Portrait retouch

I get always frustrated when I try to edit my own RAWs because the colors are messy, the subject is not clear and such, therefore I am using free RAWs to practice the techniques shown by @s7habo in his videos.

So I present you an edit where I used the retouch module to soft the skin and did some color balance trying to get some contrast between the skin and the rest of the image.

Your opinions, critique and own edits are welcome :slight_smile:

Free Raw Files - Tag @signatureeditsco DSC0317.nef.xmp (18.4 KB)

RAW source: https://www.signatureedits.com/free-raw-photos/

1 Like

This is a beautiful young woman, there is no need for the damn “retouch” module, there are no “blemishes” to be “corrected”. Why don’t you, if I may suggest, take a selfie and spend the rest of the night removing blemishes. Leave the beautiful women alone. Sorry.

This is rude and unnecessary.

The photo is from a site that is meant to edit. No value judgement was made in the original post.

I think you need to appoligize and chill out.


Women are not there to be improved by boys with toys. I don’t remember Boris removing “blemishes” from his landscapes or anything except from women. I am really sorry for being rude. Be well.

You’re making a lot of assumptions about @7osema and I don’t think that’s right.

Again the raw file is from a website that encourages editing. I get what you’re saying and I generally agree, but here it seems like you’re missing the point.

1 Like

I am not missing the point. I am missing Elle Stone, so to say. I should not even be here, for this I apologize. Well, I do apologize for everything, you are a fine and quite patient moderator, be well! (Just stop repairing women.)

I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I edited the post trying to be more morally correct. I hope it’s better now @paperdigits. Thanks for your moderation.

The problem is, you are missing the point. You are forcing your perspective on the appropriateness of retouching a subject with no further understanding of the approach or desire of the original poster.

We get it that you don’t think women should be retouched. Do you also write angry letters to every magazine and publication that includes women in them that are retouched or modified by art editors or photographers to achieve their purpose? It sounds like you should be working on the “Letters to the Editor” section of all the major magazines and advertising houses.

You don’t know @7osema or what he (or she) may be working towards. Perhaps they’d like to consider an advertising or editorial workflow for hire? If so, they might be asked to edit or enhance a photo for various reasons that are not their own. (Or it could be entirely for their own reasons - either are equally valid for asking about the approach and techniques to accomplish their goals).

Perhaps you should also be taking exception with the fact that there’s a retouch module in the first place?


It’s tough to critique quickly without pulling down the raw and xmp. Do you have a couple of close-ups/crops of specific areas you felt could use some attention to compare and contrast with the original?

How about by women with toys? There are female retouchers, you know.
And how about improved by women with makeup? Seems to me near every woman on the planet is ok with being “improved” in artificial ways.


Landscapes do not come to me and explicitly ask me not to publish photos until I have made the desired corrections.

Women who have hired me to take their portraits do so almost exclusively.
When they need application photos, they don’t want the currently poor appearance of the skin caused by temporary hormonal changes, illness, stress or fatigue to be reflected in the photo. They don’t want that to be seen as a permanent condition. This is also true for many men I have portrayed.

About the ethical questions of the ideal typification of the woman, who is presented as “flawless” looking in fashion and advertising photography can be discussed, but that is a completely different topic. And also there the men are no exception.

My videos about retouching are only for explaining how to use the retouching module and are in no way an explanation of how to treat portraits in general.


It is sad to see @7osema attacked for asking questions about how to edit a photograph. There was no need for anyone to make a judgement call based upon his request. I once edited a picture of my son after he passed away. In the picture he had some pimples because he was a teenager. I decided to remove these pimples to remember him how he normally looked or he looked in my memory. Woman often take selfies with phones and apply filters to get the look they want. Woman often apply makeup to get the look they want. What right does anyone have to get on here and make such rude comments when someone asked for advice about editing.

I have downloaded this image and will try and take a look at how I would edit it and provide some requested feedback.


let’s return to the original point of this thread please!


