There are dozens of "How To" articles when it comes retouching. Very few, if any, focus on vital tips that are often overlooked, that will take your retouching to the next level. Here's a list that the Professionals in the industry never share with you.
1. There are no shortcuts.
Retouching is all about making thousands of small adjustments that result in a big difference. Presets and actions will never substitute a proper retouch. Don't be fooled. Treat a retouch like a fine wine…it becomes better with time! We all started somewhere, and in my experience patience and hard work leads to success.
2. Taking Breaks
If you sit in front of your monitors for too long you will get carried away with an edit. Chances are in two days you will look back at the job and ask yourself “what was I thinking?”Aside from photography, I have another hobby: Carpentry. A few times daily I take breaks and get lost in my wood working. It's better to under edit an image than over do it. You will never be forgiven for over doing it.
“Music's the medicine of the mind.” ~John A. Logan
For me, great music is the key to a successful edit. Sometimes my editing breaks consist of dancing when my jam comes on... There have been countless articles on how music affects the brain. Anything from Mozart and Beetoven to Dubstep and Eminem can help improve your work and concentration. Give it a try and see how much more you enjoy your work. All that music is fuel for stress relief, focus and energy. As your eyes and hands work to mold your editing, your body will drift away into to the realms of music.
(Check out our group Epic Remixes For Retouching for some awesome remixes)
4. Let Others Chose The Photo You Will Edit
I remember hanging out with John Keatley in the Bahamas this past year and he told me something I will never forget: "A successful photographer is the one who makes all the right decisions." Believe it or not, choosing the right photos from a shoot that you will edit is probably one of the most important steps -- often overlooked. There are so many times that I thought a photo I took was great. I spent time editing it and showed it off and no one looked at it twice. My culling workflow now consists of narrowing down the photos to 25% and then sending it out to 6 photographers I respect. I ask them to narrow it down to 10. Then I narrow it down even more going with what I know, and my gut, and it has not steered me wrong yet. 70% of the time the photos they chose are not the ones I would have chosen. An outside opinion is vital.
5. Scale Back The Opacity
A few months ago my good friend Pratik Naik was giving a workshop I was lucky to attend. If this would have been the only thing I gained from that session, it would have been worth going to. Always scale back the opacity on any adjustments you make in Photoshop by a few percent. Many of the techniques in Photoshop, such as frequency separation, dodge/burn and eye sharpening build up very fast. The effects creep up on you rather quickly and it’s very easy to overdo it. After each step I pull back the opacity on that layer 5%-15%. Keep your edits as natural as possible.
More before/after post processing combos can be found on my page - Dani Diamond Photography
These are the things that have helped me excel. If you have any tips you think are vital post a comment below.