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Models may have very beautiful looks and near-perfect skin, but they are also human! Even the the best models suffer occasional blemishes and conceal small imperfections. In a studio, where powerful lights can be very revealing, even the pores of the skin may become visible!

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Photographic image retouching has been practiced for almost as long as photography has existed. The principle has always been the same - to remove small an unwanted imperfections in images. However, the methods used have changed completely over the years, particularly since the digital revolution. In place of dyes and fine brushes, retouching can now be done using sophisticated image processing software such as Photoshop or Portrait Professional.

It is important to note that some basic truths remain valid even in the age of Photoshop. Post-production work is never a substitute for good photography! Even Photoshop cannot restore the natural external and inner beauty of a model if the photographer has not done a good job with lighting and composition. However it is possible to improve good, competently lit image of a well-prepared model.

Processing software can be used to smooth the skin, and remove blemishes, and even reshape the eyes, nose and mouth. The healing brush in Photoshop is an extraordinarily useful tool when dealing with minor blemishes. Careful and skilled use of this tool, and others, completely eliminates all traces of minor imperfections. All the photographs of beautiful models appearing in today's fashion and beauty magazines are routinely retouched using similar techniques. The models are consequently portrayed as goddesses of perfection, every detail in each image having been examined. In photographic terms the pictures are stunning representations of idealized female beauty, but the people who we admire on the magazine pages do not really exist. Sadly, young girls sometimes become disillusioned with their own bodies because the reality they see in the mirror simply cannot match the published models.

One very important aspect of all portraits, and beauty portraits in particular, is skin colour. The human eye is very sensitive to flesh tones and most people know immediately when they are not quite right. It is all too easy unintentionally to inject a colour cast in to an otherwise excellent image. Lighting, coloured clothing and environmental factors are all potential culprits. Use colour balance or "curves" controls to make small adjustments, assessing each correction by eye on an accurately calibrated monitor. Alternatively, use software such as Portrait Professional to adjust a model's tan, and the overall colour temperature of an image.

Another powerful but essentially very simple technique used to improve images is the adjustment of contrast. A small change often makes a huge difference and makes the image "pop". Of course, like all adjustments, the effect must not be overdone and the judgement of the photographer is key. More sophisticated approaches involve selectively increasing the contrast in particular areas of the image, such as the eyes and mouth. The white of the eyes can be whitened and the colour of the eyes changed. Increasing the overall size of the eyes, or opening them a little wider, also tends to bring about significant improvement.

One final note of caution should be mentioned. Photographing people is a very personal matter. Never forget that you are dealing with a human being and, in the case of a photographic model, someone who takes great care of her personal appearance. She is an unique individual, someone's daughter, and it is all too easy to modify her image in ways that she may not like. A mole spot on her cheek may be her pride and joy - beware of removing it without her approval! Beauty photography is all about showing a real human being in the best possible light by revealing both external and inner qualities. However, to a greater extent than fashion or glamour work, it is grounded in reality. Make sure that retouching work does not separate the image too far from the real person. It is not always an easy judgement to make.


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