As acclaimed wedding and portrait photographer Lindsay Adler notes in our May issue, there's no absolute "right" way to retouch a portrait. Every subject is different and every photographer will bring his/her unique style to the task. (And some photographers prefer to outsource their retouching entirely.)
That said, there are some general best practices you can bring to the job and photographer Craig Beckta does a nice job of highlighting a few in the video below.
- Calibrate your monitor. Having a calibrated monitor ensures you're viewing and editing color-accurate skin tones and brightness levels. You can check out devices to calibrate your monitor here.
- Shoot RAW. This is a no-brainer. RAW files can be manipulated more extensively than JPEGs.
- Adjust exposure first, then tackle white balance and tint.
- Use the healing brush in Photoshop to remove facial blemishes and then do a dodge-and-burn layer and add a black and white adjustment layer above that so you can see the light and dark areas of the image. This will help even out skin tones.
- Sharpen and brighten just the eyes.
- Darken the background or add a vignette to help separate your subject from the background.
If you want a deeper dive, don't miss our guide to natural retouching, our guide to outsourcing your retouching, and some tips on how photographers and retouchers can work well together. And don't forget to avoid these 10 retouching mistakes.