Photo Editing and Retouching?

Do You Know the Difference Between Editing and

I recently had a potential client contact me and ask whether
or not I ‘retouch’ all of the images that I deliver. When I asked her to
explain what she meant by retouching, her response was, “You know, touch them

The terms ‘editing’ and ‘retouching’ are used quite often in
the photography world, but can mean wildly different things. Some photographers
even use them meaning the same thing, which can be very confusing to a couple
getting married unless the photographer is specific about what they mean or
unless you ask them to explain. So, in this post, I will explain what I mean by
‘editing’ and what I mean by ‘retouching’. After reading, you will have a
better understanding of what the terms can mean (as I said, it can vary from
photographer to photographer), so that you know what questions to ask so you
understand what you will receive.


I edit every photo that I send to a client. To be specific,
I correct for lighting/exposure and color temperature, crop the image if
necessary, as well as adding my own ‘signature’ touches to the images. Editing
a photo, as I use the term, can take as little as a few seconds or a few
minutes, depending on the desired effect. It may not seem like a lot of time,
but when spread out over 800 to 1000 photos, it means hours and hours of work. My
first step in the ‘editing’ process is to cull the photos. This means I go
through all of the pictures that were taken and determine which pictures will
be delivered. While the percentage of photos I keep has increased over my years
as a photographer, there are still the occasional shots that do not get
delivered – someone stepped in front of my camera, everyone has their eyes
closed, etc. etc. If your photographer is not culling your images for you as
part of editing then you will be left to sift through all of the pictures
yourself. If a photographer is not culling the images, it is probable that they
aren’t really editing them either because one of the main reasons for culling
images is so that you don’t waste time editing photos that will not be

Basic Retouching

When simple editing won’t do the trick, retouching begins.
For me, basic retouching means up to 10 minutes of work on an image – removing
blemishes, brightening teeth, smoothing skin, or even removing an unsightly wire…

Extensive Retouching

Is when photographers usually only get a handful of images
upon request from a client like removing a person from an image, compositing
several images together, or completely changing the background of an image. I
charge an additional fee for this type of work because this type of retouching
can take several hours of work to make sure you don’t notice it has been

In Conclusion

Every photographer’s definition of ‘editing’ and
‘retouching’ can mean different things. What is important is to be sure that
you understand what your photographer will be delivering to you and what they

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