That’s right baby, for the first time ever it’s one of the leading automotive photographers in the world, and my vote for the best automotive photography teacher on the planet, the one and only Tim Wallace. 

Oh yeah! He’s coming to Vegas from the UK, and he’s doing a live car shoot class, a session on Photoshop retouching for car and product photography, and a business class (he is one heck of a businessman, too!).

We are so excited to have Tim teaching for us in Vegas this September at Photoshop World. If you’re going, even if you have never taken a car shot, you gotta check out at least one of Tim’s sessions. If you’re not going, why the heck not! Get your ticket right here and come to Vegas and spend three days that will supercharge your career!

Above: That’s Tim and me when he was in town taping some classes for KelbyOne. 

By the way, we have some other very cool new instructors teaching for their first time with us in Vegas, but I’ll reveal those another day, but I just had to share this news about Tim since he’s one of my heroes of photography.

Spin the Reels — I bet you get something (wink).

Have a great Tuesday, and here’s to learning from the best instructors on the planet! :)


P.S. Here’s a link where you can download a PDF of the brochure and class schedule for the Photoshop World Conference in Vegas. Ya know, just in case. ;-)

Hi Gang: I thought I’d kick off this Monday by answering a question I was asked over on my Twitter page:

To answer John’s question, the first thing we have to get over is the age-old myth that you need to print at 300 dpi. For today’s ink-jet printers you need a minimum of around 200 ppi (and people love to argue this next figure endlessly) but most of the pros I know who are seriously into printing feel that the “sweet spot” resolution for today’s printers is 240 ppi, and anything above that doesn’t give you a better print (just a larger file size).

I print at 240 ppi max, sometimes less, but I personally don’t print at a higher ppi than 240 ever (by the way; that’s Lightroom’s default printing resolution as well). If you want to argue about resolution, feel free to go find a printing forum and have at it — I really didn’t want to host that debate here, but John asked me and I’m answering him (based on how I do it) here because I know some other folks might have similar questions. To make it easier I did a short video on two different ways to use Photoshop to get the size and resolution you want (since Lightroom does all this math automatically under the hood). Here ya go:

I hope you found that helpful.

Photoshop CC’s “Two Install” issue
Those of you who installed last week’s Photoshop CC update (the one called “The 2014 update of Photoshop CC” – ugh), have learned that it left your old Photoshop CC there and installed a new separate version. Terry White did a post about the hows and why and what to do with your extra copy over on his tech blog.

By the way, did I mention that Terry actually works for Adobe as their worldwide evangelist (I think he’s worked there around 14 or so years now) and he would love to hear your comments (his words) over on his tech blog, so if for any reason you’re unhappy, grumpy, or perhaps you’re happy, cheerful and full of glee, here’s the link to Terry’s blog — that’s Terry “the human pin cushion” White from Adobe Systems where you are going straight to the source directly, fully and totally unfettered (whatever unfettered means).

That’s it for today!
Hope you all have an awesome Monday and we’ll see ya back here tomorrow. :)



After Adobe’s launch of the latest version of Photoshop CC on Wednesday, I saw some comments (and some grumbling) from folks who were complaining that Adobe hadn’t really been “fulfilling the promise” of the Creative Cloud which was for us not to have to wait 18-24 months for Adobe to release any new Photoshop features, but instead they’d release regular updates to Creative Cloud subscribers as soon as the features were ready.

I also saw people asking “Well if Adobe has been releasing features regularly, why did they have this big launch event?” I didn’t ask Adobe this question directly, but I can tell you my thoughts on why I think they had to do it.

The invisible feature updates
I sat in numerous one-on-one meetings with Adobe and I talked frankly about what I saw as the biggest problem with the frequent feature updates idea. It’s great for people who are subscribed to the Creative Cloud; they log in one day and they get a little pop-up notice that says something like “Hey, you’ve got new features in Photoshop!” (but in a much more corporate way).  That’s awesome, right? So they go download the latest version (it’s a free update), and they have all these features and improvements and tweaks.

But if you’re not a Creative Cloud subscriber, not only do you not get the updatesâ¦you don’t even realize that there were updates. There’s no big product launch â” no new name â” all the blogs aren’t buzzing about the new features, so for people outside the Creative Cloud, this release of great new set of features is invisible. It’s as if they never happened. It’s one thing not to get them â” it’s another thing not to even know they existed.

