The Retouching of A Portrait

One of the classes at the just concluded NIPHEC 2015 that left a huge impression on me was the class on professionally retouching a portrait, by Ayodimeji Olugbewesa (aka D’mayo).

One would see the young D’mayo, and would not really expect much of him, but the lanky retoucher and photographer was no-short of being
qualified for facilitating the class. The hallmark of the class was simplicity. D’mayo was able to alternate our thinking to the essence of retouching, which is to enhance images and not to repair, and to its simple process as well.

After some little efforts I’ve made since the end of the NIPHEC, towards practising what I’ve learnt in the class, that of last week still seems to be the only one that have brought me closest to understanding the process, and getting the result. However, I’m yet to still fully retouch a portrait.

D’mayo took us through the process which include, healing, dodging and burning, frequency separation, skin smoothening, and color toning. Others include sharpening and the use of liquify.

As simple as all these may seem in the class, though relatively complex too, it seems re-doing it or practising it is a different experience. For instance, except for the healing process, which I’ve successfully mastered, I still needed to surf the internet to understand and practice others.

One of the process, which I’ve also understood better and able to use is frequency separation. The technique is very helpful when retouching an image, as it helps one separates the color of an image from its texture, which makes it possible for one work independently on one, without affecting the other.

The other retouching process, which I’m still having some difficulty successfully using them are dodging and burning, skin smoothening and color toning. My dilemma is not in the ‘how to do it’, but applying it to achieve a good result, especially dodging and burning.

The dodging and burning process is a secondary means to emphasize highlights and shadows, after good lighting in portraits. And for retouchers, its a always tool that comes handy anytime.

Photography is an art, and so is retouching, one can only get better by research and practice, but I’m in no haste to shortcut understanding it. Its now my resolution not to patronise mediocre methods of editing portraits, because I know I’ll only get better when I endure doing it right. This reminds me of the lesson my typewriting teacher taught me in secondary school. As beginners in typewriting, she taught us to ignore speed but to focus on accuracy. By focusing on accuracy, our speed will only get better overtime.

Sodeeq Akorede


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