One Hour of Retouching

We talk a lot about our photography and CGI capabilities here on the TRG Reality blog, but one service we offer that sometimes gets overshadowed is digital retouching. Digital retouching often goes hand-in-hand with photography and CGI; our digital retouching team works hard to make every single shot taken in our studio impeccable. Digital retouching is especially important with product photography, because the goal of product photography is to make products look good while displaying their functionality

In the video below, watch one of TRG Reality’s retouchers work on a dining room image. One hour of work has been condensed and sped up to 2 1/2 minutes. So much goes into the retouching process, and this is just a tiny glimpse into a retoucher’s world. Below the video, we’ve included time-stamped notes written by our retoucher, Bruce Jamieson, explaining exactly what you’re watching him do. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

0:00-Extended table with extra layers.

0:06-Removed color fringing. Sometimes the light diffracts in such a way that the edges of very bright areas have unwanted color show up, usually magenta or teal. It’s unsightly and can become a big ugly problem if it’s not removed. 

0:12-Straightened lights. Most of the time these lights aren’t perfectly made, so it’s up to the retoucher to do the straightening. I pull out the guides, select candlesticks and other crooked elements and straighten them either with simple transforms or with Liquefy or Puppet Warp. If there are multiple layers for compositing, identical straightening must be done to all of them or the layers won’t line up and you’re hosed.

0:40-1:24-Outlining product. This will help with compositing the multitude of exposures taken to make the product look as pretty as possible, as well as the color work later on. Also, there were originally only two fixtures, but the client wanted a duplicate of the light on the right put on the left side. We photographed it in the scene but slightly rotated, and it was up to me to isolate, move over and make it look like it was always there.

1:25-Separated product layers from background.

1:26-1:40-Selected and composited product lighting layers and composited them for best look. Softened path selection so product & background merge more naturally. 

1:35-Chose vase & flower propping to replace original props and composited the layer.

1:40-Now comes the general cleaning. The baseboards don’t come all the way down to meet the floor, so I fill in that area. There are always smudges, dust or all manner of schmutz that need to be eliminated with the rubber stamp, healing brush or the plain ol’ airbrush.

1:50-Straightened room elements, such as wall corners and door openings. You’d never notice it in your own home, but in a photograph, it really makes a difference to make all the verticals and horizontals square.

2:00-The walls had some ugly inconsistencies that were hard to fix using standard retouching tools. In order to get nice smooth walls, I had to first blur the original wall and then re-introduce wall texture. I then simply mask in wherever I want a smooth wall. 

2:09-Color work begins. I warmed up the wood colors and matched product color to standards. I evened out the color cast in the room that affects the front left chair, the front left table leg and the wall on the left. I didn’t remove it completely, because I felt that it looked oddly synthetic, though it could have been done if we were matching a paint or Pantone color.

2:21-Lightened the image overall and added contrast. I worked on it next to a similar image to make the two have the same feel. I also added contrast to product to make it pop off the background a little bit.

2:28-Added a faint glow effect that makes the highlight areas of the image bloom. It helps add a pleasant feeling overall.