The difference between ‘editing’ and ‘retouching’ photos

There is a difference between an image that has been edited, and the same image that has been retouched. I find that photographers use the phrase interchangeably, leading to some confusion with clients.

For me, an edited image has the colors and exposure corrected so that skin tones look good. Editing affects the broad controls for a photo – exposure, color, contrast and saturation. The overall image needs to look really good. And this is the level of editing I do with images I give to my wedding clients as the proof images. They look good!

Even then, the photo might need some detailed retouching in Photoshop. This includes skin blemishes. There might also be exit signs that could be removed. There might be various extraneous things which could be fixed to make the photo really shine. The photograph above has been retouched – in other words, a few steps have been taken to improve the edited images.

Let’s step through the sequence, with an example that will illustrate the differences:

This is what the straight out of camera photo might look like – the colors are off, so it will need to be edited to look more natural.

My clients will never see the out-of-camera photos – only the edited ones which show what it looked like at the time.

Here is the edited version, with the colors and skin tones improved. This is what is delivered as a proof image.

But this photo hasn’t been retouched yet. It looks pretty good, but can be improved.

And again, the photo shown at the very top.

With finer retouching, the distractions are removed to improve the photo. There might also be skin retouching involved for portraits.

This level of retouching is done for print orders and albums only, since it takes a fair amount of attention to detail.