This didn’t happen back when Adobe had a clear version numbering system 
If you were on Photoshop CS2 and then CS3 came out â” everybody knew it. There was a big launch â” all the sites were talking about it â” it was huge. Now, it’s like the features silently sneak onto your computer at night while you’re sleeping. This is why I think Adobe did this launch-style event. So it’s not just the current Creative Cloud subscribers that realize there are a bunch of new Photoshop (and other CC app) features â” now the whole world knows again.

Now, the fact that Adobe chose to call this “The 2014 version of Photoshop CC” isâ¦wellâ¦ummm. I don’t get it. There’s only six more months left in 2014. What will they call it in January of 2015. Or February? Will will be in 2015 and Adobe is still offering just the 2014 version of Photoshop CC? Will we all be using “last year’s” Photoshop?

If they wait to do another big launch like this next year around the same time, we’ll spend at least half of 2015 using software that’s already sounds out-of-date. Why didn’t Adobe do what car manufacturers do? If you go buy a new car today, you be getting the 2015 Ford Fiesta or the 2015 Toyota Camry. That’s why I don’t understand why Adobe chose to back-date this release. It should have been “The 2015 version of Photoshop CC” so it feels like we’re using the software of the future, especially when it becomes 2015. I am stepping off the soapbox now (especially since it’s probably too late anyway, but at least I got it off my chest).

So what have they added, and when did they add it?
I did a little digging to see if I could find a running list of which features Adobe had actually added to Photoshop since the initial Creative Cloud version launch back in 2013, and when I found the page on Adobe’s site that listed them all, even I was surprised how many features have been released, and this have all been within just the last year. Here’s the full list (from Adobe’s site) with a list of what features have been added and when they were added. Hope you find it helpful:


June 18, 2014
Photoshop CC (2014)

Smart Object improvements
Maintain the links to external files by automatically packaging them in a single directory. You can also convert your existing embedded Smart Objects to linked Smart Objects. See how it works

Improved Layer Comps
Save time now that you can change the visibility, position, or appearance of one layer in a Layer Comp and then sync that change to all the others. Plus, easily see the attributes of each Layer Comp, and toggle a Layer Comp within a Smart Object. See how it works

Blur Gallery motion effects
Use Path Blur to add blur along any path and Spin Blur to create circular or elliptical blurs. The Mercury Graphics Engine makes all Blur Gallery interactions fast and fluid. See how it works

Focus Mask
Let Photoshop help you start a mask by automatically selecting the in-focus areas of your image. Focus Mask works great with potraits and other images that have shallow depth of field, and the Mercury Graphics Engine delivers fast performance.

Improvements to Content-Aware technology
New technology in Content-Aware Fill, Move, and Patch smoothly blends areas containing gradients, like skies, so you can create seamless, realistic results like never before. See how it works

Smarter Smart Guides
Forget trying to align multiple shapes or objects at exact distances from one another on canvas. Now you can quickly see the distance in pixels between objects so you can lay out content with precision. See how it works

Desktop fonts from Typekit
Choose the fonts you need from the Typekit library, sync them to your desktop, and get immediate access to them in your Photoshop font menu. Photoshop will even automatically replace missing fonts in your documents. See how it works

Font Search
Search for fonts by name, and see instant previews of each font to zero in on the perfect one. See how it works

Expanded 3D printing capabilities
Now you can see exactly where and how Photoshop repaired your 3D meshes so it’s easy to refine your designs in third-party 3D modeling apps. Get more accurate renderings of your models prior to printing thanks to WYSIWYG previews. And get support for more 3D printers and service providers. See how it works

Adobe Generator enhancements
Simplify the process of naming Generator assets and get greater flexibility in organizing the output from Generator by setting document-wide defaults, and by specifying subfolders for exported assets. Generator also offers new APIs so developers can create even more powerful plug-ins. See how it works

Adobe Camera Raw 8 enhancements
Heal images, fix perspective distortions, and create vignettes with greater precision. Plus, access an interactive histogram, before/after previews, and more. See how it works

Improved Windows 8.1 stylus support
Get to work quickly and comfortably with your stylus on Windows 8.1 devices, and enjoy smoother brush strokes thanks to higher-frequency sampling.

Expanded Mercury Graphics Engine support
Upsample images up to 15 times faster (depending on file size and video card configuration) now that the Mercury Graphics Engine delivers an OpenCL performance boost. The engine powers new Blur Gallery motion effects and the Focus Mask feature, too.

Experimental features
A new preference setting allows you to test drive and help shape new Photoshop features before they're officially released.

