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High-End Retouching Timelapses Show Hours of Post Processing in 90 Seconds

By Hanssie on May 2nd 2015

As a wedding photographer, I don’t quite understand or totally appreciate the amount work of a high-end retoucher. I’m in awe of the hours it takes to complete one image. For me, I have to cull and color correct upwards of 3-4 thousand images per wedding and haven’t the luxury of spending more than a second or two on each image. The handful of photos that do make it into the Photoshop pile, the ones that are to be blogged, ordered as prints or make it into the album, get a much closer scrutiny. Still, my time in Photoshop is brief – 10 to 20 minutes at the very most – and that is a generous estimate in most cases.

The other day, I wrote about a quick beauty retouch edit that showed a 45-minute retouch condensed into 3 minutes. In that same vein, the following time-lapse videos will condense HOURS of retouch into 90 seconds. I cannot even fathom spending that much time in post processing on a single image, but for agencies like Rare Digital Art, this is a typical edit. Elizabeth Moss, photographer and founder of this high end, NYC based boutique retouching company has shared three amazing behind the scenes looks of three different photographs. And it’s mesmerizing.

From this…


To this, in 6 hours.


In the first time-lapse, a 6 hour edit condensed to 90 seconds, shows us a blemished model with wild hair edited to clear skinned, cleaned up, magazine cover worthy image. The second and third videos are a paltry 4-hour edit and a 90-minute edit (respectively) sped up into 90-second time-lapses. The quality and detail-oriented work that goes into each image is astounding and fascinating. As Elizabeth Moss tells PetaPixel, “With all the talk about Photoshop use or overuse, I thought it would be interesting for people to see how we actually add pores to skin (we do this in the 2nd and 3rd videos, sampled from the girl in the first video).

Interesting, indeed.

Watch ‘Time-Lapse 6 Hours of Retouching in 90 Seconds’

Watch ‘4 Hours of Retouching in 90 Seconds by Rare Digital Art NYC’

Watch ‘Time-Lapse 90 Minutes of Retouching in 90 Seconds’

[Via PetaPixel]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dustin Baugh

    It’s crazy how much they took out in post, it’s practically not even the same picture. Seeing the end result then seeing the initial shot with the girls hair all over the place was pretty shocking.

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  2. J. Dennis Thomas

    Compare the final image in this video with the one posted yesterday. You can actually see the actual texture of the skin. It’s not plastic-looking. This is what professional retouching looks like.

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    • Lauchlan Toal

      I agree that it’s easier to completely smooth out the skin, and that this is a more refined retouch in many ways. To be fair, however, one could consider smoothing the skin to be a stylistic choice which yields a certain look. Like photojournalism vs fine art, just because one is unrealistic doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong, just different.

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    • aaron febbo

      You have to keep in mind though that lighting effects the way you see the texture on the skin. In the video from the other day you can still see texture in her skin if you look at the image on a bigger scale. Both lighting and the models skin effect the overall texture of the skin in the image. If a model has really good skin and the make-up is done well than you are not going to have the same amount of texture. Although the image may look plastic the detail is still there the model just has better skin and the lighting was softer. Same is true for the last video thats why the retoucher adds texture to the models face using a different image. That plus one of the models just had really bad skin.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      Photojournalism vs. fine art = apple vs. oranges.

      fashion retouching vs. fashion retouching = apples vs. apples

      The plastic look may not be “wrong” per se, but it’s rare to see it done in professional work. Most fashion advertisers don’t want a photo to be looked at and the first thought from a consumer be: “hey, that was photoshopped”. They want the retouched image to be perfect yet realistic. Why would someone buy makeup based on a photo that they knew was photoshopped to hell and back? They wouldn’t, because creating an unrealistic expectation is a bad thing in advertising. They want people to think “hey I can look like that too”. That doesn’t happen when people know it’s a photochop job.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas


      You shouldn’t have to pixel peep to see skin texture.

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