‘Photoshopped’, will work against you in the casting process. So any post-production need to be very subtle, obviously that includes not changing anything fundamental about you.

Now you on your best day will mean that your skin is as good as it can be, you won’t show signs of tiredness such as bags under your eyes, your hair will all be where it’s meant to be, ie no frizz and you’ll have a healthy glow about you. Essentially these are all the things I’m trying to achieve through the retouch process. I want it to be you,  but you without any temporary imperfections or distractions.

To retouch skin well is a time consuming and highly skilled area. These days I hand all my retouching to a professional retoucher. We’ve been working together for a few years now and he knows exactly what I want from a retouched headshot.

So, let’s look at some examples.

First up is young up and coming actress, Megan Rose Clark. This is a good example of all of the above. The skin just gets cleaned up but remains natural. The signs of tiredness are eradicated and the skin is brightened up and made to glow. Have a look.

Second up we have the great Gary Beardsmore. As we can see it’s just as important for men to get some help. A subtle retouch enables us to see the actor without distractions. Still Gary, just on a good day.

Here is the very talented Lasharne Anderson. Natural light is very fashionable for headshots these days. Whilst it gives a ‘genuiness’ to the images, it is also quite unforgiving on the skin. Here we’ve done a good job of clearing it up. The image also needed a bit of colour correcting resulting in a more realistic skin tone. Good job all round I think.

Next up is Clare Szembek, not only an actress but also band member of the EMI signed band, Captain. Again here minor distractions are eradicated from the skin, the eyes have been brightened and the skin given a colour boost.

Here is up and coming Scottish actress Bernadette Gniady. Bernadette’s skin didn’t need a lot of help but there were stray hairs that were a distraction plus some signs of tiredness under the eyes.

Last up is newcomer Jess Price who’s signed to Middleweek Newton Management. Stray hairs and a minor skin clean up was all that was needed but make s a subtle but big difference.

So, that’s about it. If you’ve got any thoughts or questions feel free to leave comments on the page.

Ciao for now, Pete



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