Intelligent upsampling, even faster
Enlarge a low-res image so it looks great in print, or start with a larger image and blow it up to poster or billboard size. Upsampling preserves detail and sharpness without introducing noise, and now you get even more immediate results thanks to an OpenCL boost from the Mercury Graphics Engine. See how it works

Workflow Enhancements
Work faster and smarter thanks to new feature enhancements throughout your workflows. Now you have access to an expanded Color Panel; you can access your most recently used brushes, sync your workspaces, keyboard shortcuts, and menu customizations with Sync Settings; and more.

And so much more
Also includes: support for very large PNG files; the ability to export 3D LUTs; support for new video formats including Sony RAW and Canon RAW; and more. See full release notes


JAN. 15, 2014
Photoshop CC (14.2)

Perspective Warp
Adjust the perspective of a specific part of your image without affecting the surrounding area. Change the viewpoint from which an object is seen. For example, turn a telephoto shot into a wide-angle shot, or vice versa. And seamlessly composite images with different vanishing points or camera positions. See how it works

Linked Smart Objects
Improve collaboration and work more efficiently. Use linked Smart Objects that reference files stored on your local system or network drive, and thus can be repurposed across multiple Photoshop documents. You get smaller files and save hard-disk space as well. See how it works

3D printing
Visualize your 3D designs in the real world using 3D printing in Photoshop. Easily create, refine, and preview your design, and then print models directly to a locally connected 3D printer or online service. See how it works

Faster performance
Get better responsiveness when editing with key tools like Smart Sharpen, Liquify, and Puppet Warp. A next-generation Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine delivers more immediate results with OpenCL, even when editing your largest files.

Enhanced Scripted Patterns and Fills
Preview your Scripted Pattern fills and refine them with new controls. Fill along a path; and generate customizable frames, borders, and nearly two dozen unique tree graphics. for new creative options. See how it works

Workflow enhancements
Save time on common tasks, thanks to small but frequently requested features from users like you. Create paths more easily with new modifier keys, move a path with the spacebar, and more. See how it works

Faster performance with Mercury Graphics Engine
Get better responsiveness when editing with key tools like Upsample, Blur Gallery, Smart Sharpen, Blur Gallery, Liquify, and Puppet Warp. A next-generation Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine delivers more immediate results with OpenCL, even when editing your largest files.

And so much more
Also included: performance boosts for Smart Sharpen, Adobe Generator improvements for rescaling Smart Objects and adding padding, and improved font transformations and shape selections. See full release notes


September 08, 2013
Photoshop CC (14.1)

Adobe Generator
Adobe Generator technology gives developers deeper access to Photoshop files, paving the way for intelligent tools that automate time-consuming tasks and provide easier workflows. See how it works

Real-time image asset generation
Skip the hassle of manual asset slicing and export when designing for screens. As you work, Photoshop CC uses Adobe Generator technology to save tagged layers and layer groups as individual image files in formats you choose, all collected in a single folder.

And so much more
Also included: improvements to Camera Shake Reduction, including UI enhancements and HiDPI preview support for retina display; new controls to modify the range and fuzziness for Shadows, Highlights, and Midtones; and more. See full release notes


June 17, 2013
Photoshop CC (14)

All-new Smart Sharpen
Rich textures, crisp edges, and distinct details. All-new Smart Sharpen is the most advanced sharpening technology available today. It analyzes images to maximize clarity and minimize noise and halos, and it lets you fine-tune for high-quality, natural-looking results. See how it works

Camera Shake Reduction
Save shots you thought were lost due to camera motion. Whether your blur was caused by slow shutter speed or a long focal length, Camera Shake Reduction analyzes its trajectory and helps restore sharpness. See how it works

Adobe Camera Raw 8 and Camera Raw as a filter
Apply Camera Raw edits as a filter to any layer or file, and then enhance them any way you want. And with new Adobe Camera Raw 8, you get more precise ways to heal images, fix perspective distortions, and create vignettes. See how it works

Image resizing improvements
The Image Size command now includes a method to Preserve Details and provide better sharpness while enlarging images. In addition, the Image Size dialog box has been updated for ease of use. See how it works

Editable rounded rectangles
Resize shapes, edit them, and re-edit them â” before or after they’re created. Even edit individual corner radiuses in rounded rectangles. If a shape is bound for the web, export CSS data from the file to save time. See how it works

Multi-shape and path selection
Select multiple paths, shapes, and vector masks at once. Even in multilayered documents with lots of paths, you can easily target the path (and any layer) you want right on canvas using a new filter mode. See how it works

Adobe Edge Reflow CC integration
With just a click, bring the assets from your Photoshop mockup into Edge Reflow CC to quickly adjust your layouts to fit all your desired devices. It's responsive web design made easier by Adobe Generator.

