What's the difference between editing and retouching?

“Can you change the background into a sunset?”

“Don’t worry; I’m sure he can fix the wrinkles from your dress.”

“You’ll photoshop off 35 lbs, right?”

Terms such as processing, editing, photoshopping, retouching, culling etc. are used all the time in the photography world, often synonymously, although they can have different meanings. For most non-photographers, these words can be confusing, but they need not be. Here’s a quick guide:

Post Processing

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The term post processing is a general term used in a lot of different media. For photography purposes, post processing refers to any adjustments made to transform the photo from what was captured in camera to the final product. It can include anything from basic file formatting (say from RAW to jpeg) to intensive, detailed layering and graphic design.


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This is our very first step in the process of preparing your photos. What this means is we go through all of the photos taken to determine which photos will be delivered. When photographing a wedding, a photographer will typically take more photos than they deliver. This is part of our process of capturing candid moments that last a fraction of a second. Many cameras have the ability to shoot 20 frames a second and when anticipating a moment, I will fire away for several seconds, recording 50-75 photos of nearly the exact same thing. I do this with the hope of capturing the perfect moment when a couple’s lips touch or when a father’s smile turns to laughter. On average, we as a studio aim to deliver around 50 photos per hour of shooting. This means that we do not edit and deliver every single photo. This falls perfectly in line with our branding and methods of capturing moments in as creative of a way as possible. Although never intentionally, there will always be occasional shots that do not get captured, culled, or delivered.  It’s inevitable and part of photographing real moments.


Examples of editing

Every single delivered photo gets edited. To be specific, we correct for exposure, color temperature, crop (as needed) and apply my custom signature adjustments. Editing photos does not alter the photo, per se, but enhances it to the signature JMGant Photography style. This process can take anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes per photo. Perhaps that seems fast, but when multiplied by 500-800 photos, it means hours and hours of work.


Examples of retouching

Retouching can vary greatly and can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours per photo. We do everything we can to create the best photograph in camera. Retouching for us means actually altering and manipulating the photo beyond the photographer’s control and ability in camera. This requires Photoshop or a similar software and, therefore, is often referred to as “Photoshopping.” Examples of retouching may include digital makeup, body shaping, removing of braces, removing wrinkles in clothing or skin, changing the background, removing or adding persons or things, etc. At our own discretion, we may retouch some photos while editing them. We have also partnered with an incredible retoucher who handles many of our client request. Retouching is an additional service outside of what is standard and will be invoiced an additional cost per photo. We do include, free of charge, retouching on all wall-art over 20”.


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To photographers, editors, retouchers, clients and anyone else who wanted to know, I hope this helps clarify what our studio means when we use these terms. From my experience, this is pretty standard for most wedding photography studios.

If you liked this article, give it a thumbs up and share it with someone it could benefit. We also teach one-on one editing courses which you can sign up for here. If you have questions, as always, give me a call or leave a comment below.

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