Photo restoration can encompass a wide range of photo retouching tasks. I find myself performing all kinds of tweaks to images that aren’t restoration at all. For example removing people from a photo or adding them in, manufacturing a background or slimming someone down, or adding a new sky. It is these tasks that fit into the photo retouching or manipulation category.
Photo retouching for me is about isolating objects and retouching skin or retouching models, cleaning up creases in clothes and making the whole image scan better. This is very much like the “polish” on the final image. The photographer would have already thought about the way the lines flow around the image and where your eye ends up, hopefully right where the product or action is happening. Photo retouching would be to clean up this path the eye travels so there is a smooth path to the selling point of the image. Small glints of light catching untidily on metal or plastic, skin or props can be cleaned away, shadows that fall too heavily or hide details can be corrected and slowly the image becomes a work of two artists, the photographer and the photo retoucher.
Photo retouching can also encompass reducing grain or cutting out objects, compositing together for an advertising image. The photo restoration artist may find their skills being put to the test in all aspects of digital wizardry and photo retouching will be just one of them.
In a photo retouch of a studio shot, model photo you may have to, retouch and even out skin tone, trim down some curves, remove tattoos, ear rings or jewelry, smooth clothes or hem lines or hair lines, remove stray hairs, sculpt wonky eye brows , even out teeth, apply makeup, highlight hair, change skin colour, in some case lengthen legs or change the colour of clothing or hair. Others may be to add moles or change eye colour, texture or high lights. If you can think it most likely it has been done.
Next time when you see a photo and say its “had some photo retouching done on that” like it was simple and people do it all the time and anyone with a computer can do that. It is partly true, many people with computers and a photo manipulation package can edit a photo. The difference with the professionals it is the quality of the work and how it is carried out and the meticulous attention to detail that photo retouching experts put into their work that make them stand out from the many that simply use the clone tool to swap their head onto the body of a celebrity.