What Is the Difference Between Retouching and Editing?

Spotting the difference between editing and retouching is a bit tougher because each has a blurry line in its meaning. Even seasoned photographers get confused about basic photo editing and retouching terms. To make things clear, below, we will explain each of them to you in detail.

Learning about what is retouching and editing would help you turn your image into the perfect one. Avoiding confusion would further help you while giving photography services to your clients as well.

Anyway, each editing and retouching has its features. Let’s get to know their definition and types of retouching and editing as well. It would make the difference a lot more evident.

What Does Editing Mean In Photography?

First, let’s get deep into what does photo editing means within the photography industry. Photo editing refers to the basic level modification of an image. These could be, for example, cropping, editing brightness, fixing up alignment, brightness, and so on.

Photo editing happens at the first phase of the post-production in photography projects. It takes far less time to complete and similarly requires a lesser skill set as well. You need tools like Photoshop to perform photo editing actions.

Editing photos, make sure to fix up critical errors within your images. The editing process makes the image ready to go into the retouching phrases. In short, photo editing has become a key step in almost every photography post-production process.

What Does Retouch Mean In Photography?

In photography, retouching means polishing up the imperfections of an image. Retouching tasks, for example, are smoothing skin blemishes, wrinkles, airbrushing, and others. The retouching lets you make the image perfect looking and free of visual errors.

Retouching gives your image an artistic touch, and it takes time to make things perfect. For example, retouching could have high-level tasks as well. These tasks could be, fixing body shape, cleaning cloths, removing stray hairs, photo merging, etc.

All of the photo retouchers take place in tools like Photoshop, and Lightroom. Moreover, you could use mobile apps to perform basic photo retouching. To get the best results, you must use professional tools.

Difference Between Editing And Retouching

Detecting significant differences between photo editing and retouching is easier with the below aspects. Let’s review these with clear bullet-point lists.

  • Time: In photo editing, it takes fewer time-laps to complete all of the processes. In comparison, retouching takes at least 15 minutes of service.
  • Complexity: Editing photos is far less complex than retouching because photo retouching techniques use advanced Photoshop tools to deliver perfection.
  • Phase: The photo editing accounts for the first phase of the post-production. On the other hand, retouching works as the final phase.
  • Cost: Photo retouching costs you more than editing. Since it takes higher skill to perform retouching, you need to spend a more significant sum.
  • Availability: Few photographers might add editing to their packages. Yet, photo retouching service is rare to find out.

Types Of Basic Photo Editing Techniques

Photo editing has several fundamental techniques to talk about. Want to know all of them? Below we are listing some of the most common photo editing methods.

Cropping and Fixing Alignment

You must crop out the unwanted part of the image using the cropping technique. Along with cropping, you could fix the alignment as well. For example, making the image view align with the frame would make it look sound.

Editing White Balance

With proper white balance, you get to fix out the light temperature of images. It lets you change the mood and tone of overall photos. You could either set the image to a warm or cold color tone.

Background Removal

Sometimes you want to cut off image backgrounds and replace them as well. The background removal process makes it happen for you. It creates a transparent background behind your image subject.

Adjusting Brightness

Most outdoor photographs have issues with lighting. Thus, adjusting the brightness of the image would make the image look further balanced. Meanwhile, the exposure would be correct, and the image would be in complete depth.


Guess what the rest of the techniques are? Additional photo editing tasks include image masking, color correction, fixing up the contrast, and improving saturation. These all let you remove simple image errors right away.

Types Of Basic Photo Retouching Techniques

On the flip side, photo retouching has advanced sets of methods. Let’s review the basic types of retouching and the advanced ones at the end.

Skin Retouching

Your image models might have dark spots on their faces. Basic skin retouching makes sure to remove and purify the skin of your model. Apart from dark spots, the retouching could fix up acne, blemishes, red spots, and others.

Object Removal Airbrushing

Unwanted people and objects can be annoying in portrait photographs. Thus, the airbrushing technique would let you clean out the background super fast. It would make it look like the object was not in the photo in the first place.

Stray Hair Cleanup

Hair can be a bit messy at times and hard to work on. Yet, hair retouching makes hair cleanup fast and accurate. With refining or cleaning up hair specs, your model photography would be spot on.

Bonus: Advanced Retouching

As a bonus, let’s talk about advanced retouching examples. These could be fixing up body shape, image compositing, high-end retouching, body shape liquifying, and others. Compared to the basic retouching in Photoshop, these tasks take more ample time to complete than the basic ones.

Which One You Should Consider

Photo editing and retouching are identical yet separate services. Which one you need depends upon your photography project’s necessity. For instance, if you need basic photo adjustment, the editing process would be the best way to go. Meanwhile, if you want to refine your images further, retouching can make drastic improvements.

The thing is, specific photographs like fashion, glamour, models, and jewelry images need retouching services the most. A few of the times, they might need high-end retouching to remove specific issues. Like, you may need high-end retouching to eliminate skin blemishes, jewelry products, and real estate photos.

So, consider your photography projects and decide accordingly. In most professional projects, basic editing and retouching are mandatory. Tough expert photographers tend to go for advanced techniques as well.


In short, these are the crucial differences between editing and retouching at its core. Getting familiar with photo editing and retouching terms would lead you to genuine success. As editing and retouching are confusing terms, our in-depth guide made it clear for you. Thus, working on any photography project would be seamless for you.

Additionally, photo editing and retouching are not complicated terms at all. With a few efforts, you get to grasp the basic ideas of each one. It would even help you out while choosing services for your photographs.

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