Extended features included
Photoshop CC now includes the advanced 3D editing and image analysis tools that were previously in Photoshop Extended.

System anti-aliasing for type
Get a realistic preview of how your type will look on the web with an option that closely matches the anti-aliasing of your Mac or Windows system. See how it works

Behance integration
Share projects directly from within Photoshop to your Behance portfolio. See how it works

Sync settings
Synchronize your workspace settings â” including preferences, brushes, and actions â” across multiple computers. See how it works

Expanded Smart Object support
Apply Blur Gallery and Liquify effects nondestructively thanks to Smart Object support. Your original file stays intact as you add blur effects or push, pull, pucker, or bloat the image or video. Edit or remove the effects at any time â” even after saving your file. See how it works

Improved 3D painting
Live previews are now up to 100x faster and more responsive when you paint on 3D objects and texture maps. With the powerful Photoshop painting engine, you can make any 3D model look terrific. See how it works

Improved type styles
You spend hours getting text to look just right. Type styles let you save your formatting as a preset that you can then apply with just a click. You can even define type styles to use across all your Photoshop documents. See how it works

Enhanced CSS support
Import color swatches directly from HTML, CSS, or SVG to easily match existing web schemes. Generate CSS code for colors and other design elements, like rounded corners, and then copy and paste the code into your web editor to get the exact results you want. See how it works

Conditional Actions
Put routine processing jobs on autopilot with Conditional Actions. These commands use if/then statements to automatically choose between different actions based on rules you set up. Learn more

Improved 3D Scene panel
Make a smoother transition from 2D to 3D editing with a 3D Scene panel that has many of the options you already know from the Layers panel, like Duplicate, Instance, Groups, and Delete. See how it works

Minimum/Maximum filter enhancements
Create more precise masks and selections with more powerful Minimum and Maximum filters, which now include options to preserve squareness or roundness.

Workflow timesavers
Work faster and smarter thanks to feature enhancements throughout the app. Access the expanded Color Panel as well as your most recently used brushes; sync your workspaces, keyboard shortcuts, and menu customizations with Sync Settings; and more.

And so much more
Also included: Support for Indic languages; export CSS code directly from layers or groups; enhancements to preset migration; and more. See full release notes


Honestly, I was pretty surprised when I saw how long this list was, and I’m a bit embarrassed to see a few features in there that I hadn’t realized had been added, but there’s an awful lot there (which I think is a good thing) so I’m using that as my “get out of jail free” card.

I hope this list helps you get a better overview of what Adobe has been doing, and how the promise of the Creative Cloud has been developing.

We Put Together a “Creative Cloud Resource Center”
If you want to see all the new features in Photoshop, and all the rest of the Creative Suite Apps (everything from InDesign to Illustrator to Muse, Premiere Pro and more), we (the crew here at KelbyOne) put together a kick-butt online Creative Cloud Resource Center — completely free â” where you can check out a ton of short concise little clips on all the new CC features, improvements and stuff. Here’s the link.

Wait! One more thing
I don’t know if you caught this important little news nugget with all the big announcements and stuff, but Adobe announced that it has now made that “Photographer’s Bundle” deal (Photoshop CC and Lightroom plus Lightroom mobile for the iPad and iPhone for $9.99 a month) a permanent thing (and not just a limited time offer).The official name for it is the “Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan” and here’s a link to all the details.

Hope you all have an awesome weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday.



The Business Side of Tamara Lackey
Mia McCormick catches up with Tamara Lackey on location for an inspiring conversation about Tamara's journey to becoming a successful portrait photographer. Their conversation begins with a look back at how Tamara got started in photography and we quickly gain some insight into how she turned that passion into a sustainable business. Over the course of an hour Tamara shares her thoughts and experiences on everything from the choices she made early on to develop foundational principles that continue to guide her business decisions into the future, to the importance of developing a work-life balance that keeps you excited about getting up and facing the world each day.

Leave a comment for your chance to watch this class for free!

KelbyOne Creative Cloud Learning Center
Adobe announced 14 new versions of Creative Cloud desktop applications, including Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe Illustrator CC, Adobe Dreamweaver CC, and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. This release also includes new mobile apps to improve connectivity, as well as a new Creative Cloud Photography plan. To dive in and begin learning all the new features immediately, KelbyOne created the Creative Cloud Learning Center. Anyone can access these comprehensive tutorials at

KelbyOne Live
Want to spend a day with Scott Kelby, Joe McNally, or Corey Barker? Check out these seminar tours!