I havent look at the xmp, so I’m only going to comment on the jpg posted. I would clone out the blue/red stuff in the back wall. It is too distracting. I would also do a closer crop and more centered between left and right. I would try to boost up the either the local contrast or sharpness around the eyes (mask only on the eyes), since they look too soft in my opinion. I would try to smooth the skin color below the neck line since it looks to have some dark patches, but dont over do it. I dont love the crease on the shirt in the right side, but there is nothing you could do about that.

On the contrary (to the first reaction), the portrait is an excellent vehicle for retouching exercises. Skin can be difficult to work with. While it can be misused in a disrespectful, uninspired or careless manner, unless we are aiming for candidness or producing a passport photo, retouching skin is a very normal thing to do.

If inclusion, diversity and equity are of concern, do find more subjects for @7osema and the rest of us to explore! I know one of the tags was critique: I would like to remind people that it means constructive or artistic criticism!

Actually, you did a pretty good job there.

The only change I would make is to lighten the skin a bit more with a bit more contrast and darken the background so that the light wall doesn’t stand out as much:

tag @signatureeditsco DSC0317_02.nef.xmp (52,4 KB)


(Clarification re: @s7habo’s take.) To me, the lightening is pushing it. The background darkening or dulling works great. The issue may be less glaring in a colour image, but if you take away the colour, the face is over bright. My phone has this bedtime mode (currently active) that grey scales the screen.

Also, with the wider ongoing discussion (in more diverse societies) on the appropriateness of skin lightening, in particular, the elevation of lighter skin over darker tones, it can be a sensitive subject.

Hi @7osema, I thought you did a reasonably nice job with the retouch tool in Darktable. It is only personal taste, but I found your skin tone choice a little warmer than I like. Feel free to disagree.

I have done an edit myself. I opened the image in Darktable and set the exposure module to +2.0 EV. I then went to filmic an in the scene tab clicked on auto tune levels. I then created a second instance of exposure and drew a path mask around the face, hair and part of the shirt. I inverted the mask and darkened the background by -0.8 EV to alter the lighting of the scene so it looked like skylight was falling on the girl. I then lifted the colors by selecting the ‘basic colorfullness: natural skin’ preset in the color balance rgb module. I applied sharpening by selecting the sharpen demosaicing (AA filter) in the diffuse or sharpen module. I forgot to apply the default values of denoise (profiled) which I do with most of my images. Luckily this image is not noisy. Since, I personally do not like using the retouch module in Darktable I exported the image as a 16bit Tiff file.

I then opened the tiff file in Gimp. I used the healing tool in GIMP to remove unwanted blemishes on the skin. I find the healing tool in GIMP is very quick for this sort of work and photo restoration. I then duplicated the layer and applied some sharpening to the new layer using the unsharp mask. This makes the hair, lips, eyes, eyebrows etc look sharper. However, I masked over the skin to keep the softer look for the skin. I flattened the layers of the image and cropped out distracting background elements to focus the viewers attention to the girl. However, some stickers on the wall in the background were distracting so I used the clone and healing tool to remove them. I hope you like my edit, but I welcome constructive criticism and alternative viewpoints.



Re: @Terry’s take. The shirt is too much the star in your rendition: on the electric side. Compared to everything else, that is.

Perhaps, that was what motivated @s7habo to brighten the face and neck…

This exercise and the discussion on retouching reminds me of @patdavid’s PIXLS.US - Skin Retouching with Wavelet Decompose article. (It also links to his previous writings, which in turn refer to still more content.)

1 Like

Thanks for your feedback. The shirt is dominant in all version of this picture. How would you tackle subduing it? I could desaturate the shirt maybe? BTW, the image has rendered a little darker and tiny bit bluer when posted than on my editing screen. So I will try and add another screen grab, but I don’t feel I will get the real colors and brightness that I get on my calibrated screen for editing.