Photo Retouching – Concept, uses, applications and controversy

We explain what photo retouching is, what it is used for, why it can be controversial and the applications that are used to do it.

Photo retouching
Photo retouching allows you to obtain a modified version of an image.

What is photo retouching?

Photo retouching It is the digital treatment of a photograph or an image already taken, using different computer tools that allow to obtain an improved, modified or totally different version of the original. It is a very common procedure today, which is usually used by advertising and social networks.

Photographic retouching is not something new, and previously it was part of the mechanisms of the so-called “post-production”, that is, of the ways of altering the image taken to obtain a greater expressive effect or to correct a mistake. This has been done in both photography and film since its inceptionBut it has grown stronger today thanks to digital photography and the rise of design software.

However, this type of mechanism is still controversial in certain areas, since can be used in order to deceive or defraud, altering the frozen reality in the photograph. Something especially important when it comes to photo reports, news photography or documentaries.

Even in the promotional or advertising field, it is often viewed with suspicion, since it allows the dissemination of unreal or implausible content as true. Thus they create unattainable standards of beauty, as the models in the photo have been retouched to look much better than they really do.

However, photo retouching can be a useful tool for photographers and filmmakers who seek perfection in the image taken (and not the apparent perfection of the photographed model), that is, who want to “polish” or eliminate imperfections in their photographs and achieve a much higher standard of beauty: levels of brightness, contrast, color saturation, etc.

Thus, a certain level of digital intervention is increasingly accepted in artistic photographyas it is understood that the beauty captured by the photographer’s eye can be further enhanced with certain digital processes. In other cases, even, the work of art is impossible to obtain without photographic retouching, as in the case of collages and fantastic or avant-garde compositions.

Photo retouching programs

Some of the best known applications that allow the digital retouching of a photograph are the following:

  • Adobe photoshop, developed by Adobe Systems Inc., is one of the best known on the market. It was released in 1990 and its most recent stable version dates from 2020, so it remains among the most demanded.
  • Corel Photo-Paint, specialized in the edition of raster graphics (bitmap or bitmaps) is part of the suite room computer science Corel DRAW Graphics, from the company Corel. It has a highly customizable work environment and its 2010 version is the most recent.
  • Adobe Lightroom, another computer program from Adobe Systems Inc, was released in 2006 for both Macintosh and IBM computers, and quickly became one of the favorite programs of designers. Its most recent stable version dates from 2017 and there is a newer version in development.
  • GIMP, another bitmap editing program, whose name is short for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a free and open program, part of the GNU project with a general public license, also available in several languages. Its most stable version is from 2020 and is constantly updated by its own users.