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The Difference Between Basic and Advanced Retouching

The Difference Between Basic and Advanced Retouching: Techniques, Time, and Expected Effects

In today’s digital age, retouching has become an integral part of the photography process. It allows professionals to enhance and refine images to achieve desired results. Retouching techniques can be categorized into two main levels: basic and advanced retouching. Understanding the differences between these two approaches is crucial for achieving the desired effect and optimizing the workflow. In this article, we will explore the disparities in techniques, time requirements, and expected effects between basic and advanced retouching.

Basic Retouching/Editing:

advanced retouch - example of basic editing

Basic retouching involves fundamental editing techniques aimed at enhancing the overall appearance of an image. It primarily focuses on correcting minor imperfections, such as exposure adjustments, color correction, and removal of small blemishes or distractions. The primary goal of basic retouching is to improve the image’s overall quality while maintaining a natural and realistic look.


  1. Exposure and color adjustments: Basic retouching often begins with correcting exposure issues, ensuring proper brightness, contrast, and color balance. This involves adjusting levels, curves, and saturation to enhance the image’s tonal range and vibrancy.
  2. Blemish removal: Small imperfections like dust spots, stray hairs, or minor skin blemishes are removed. Additionally, backgrounds are cleaned if they are not perfect.
  3. Sharpening and noise reduction: Basic retouching typically includes applying subtle sharpening techniques to enhance details while reducing noise for a cleaner look. In some cases, noise may be intentionally added.
  4. Basic object removal: Basic retouching may involve removing small objects or distractions from the frame that do not significantly alter the composition. This often includes studio elements, lamps, tripods, etc.

Time Difference: 

Basic retouching is generally a quicker process compared to advanced retouching. It can be completed in a matter of minutes to a few hours, depending on the complexity of the image and the retoucher’s proficiency.

Expected Effect: Basic retouching aims to refine the image, making it more visually appealing and presentable. The expected effect is a cleaner, more balanced, and professional-looking photograph that retains its authenticity.

Advanced Retouching:

advanced-retouch - many layers and masks

Advanced retouching delves deeper into the details of image manipulation. It goes beyond basic adjustments to achieve specific creative or dramatic effects. This level of retouching is often used in fashion and beauty photography, editorial work, or high-end advertising campaigns, where perfection and artistic expression are paramount.

Advanced retouching is ideal for images intended for magazines, billboards, or as main campaign images on websites. It aims to achieve a level of perfection and artistic vision that goes beyond what is seen in real life. Models’ skin can be highly polished and flawlessly represented.


  1. Skin retouching: Advanced retouching involves extensive techniques to achieve flawless complexions while preserving skin texture. It includes techniques like frequency separation, dodge and burn, and advanced healing methods, all done precisely by hand, which can be time-consuming.
  2. Composite and manipulation: Advanced retouching may involve combining multiple images, digital painting, or intricate compositing techniques to create unique visuals or surreal effects.
  3. Shape and body sculpting: In some cases, advanced retouching is used to reshape body proportions or features, often employed in the fashion and beauty industries.
  4. Fine detail enhancement: Advanced retouching allows for precise control over enhancing details like eyes, hair, and clothing to create a striking visual impact.

Time Difference: 

Advanced retouching is a considerably more time-consuming process due to the complexity of the techniques involved. It can take several hours or even days to complete a single image, depending on the desired outcome.

Conclusion: Basic and advanced retouching techniques serve different purposes and cater to different levels of image enhancement. Basic retouching focuses on correcting minor imperfections and achieving a more natural look, while advanced retouching allows for creative manipulation and the creation of visually stunning effects. Understanding the distinctions between these two levels of retouching is essential for agencies, photographers, graphic designers, and retouchers to choose the appropriate techniques, manage time effectively, and produce the desired visual impact in their work.

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