Shoot Like A Pro with Scott Kelby
Aug 26 - St. Louis, MO
Aug 28 - Kansas City, MO

One Flash, Two Flash with Joe McNally
June 19 - San Jose, CA (Today!)
June 27 - Seattle, WA
July 24 - Milwaukee, WI
July 28 - Boston, MA

Photoshop Down & Dirty Master FX with Corey Barker
June 25 - New Orleans, LA
Aug 1 - Miami, FL
Aug 13 - Austin, TX

You can check out the full schedule for seminars through August, and we'll be updating it with more dates soon! Leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

In-Depth Workshops with Frank Doorhof
As mentioned a few weeks ago, Frank Doorhof will be hosting a workshop in New York City August 29-31 at a great location that will combine studio work, shooting with natural light, working with models, and post processing. But now the price of the workshop is just $1250 for three days of great instruction and experience!

The group is limited so there is a lot of time for personal attention. This will be a learning frenzy with loads of tips and tricks on lighting, coaching the models, getting the right expression, natural light, strobes, mixing light sources, telling a story, building a brand, retouching and much much more.

If you want more info or to register, click here to book your ticket for the workshop you don't want to miss!

Frank will also be hosting two-day workshop in the Netherlands August 1-2 where he'll cover topics that you struggle with most, portfolio reviews, shooting on location with natural light and strobes, and retouching techniques. For more info on that workshop, click right here!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Frank's book, Mastering The Model Shoot!

Last Week’s Winners
KelbyOne Class Rental
– dan

KelbyOne Live Ticket
– Cody Ash

If you're one of the lucky winners, we'll be in touch soon. Have a great Thursday!

When it comes to portrait retouching, there's no shortage of tools, techniques, tutorials and most notably, results. Retouching is both a blessing and a curse as I've seen it turn good photos into a great ones but also decent ones into a complete disasters. During my time teaching retouching I've noticed a common set of mistakes that people make that ultimately keep them from reaching a polished yet natural result. My goal in this article is to give everyone from beginner to intermediate retouchers and photographers a roadmap for creating beautiful images and change your mindset towards various concepts you may already be familiar with.

Your Starting Point is Critical
I'm sure you've heard this many times before but I would like to reiterate the importance of working from a high quality source file. Retouching isn't a contest to see how well you can turn a bad photo into an acceptable one. It's about enhancing the beauty of the original image and minimizing the elements that may be deemed undesirable by the specific target audience or client. My photo below demonstrates just how little change needs to be made, and how even a few subtle enhancements can lead to a much more pleasing result. Given that I shoot the majority of the photos that I retouch, the starting point is entirely within my control. If however you're a retoucher only, you may not always be provided with a great source file. Poor quality raw files are to be expected, but it's important for you to manage expectations for both yourself and your client. There are a myriad of things to look for in a good source file but let's touch on some of the most important ones.

Skin Texture – One of the key ingredients to a great looking portrait is clearly visible and pleasing skin texture. I'm often asked "how do you create the skin texture in your images?", and the simple answer is – I don't. The skin texture that's in my final image is the skin texture that I started with. While I may repair some of the texture that's there, I never create it from scratch. Although skin texture brushes exist, the result is never natural since texture varies across the subject based on a number of factors. The area under the eyes has different texture from what is on the forehead, cheeks and nose (see close-up below). Similarly, texture on one side of the face can differ from the other side due to lighting factors. A soft light source makes texture look more subdued compared to those areas lit with a hard light source. Areas of shadow, midtone and highlight also render texture differently, as does the direction of light and depth of field. With such a wide array of factors, it's nearly impossible to reproduce convincing texture from scratch.

To achieve good texture in camera you'll need three key elements: model, makeup and light. The state of your model’s skin is of course the basis for everything. If the pores are overly large or harsh, or there is a lot of scarring or acne, no amount of makeup or flattering light will produce great out-of-camera texture. Assuming the model has reasonably good skin to begin with, the foundation and other products used by your makeup artist is the second most important factor. Be sure to use an experienced makeup artist and good quality products. As mentioned previously, texture renders differently depending on the light source used. If you're shooting natural light on a cloudy day, the multi-directional and diffused light will leave you with rather muted texture. If on the other hand you shoot with a hard light source such as a beauty dish or gridded reflector at an indirect angle, the texture will be much more aggressive. Remember that texture is simply contrast created by the interaction of light and shadow at a near pixel level.

