Explained: Editing vs Retouching.

Capture Collect Photography - Editing vs Retouching Explained.png

You will often hear the terms ‘editing’ and ‘retouching’ being thrown about a lot in the photography world. Often though, there’s not a lot clarification on what they mean. So what is the different between editing and retouching?


At Capture Collect, editing makes up for roughly 80% of the post-production work that I carry out. A typical edit will involve cropping, re-cropping to a client’s specified ratio, frame straightening, and a basic grade; which includes, tweaking exposure, colour temperature, tint levels, colour balance levels, contrast, lens adjustments, as well as adjusting highlight and shadow details.

This standard level of editing can take anywhere from 15 seconds through to 60 - dependant on the complexity of the scene. When supplying 200 + pieces of coverage content in my editing style, this equates to 50 mins to 3 hours. See the below art-board for examples of un-edited and edited content.

Left: Un-edited - Right: Edited.

Left: Un-edited - Right: Edited.


This is a continuation from the editing workflow but has a far higher level of detail - targeted at commercial still life and food photography work where the usage is typically for campaigns.

The content is processed via Photoshop as a RAW file and has the above editing items applied, but in addition has been checked and retouched for blemishes. It also includes advanced hand drawn shadow/highlight details being excsuenuated, with smoothing applied; compositing via plates, sharpening; additional adjustment layers and hand drawn layers such as covering over reflections that would have been un-avoidable when capturing the content with the camera.

This level of editing can take from 5 minutes to an hour dependant on the complexity of retouching required for the finished content.

See the below art-board for examples of RAW and retouched still life content.

Left: RAW - Right: Re-touched.

Left: RAW - Right: Re-touched.


For most still life product and food & drink work, I’ll suggest bringing on a lighting assistant/digital operator; speeding up workflow on the day, for a faster delivery of finished content.

I hope this has been a helpful blog article and has added clarity to what the differences are between editing and retouching. If you have any more questions about this, please drop me a line.