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Model images retouching

A typical apparel-on-a-model set of images

Models are a big part of e-commerce and catalogue retouching in particular. In this section of the course we'll learn how to retouch model images in Photoshop. They are quite convenient and important for the overall brand image and sales as well. Most of the fashion stores use both models and object images to present their wares to customers, and sometimes even models, object, and mannequins altogether to provide a greater range of images. Model shots can vary from very basic with a focus on products (static poses, face cropped out of the images, neutral styling) to very complicated and elaborate, with a lot of attention paid to every detail. But of course, as the batch image production is supposed to be cost-effective, and product image retouching is supposed to be fast, retouchers don’t usually have to do a lot of work with models. There are some specific things about models though, and we’ll be talking about them very soon. But for now, let’s see what options you might have as a product image retoucher when it comes to models.

Backgrounds may vary, but the process is still about the same

First of all, it’s the backdrop. Sometimes the background is neutral gray or colored, or there’s some kind of interior and you don’t have to isolate the model and remove it. Sounds like a good thing, but trust me, there will be times when you’d wish you could just erase it instead of cleaning all the dirt on the floor. Isolating on white is also a common option. If that's the case, you’d wish there was no face in the image, as it will save you time on hair isolation, which is a bit tricky.

Then the face – sometimes it’s in, which is harder to retouch than when it’s out. And when it’s out, there’s still a part of it in. Standard cropping is between the nose and the upper lip, but sometimes it gets more creative and wild.

There's no such thing as a cropping standard

Cropped images (where you can see half of the body or less) are easier to retouch than total looks (when you can see the whole body from head to toes), and most of the time you will have both kinds, as well as close-ups which are the easiest of them all as long as they are in-focus and not dirty. But if you get close-ups of feet or faces you are in trouble. Faces require a lot of skill to retouch, and typical feet don’t look very nice because models are forced to wear uncomfortable shoes that cause blisters and nail problems. I feel very sorry actually just looking at their feet, it must be painful as hell.

Poses might be very boring and static, thus easy to retouch, or they might be more varied and there might be movement, which will make it harder to crop and rotate the images.

There are male and female models, and sometimes kids. There are standard models, S-size for women and M-size for men, there are plus-size models, that wear bigger sizes, there are sportive models that have visible muscles and there are underwear models that usually have better skin and their bodies have curves to attract customers. Underwear is more tricky to retouch and plus size underwear is probably the hardest depending on the store you're working for. Fortunately for us, retouching trends shift from glamorous to more natural looks, so nowadays old-school images with plastic skin and unnaturally looking bodies are harder to come across than ever before. But natural doesn’t necessarily mean not retouched, so let’s talk about what usually has to be done with the model images.

The overall idea of model retouching

It's a cruel world that we live in. I don't want to sound like a hypocrite saying that you should leave models alone and not turn them into plastic mannequins and then teach you how to remove stretch marks, how to make skin smoother and much smoother, how to fake skin texture with noise and so on. Geez, I will even tell you how to remove moles, what's wrong with having moles anyway?

What I want to say, is that there are some standards in this industry we are working in. Some online stores stop retouching stretch marks and get praised in social media. Some stores still make their models look fake and plastic. No matter which side you are on personally, you're going to do what others tell you to do. If your superiors think you should remove moles, cellulitis, stretch marks, bruises, things like that, do so, otherwise, you'll get yourself fired. It's not your call, you can't decide what's good and what's bad. My personal opinion doesn't have anything to do with the tools of the trade. I would like to live in a world where all bodies are praised and welcome, but I'm a realist and I don't hope I'll live long enough to witness this in real life.

Model retouching is a dangerous area. I've seen a lot of hateful comments under Youtube videos where retouchers tried to show how to make people “beautiful”, or even worse, how to make them “slim”. “How dare you do such a vile thing to a living person!” – they say: “This is the opposite of beautiful!”. Fortunately, we never show our before-and-afters and that's why we almost never get the blame – not just because of that, but because we don't have time to do so much damage to people. At the same time, our methods are much crueler. Have you ever had to make a plus-size model look like an underage anorexic? I've had to and I am not proud of it, neither I am willing to discuss it or demonstrate the imagery. But we'll talk about it later. For now, let's just see what typical problems you might face when working and what we usually do to the images.

Next: Skin color correction


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