New Workshop! Lighting 3 | Advanced Off Camera Flash

Tips & Tricks

A Career’s Worth Of Wisdom On Retouch, In A Minute | Russell James

By Kishore Sawh on October 14th 2014


There’s really never any shortage of good retouching advice to be found in these crowded internet photography annals, much of it right here on SLRL. If you wanted to learn how to change eye color, tame a bird’s nest of unruly hair, create porcelain skin that looks as though it’s been painted by the hand of God, you can find out how to do it in Photoshop. In many ways the advice and tutorials for Photoshop you’ll find, allow you to take a rump roast of a photo, and turn it into a fillet. What often is much more a grey area is whether you should use it in this way.

The ethics of Photoshop usage is debated to no short extent, and I think it’s not beyond the ability of any photographer to wax philosophical about it. However, in order to speak about it in succinct sentences requires a bit more. A bit more what? Well, a bit more experience than most, and, maybe, a bit more clout. These are two things Russell James has in spades. Probably most well known for his close relationship to the Victoria’s Secret brand, culture, and models, his images have shaped how we view the largest lingerie retailer, and in turn, beauty and fashion photography.


Working With women considered to be some of the most beautiful of the species, wearing nought but intricate scraps of fabric, or less, James stands, perhaps, in one of the best places for a photographer to comment on the use of Photoshop. In this episode of #Behindtheglass by, James speaks volumes about retouching in just a minute, as maybe only someone like him could. He comes at the topic from the perspective  of a photographer, an artist, as someone socially conscious, and it’s not hard to believe as a father as well.

[REWIND: Why You Need A Tablet & How It’ll Transform Your Lightroom Workflow]


It is brief, but it’s poignant, and in my opinion one of the best takes on the subject. This will now be the video I direct others to who ask my opinion and feelings on retouching. I’ve watched the video about 5 times already, and I could summarize it for you, but the minute watching will be a minute well spent.

Source: ISO1200, Images are screen captures from featured video.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Basit Zargar


    | |
  2. John Cavan

    It is a fairly recent phenomenon that Photoshop has become a verb, but it has done so. I agree with Pye, the goal is to tell a story with the image and how you get there is going to be parts of both when it’s all said and done.

    | |
  3. Fabio Porta

    Getting it right in camera is like having a great race car and fine tuning it to be the best.
    If you shoot without knowing what you are doing is like having a city car and pretend to tune it to race like a formula 1.
    That said, I totally agree with Pye that today’s beauty standard (at least in magazines) is simply too much.

    | |
  4. Andrew Van Arb

    I do believe that getting it right in camera is major, When I retouch, I am aiming to “wake up” the image so to speak. I think using LR, PS or any other photo editing tool should be used with caution for certain types of work.

    | |
  5. Pye

    I agree with him 100%. “The more you get in camera, the better your shot will be.” But, I am also of the opinion that unless you are aiming for pure photojournalism, there is room for play in post. We create images to create impact, to have visual weight and to tell a story, and I am all for using post production to get there, just not at the cost of getting it right in camera.

    But, while I agree with his viewpoint, I also feel like regardless of whether they are getting it right in camera, or doing post production, they are still holding people to an impossible standard of beauty. I can slim someone down in Photoshop, or I can simply hire models that have 10% body fat for women, or 5% body fat for men. Aren’t both simply an exaggeration of beauty? Don’t both distort our “realistic” perception of beauty? How many men/women have the time or ability to keep their bodies in this sort of condition?

    So, whether you get it right in camera, or whether you are retouching and slimming and manipulating, isn’t it still the same thing?

    | |