There’s no way around the fact that retouching adds quite a bit to the bottom line. But it’s well worth it. I consider it an almost essential part of the process. In fact I typically have retouching already in mind while shooting. Although most clients choose to include retouching, a handful do not and I’m happy to work either way. Some reasons you may want to forego retouching include budget constraints, having in-house resources already in place, etc. Below I’ll outline a bit about retouching and how I apply it, and let you make the decision.
What is retouching? Retouching, for example, is color and exposure correction, the removal of blemishes, wrinkles, general skin imperfections, stray hair and wardrobe correction, sometimes removing extra body fat or even adjusting proportions of features. Regarding the latter, for example, I’m often asked to fix an eye that is showing squinted on camera for whatever reason.
Retouching is definitely an art. Knowing when to stop is key. Too much and the image will not only fail to be an accurate representation of the subject but will look unrealistic. Always be very selective about who does your retouching! I can’t stress this enough. I personally, unless specifically requested, avoid really heavy handed retouching. To me it defeats the purpose. What’s the point in an image of yourself if it doesn’t look like you.
Who decides what’s retouched? This depends entirely on volume. With smaller groups it’s fairly easy for individuals to make their own suggestions. With larger groups these decisions are typically best left up to the photographer. I say typically because I’m not opposed to taking some suggestions from particular members of larger groups where necessary. But I try to keep these to a minimum.
Here are some before and after examples of basic retouching.