Introduction and Tools

In this photography class Karl focusses on retouching, showing you different tips and techniques that you can use to create highly polished advertising and beauty images.

This initial class focusses on the planning required for retouching and introduces you to the Photoshop CS4/CS5 interface and some of the tools that will be used throughout this course. Karl also touches on the concept of light shaping and explains how this can be applied to enhance your images.

In this Photoshop class you’ll learn:

  • How to use Photoshop CS4/CS5
  • Planning for effective retouching
  • Photoshop CS4/CS5 interface and tools
  • Photoshop blend modes
  • Light shaping

If you’re working with the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, you can learn more in our Photoshop for Photographers course. We also cover more advanced techniques in our Advanced Photoshop for Photographers course, presented with professional retoucher Viktor Fejes.

If you have any questions about this course please post in the comment box below.


  1. Hello Karl,

    Do you have a set of objective tests you use to decide whether an image should be discarded, is fit for retouching, or doesn’t require retouching? I have a few things I look for when deciding which images are the strongest but for retouching, would like to know what criteria you use to decide if something can be retouched successfully.

    My assumption is that most of your photos are correctly exposed and satisfy minimal technical criteria, so this may be too much of a beginner’s question for you to answer, so here is a scenario:

    You do a studio beauty shoot. You have sorted the images into several groups. Within each group is an excellent pose or facial expression. They are:

    Group One: Underexposed. At what point are they too underexposed to use? This happened to me recently. I have an Eizo at home, but the studio had an uncalibrated monitor, causing me to shoot everything about one to one and a half stops too dark. They looked great at the studio, then I got home and was horrified by how dark they were. It is easy enough to raise the levels with a curve in PS, but I wonder at what point too much would have been lost. For my group, the histogram tails off at about 80% of the distance to white.

    Group Two: Focus issues. This group includes any kind of focus problem. The near eye is in focus but not the far eye. The far eye is in focus but not the near eye. Both eyes are in focus but the nose or mouth are soft. The focus point is at the hairline, making most of the face soft but at lower resolutions it looks sharp.

    Group Three: Overexposure. I don’t see this much in studio beauty shoots, but frequently when shooting outdoors. Curves can bring highlights down but at what point is the photo no good? I’ve got photos that look great to me, except for spots in a cloudy sky that are pure white, with no detail. I think I’ve seen published shots with areas of overexposure also but the model or subject is perfectly exposed.

    Group Four: Poses. This group has perfect focus and exposure but the poses are less interesting than other photos that have technical issues. Are these tossed because the poses are less interesting? Or kept because they are technically perfect? Is a shot in this group better than, for instance, an excellent, dynamic pose with good lighting, but soft focus that tightens up enough when reduced to 50% resolution?

    Best regards,


    1. Hi AP, I would like to think that exposure wouldn’t often be the reason for discarding or considering it but if it was I’d be looking at how much the shadows can be pushed on the raw file before they fall apart in detail and noise. Focus issues happens on several occassions especially on a fashion shoot with a model jumping around but I normally check the files in batches while shooting and if there is a winner shot but it’s not in focus I try to shoot it again. I don’t tend to overexpose in a studio environment I have full control and test carefully. Poses yes I just go through all the images and the ones that catch my eye get on the shortlist and that’s it.

  2. It was more about my painting ability (which is strong) than technical knowledge of Photoshop. That said, for photography, the techniques you demonstrate are invaluable for photography where the original photographically captured elements must be preserved as much as possible. A few times, not knowing these tools, I have literally painted in details, in one case almost an entire hand using nothing more than color on a brush, but that doesn’t work when trying to deal with getting rid of all the fine hairs on a model’s face because it is too time-consuming. I have one photo I always liked that I gave up as hopeless because of a clump of fine hairs and their shadows on a models’ forehead. Now, I think I have a shot at using that photo thanks to what you’ve demonstrated in these videos. Probably, I have many more shots that are suddenly usable. Not only that, but the retouching lessons give me ideas how to better light the shots next time around to avoid the need for some retouching.

  3. Back when I was working on the Spider-Man movie, I was paid a nice six-figure salary to use Photoshop. That said, I didn’t know anything about most of the tools discussed in this video until I started playing it twenty minutes ago. Thank you for putting together such a splendid suite of tutorials!

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