Dynamic Range – Today's professional cameras can capture a staggering amount of information and detail but even they have their limits. If an image is over or under lit to the point where areas of skin are completely blown out or in absolute darkness, little can be done. Be sure to use reflectors to fill in shadows and use the clipping warning (blinkies) on your camera to spot blown out highlights. We'll talk a bit more about getting the most out of your raw files once we get into our discussion of workflow.

Quality of Light – Altering the interplay of light and shadow across the subject’s face is one of the most difficult tasks for any retoucher and borders more towards digital painting than retouching. Given this challenge, it's much easier to light your photo properly from the start so that the light and shadows need only be enhanced rather than replaced. The difficulty of your retouch increases with the hardness of your light source due to the rather unforgiving nature of hard light. Most retouchers prefer to start with a less contrasty image and add contrast gradually as opposed to the other way around. This isn't to say that you should avoid hard light sources, but simply that you need to factor this into your decision and balance it with your skill as a retoucher.

The Little Details – While things like stray hairs, crossing hairs, or unpressed clothing aren't deal breakers and can be fixed in post processing, they become a huge waste of time so nip them in the bud before they show up in your camera.

Recognize that Retouching is More Art than Science
The majority of people starting out in retouching look for those magic tools or techniques that will help them to create beautiful images in a snap. The belief is that professional retouchers know some closely guarded magic tricks that give them that flawless finish. The reality of the situation is that the more advanced you become in retouching, the more you rely on the basic tools and adjustment layers and less on shortcuts. Don't get me wrong, these techniques and tools aren't a bad thing, nor are they useless. The problem is rarely with the technique itself, but rather the application. This gap exists for two reasons.

The first is that beginners often search for solutions to specific problems as they work through various images and apply the techniques naively without understanding the mechanics behind them. By ignoring the details you're doing yourself a disservice as these solutions can often be extended across multiple use cases. The second and most common problem is simply a lack of vision. Without a clear vision of what makes a good photo or retouch, it's impossible to apply tools appropriately. Although the majority of retouching is localized changes, these localized changes need to ultimately produce a complete image, and it is your vision as an artist that brings it all together.

The lesson to draw from this is two fold. First off, spend some time understanding each tool and technique as opposed to applying them on a problem by problem basis. The second is to move from a local to a global mind-frame. Study the interaction of light with objects, read make-up tutorials about contouring and face shapes, and study colors. Most importantly, find images that you love and figure out what makes them great. Learn to identify the gaps between your work and theirs and gradually reduce them with each new photo. This may seem like a lot of work – and it is – but I assure you that once you're able to visualize the end result, the path to getting there is that much easier.

Find the Right Balance
Regardless of how many plug-ins or action packs you have, trying to reproduce a magazine quality retouch in 10 minutes is simply impossible. That's not to say that every photo demands three hours of retouching to make it acceptable. It's about setting realistic expectations for yourself and developing a workflow that balances time and quality to produce the best image you can for your specific style and target audience. Skin smoothing plug-ins like Imagenomic Portraiture or Portrait Professional are a good example of this. They will never produce the same level of quality as a skilled retoucher but they also cut the time required down dramatically. It's not a sin to incorporate these into your workflow but be aware of the trade-off you're making and come to a happy medium. The below image demonstrates a more beauty oriented retouch and the time various steps took. Notice how interestingly, the color grading step makes the most dramatic impact with relatively little time.

I always tell my students that retouching is a game of diminishing returns. The greatest impact can be made in a relatively short period of time under each technique. For example, with Dodging and Burning – which is the process of lightening and darkening local areas – it's conceivable to spend an hour or more to achieve a flawless result. You can however get to 80% of the result that most viewers will be able to see in the first 10 minutes. Perfection isn't always necessary so focus on targeting the most important areas and budget your time. Also keep in mind the intended use of your image. If you have a 36 megapixel file that you only plan on displaying at web resolution, leave the small issues and focus on the most noticeable ones. The best way to do this is to set a zoom threshold for yourself. Keeping your zoom fairly wide will give you a better idea of what your viewer will see and prevent you from spending unnecessary time on minute details.

