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The Dos and Don’ts of Headshot Retouching: A Guide for Photographers

The Dos and Don’ts of Headshot Retouching: A Guide for Photographers

Headshot photography is a crucial part of the portrait photography genre. Whether for a professional LinkedIn profile, an actor’s headshot, or a model’s portfolio, headshots must look their best. While the initial capture is essential, retouching is just as crucial in creating a polished and professional final product.

However, it’s easy to overdo it with retouching, resulting in an unnatural and over-processed look. To help you avoid these pitfalls, we’ve compiled a guide to the dos and don’ts of headshot retouching for photographers.

So, let’s dive in and learn how to create stunning and natural-looking headshots!

A Headshot is your digital handshake… What does yours say about you?

The Dos of Headshot Retouching:

  1. Do aim for a natural look: Headshot retouching aims to enhance the subject’s natural features, not to change them completely. Retouching should be subtle and blend in seamlessly with the original photo.
  2. Do use a light hand: Less is often more when retouching. Overdoing it with skin smoothing or teeth whitening can produce an artificial and unappealing look. Use a light touch and be mindful of the overall balance of the image.
  3. Do focus on the eyes: The eyes are the windows to the soul and are often the focal point of a headshot. Enhancing the eyes with subtle brightening, sharpening, and color correction can make a big difference in the overall impact of the image.
  4. Pay attention to skin tones: Skin tones can be tricky to get right in headshot retouching. Be sure to keep the skin looking natural and avoid making it too orange or too pink. Adjustments to the saturation and hue can achieve a pleasing and realistic skin tone.
  5. Make adjustments in layers: Making adjustments in layers allows for greater control and flexibility in retouching. Use adjustment layers for skin smoothing, color correction, and other retouching tasks to avoid destructive edits and make tweaking the final result easier.

The Don’ts of Headshot Retouching:

  1. Refrain from skin smoothing: While it’s tempting to smooth out every wrinkle and blemish, it can make the subject look plastic and unnatural. Use a light touch and aim for a realistic skin texture.
  2. Remember texture: Speaking of texture, preserving the texture of the subject’s skin in headshot retouching is essential. The skin should look smooth but not plastic or airbrushed.
  3. Please don’t make the subject look thinner: Retouching should enhance the subject’s features, not change their body shape. Above all avoid making the subject look thinner by removing too much of their natural curves or slimming down their face.
  4. Remember the hair: Hair can be a significant part of a headshot, and paying attention to it during the retouching process is essential. Use tools like the healing brush and clone stamp to remove flyaways and tidy up the hairline.
  5. Remember to zoom out: It’s easy to get caught up in the details of retouching and lose sight of the bigger picture. Regularly zoom out and view the image at a smaller size to check for overall balance and naturalness.

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