Retouch or Edit?

Retouch? or Edit? Do you know the difference? Did you know there’s a difference?

This is editing

So now that I’m back into photography and slowly getting into the swing of it all, it’s dawned on me; either people are ignoring, don’t know, or trying to change the classification of the editing and retouching process. I am writing this post for those who don’t know or didn’t know there was a difference.


Editing is when you cull a lot of photos into a specified number, or smaller number. Let’s say you have 300 photos you took on the day and you want to get six good ones to show off. That is editing. The purpose of editing is to focus on the the best of the best images and to prepare those for retouching.


Retouching is the “polishing” or retouch of an image. This is where you Dodge and Burn, Frequency Sperate, Clone, Heal and all the other awesome things usually completed in Photoshop. Retouching is when  you are ready to show the world, the completed version of the image that existed in your minds eye.


I find myself wondering if people don’t know there’s a difference? Or if they know and they are just conflating the two words? When someone says to me “I’m going to edit some photos” I ask them how many they’re starting with and how many do they want to end with? Most times, they tell me they have the number to a manageable number and they’re running them through Photoshop. Once we start discussing it, initially they think I’m being an A-hole, but I’m really not. If we’re going to bring retouching in house, which I suggest we do as it’s part of our vision, we need to know the difference so when speaking with others, everyone is on the same level.

Do you conflate the two? Or is retouch the completion of images that were edited down?

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