Editing vs. Retouching and Different Photo Formats
Why Did I write this article?
As you get more into photography and/or start working with other photographers, you’ll hear terms like RAW files, retouching, high-resolution images a lot. However what do they really mean? Because of all the different consumer targeted articles, editing softwares and products out there, some of the terms are getting blurred and confused with one another. After having to explain couple of them myself several times, I decided to write this little article to help clearing things up. I’ll try to not get too technical here as this is meant to be a quick read.
So here we go…
RAW vs. Original High-Resolution Images vs. JPEG
Sometimes I have a Bride telling me that her fiancé is asking whether they can get the original high resolution files. In my inexperienced days, I ask back: “Do you mean the RAW files or the high resolution JPEGs?” After a long explanation of what RAW is, 9 out of 10 times, they meant the second one. RAW are sometimes known as straight out of camera photos. They are image as seen by the camera’s sensor and photographers don’t usually provide them to the clients as they are unedited and untouched, aka unfinished. “50% of photography happens during the shoot and another 50% during post processing”. RAW are like unpainted furnitures, they’re not ready to be seen by the world. These files are also typically very large in size and sometimes require special softwares to view. RAW files typically come with file extensions such as CR2, NEF, DNG..After editing/retouching them, photographers then convert them into JPEG, which is what daily consumers see the most and can be viewed on most computers. It’s much smaller in file size compare to RAW as well.
Web Friendly Images vs High- Resolution Images
Web friendly images are web friendly because they are small in file size. Being small will help them load faster on social media, websites and in e-mails. However it also means they contain less digital information. So when you blow them up, they get pixelated. High-Resolution images are not web friendly because they are big in file size so it takes a long time to upload and load. They are good for printing and/or further image modifications. If you want to print a large canvas or pass your headshot/portrait from your photographer to a professional retoucher, you’d want to have a high-resolution image. If you just want to post your photos on Facebook, Linkedin or E-mail them to someone, a low resolution image is the way to go.
Editing vs Retouching
Ah I love this one as this one gets people confused the most. When photographers say editing, they usually are referring to the first part of post processing, which has to do with eliminating bad photos, sorting them, sometimes basic color/white balance/exposure/composition adjustments. Some photographers also apply their artistic touch during this process as well. Retouching normally have to do with more in depth fixing/adjustments such as more controlled color/lighting correction/enhancement. In portraits this is where it really makes a difference because retouchers will really get in there and fix skin blemishes, remove fly-away hairs, enhance skin, eyes, teeth, make people look like they have a great posture and athletic/healthy body or remove unwanted/distracting background items. Retouching are normally done with a Wacom table that allows them to literary draw with a pen on the photographs. In my opinion, most edited photos are good enough for web viewing as they are normally viewed in small sizes. The only time they aren’t good enough is if a dramatic change is needed such as drastic body contouring, change of hair color or remove a large subject from the background. However if you’d like to print a canvas and hang it in your home or print an album that is around 10×8 or larger, then I highly recommend to have your photos retouched as those little details will be visible and make a big difference. For retouching before and after samples, please e-mail me for password to Retouching Samples. (Tip: Drag the arrow in the middle left and right). Also here is What is Retouching written by me awhile ago about retouching. In addition here is another great article on Editing and Retouching by another photographer I happen to find while googling to make sure I wasn’t just making stuff up in my head 🙂
Disclaimer: Since I’m a wedding photographer, the post processing procedure here applies to weddings, events, family portraits etc… Commercial photographers may have slightly different standard and procedure.