In addition to balancing time and quality, you'll also have to balance polish and reality. Contrary to popular belief that retouching is about creating unrealistic standards of beauty and turning humans into porcelain dolls, a proper retouch is as much about what you leave in as what you take out. The subtle contours around the mouth, the nasolabial folds, shadowing under the eye, lines under the eyes, all these elements should remain in a portrait retouch and merely be toned down to a flattering level. Too often these small areas are identified as flaws when in reality they are important parts of the human anatomy. Learn to distinguish the bad from the necessary and exercise restraint.

Learn to Break Apart Your Image
Each image is composed of several elements. At the basic level we have light and color. Light is simply the level of brightness, while color is the combination of hue and saturation. A black and white image is composed of lightness (or luminosity) only. While this may seem like an obvious point, too many people ignore the implications of this concept. When retouching a photo, we're ultimately making changes to one or more of these elements and a good result requires a harmonious balance between them. Below you'll see an image broken down into the respective elements. Note that the hue and saturation blocks are overlayed on top of a red background to make them visible.

The reason this matters is because knowing how to identify and manipulate these three elements allows you to fix the majority of issues using only a curves and or hue/saturation adjustment. While these two tools may not always be the most efficient solution, it demonstrates just how basic the process can be. A practical example of this workflow is using dodging and burning for evening out light and dark transitions across the face and then using selective hue/saturation or curves adjustments to correct any remaining color issues. For more information on HSL corrections, visit this article from my friend Lulie Talmor.

One of the best tools to flush out color based issues is none other than the simple color picker. By opening the color picker and sampling colors across a variety of areas, we're quickly able to visualize any shifts in luminosity, hue or saturation and develop a game plan for fixing them. For example, the below image demonstrates that we have a color shift going from the top to bottom in the dress.

Sampling two areas using the color picker, we can see that the top has much more green than yellow as indicated on the hue bar on the right. Similarly, the square block shows us that the top portion of the dress is less saturated and also lighter. Having this insight, we know now that all we need to do is mask in a hue/saturation adjustment on the bottom portion of the dress and offset the shift by pushing the hue slider towards green and turning up saturation and brightness. While I generally recommend using curves or levels to fix luminosity based issues, I've corrected all three using one HSL adjustment as shown below for ease of demonstration.

Once again, this concept can be extended well beyond clothing and will apply equally to correcting patches in the skin, or mismatched skin tones across the subject. You're also not constrained to the HSL adjustment. Having a strong understanding of colors, you could make the same correction using curves or levels, albeit not as intuitively.

An alternative view is to look at your image from the standpoint of high and low frequencies, or simply tone and texture. The below image demonstrates this idea with all the detail separated onto one layer and the color information on another. Notice that areas that are naturally blurred by the shallow DOF have no information in the texture layer.

While manipulating these two individually typically falls into the realm of advanced concepts and tools like frequency separation (more on this below) and high pass filters, it's still important to understand the implications behind it. If we have an area of discoloration and attempt to fix it with something like the clone-stamp tool, we'll be replacing both the tone and texture in whatever area we paint. From what we learned above, a curves or hue saturation adjustment over that area would correct the discoloration while leaving the texture intact. By understanding whether we're dealing with a tone or texture based issue you'll better be able to select the appropriate tool to tackle it. From a practical standpoint, this is how many skin smoothing tools work. They separate the skin tone areas into high and low frequencies, operate on them separately and then assemble them back together.

These two views may seem both logical and overly theoretical, but they form the basis for all of retouching. If you learn how to visualize and manipulate them, you can tackle just about any issue thrown at you without relying on Google to guide the way.

Your Roadmap to Retouching Greatness

Let's face it, you're not going to produce an amazing looking image in your first attempt. Getting it wrong many times is all part of the process. What we want to avoid is getting it so wrong that we get completely discouraged and not try at all. A lot of people fail by getting in over their head with all the tools and techniques that exist. They jump into advanced concepts and end up with an image that looks nothing like the original. For this reason it's important to start with the basics and leave the advanced tools for later study. Here is a guide to the various techniques and steps you'll want to master in order to become a proficient retoucher.

Build a base – Remember that each step in the retouching processing builds on the last, so each one has to be done carefully and masterfully. Nothing is more important than getting the most out of your raw files since this forms the basis for all the corrections still to come. Although more commonly seen in landscape or architecture images, you can also process multiple raw files to extend the dynamic range of your portraits. You can open up shadows and recover highlights by blending multiple raw conversions together using either simple painting masks or more advanced tools like Luminosity Masks. Your highlights should still be highlights and shadows should still be shadows, but you should have visible detail to work with in the areas that are important. Be sure to balance shadow noise issues during this process and avoid muddying up highlights. Your raw file is also where you'll want to correct any white balance issues so get it to a pleasing point before diving into Photoshop.

Create balance – Use the HSL tools we talked about above to fix any larger discoloration issues. It's not uncommon for a model’s face to have a different tone from her chest, arm or hands, so learn to identify these inconsistencies and correct them. Nothing gives away an inexperienced retouch more than having mismatched skin tones in your image. In addition to the curves and hue/sat adjustments we discussed above, you can also use the Subtracted Average Color Adjustment technique I developed to help take the guesswork out of it.

Heal – The healing brush is one of the best tools for fixing minor blemishes. Use it carefully to remove any smaller scars, acne or stray hairs. Avoid using tools like clone-stamp on skin – unless the healing brush fails – as it can gradually destroy texture. When using the healing brush, sample areas close to your problem area so that the source texture is similar to the destination area. After completing these three steps, you should have a clean image that looks nearly identical to the original but with more polish. When toggling your layers on and off, you shouldn't notice any changes in face shape.

Fall in love adjustment layers and blend modes – Before going any further, you should become comfortable with critical adjustment layers such as Curves, Levels, Hue/Saturation, Selective Color and Black and White. Experiment with each of these using common blend modes such as Luminosity, Color, Overlay, Soft Light, Lighten, Darken, Screen and Multiply. Here is a video I recorded about blend modes to give you a better understanding of these. These five adjustments and eight blend-modes comprise the most common ones you'll use and put a ton of power into your hands. Once you've become comfortable with them, try to apply blend-if adjustments to your layers. The combination of adjustment layer, blend mode and blend-if will allow you make targeted adjustments to specific colors and luminosities and make color grading and correction a breeze.

Make small corrections with dodging and burning – The majority of blotchiness found in the skin is a result of luminance shifts so Dodging and Burning can be a great way to eliminate them. Knowing what we know about diminishing returns in retouching, focus on just the most glaring problems and lighten or darken them gradually until they blend with their surroundings. This may still leave minor color based issues but that's a problem you'll tackle as you develop your skills.

Build contrast with dodging and burning – Dodging and burning is without a doubt the most important skill that any retoucher can master. It's not something you'll become good at overnight, so take baby steps. What makes a portrait really pop is building depth and dimension through contouring. Contouring is essentially selectively brightening highlights and deepening shadows to create a more three dimensional feel as well as enhancing facial features. To ensure that you don't make the subject look like someone else, start by simply building on the light and shadow that exists in the image already. Don't overdo this process. Build up the effect gradually through soft and low opacity brush settings. Study make-up artist contouring theory to understand what areas of the face should be dodged or burned for specific face shapes. Toggle your adjustments on and off constantly to ensure that the subject’s features are in-tact and that you've enhanced rather than altered. Also note that for B&W portraiture, D&B contouring can be pushed much further than in color images without looking overdone and helps to enhance the sense of drama.

Add refinement – After applying dodging and burning you'll likely be left with some existing discolorations. These are often too minor to be noticed by the majority of viewers but should be fixed nonetheless. Using visualization tools called check layers (as shown in the HSL breakdown above) you'll be able to spot areas of changing hue or inconsistent saturation and correct them using the appropriate adjustment layer and masking. As you become more skilled, dive into complex topics like frequency separation which can help to expedite this process. Frequency separation will allow you to operate on the tones and texture as we discussed above, but also makes it easy to completely destroy an image due to the lack of safeguards. Use this technique sparingly and responsibly. It can be very powerful, and hence tempting to beginner retouchers, but should be avoided until your vision is properly developed. Remember that advanced techniques are advanced for a reason.

As you work through the above list, be sure to constantly flood your eyes with images. Find inspiring photographers and retouchers and learn to identify what makes their work great. Have patience, practice constantly, and seek advice and feedback to measure your progress objectively. Everyone has a different style and goal in mind so find a workflow that balances time and result for your situation. Above all else, when starting out, always apply a degree of conservatism to your work and err on the side of under-retouched to over-retouched.

You can see more of Michael’s work at, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Well, here’s your chance, as the fine folks who publish the Canadian-based Stark-Magazine have introduced the “Stark Awards” competition and their official Call for Entries is now open in a host of categories (the story of how these awards came to be is right here).

The overall winner will have their art featured in a Photohaus Gallery Exhibit and Stark Awards will finance the printing and mounting of artwork – See more at this link.

There are a host of judges, including yours truly, and there are cash prizes for the winner of each category and the overall winner as well.

You can find all the details right here.

Good luck everybody!