The Magazine Shot – Exploration of Retouched Photographs

“The Magazine Shot”

There are so many to choose! At first glance they All look great. However, as a professional photographer I understand that a client can get too overwhelmed trying to narrow down 100 poses compared to 40. Therefore, I must set aside my initial reaction and excitement and think rationally. To pick the best key shot I must look objectively at each image and narrow them down to the very best.

In this article you will understand what a "Magazine Shot" is. Explore how the photographic and editing process works. Why is an image chosen as a final next to so many other good photographs? And finally, what post processing and the final retouched photographs entails.

The Photographic Process

If you’ve ever watched an experienced photographer work their process seems effortless. What most people don’t realize is how much goes on before and after a photography shoot. It involves analyzing the clients purpose, personality and goals before the photography session. Plus, there is also the location, wardrobe, colors and tone of the images to consider. Many times I use create a story board or collage board of poses, personality traits and expressions I strive to capture.

Meticulously posing a person seems like you would render a stiff portrait. Hallelujah! for the digital age. At least for me photographing digitally allows me to capture just the right expression I’m looking. Therefore, once my model is posed in the most flattering way I can dive deep into pulling out the expression I want. In lifestyle photography specifically, it is better to start hitting the shutter even before the anticipated reaction. The result of this is a lot of photographs. However, I increased my changes to capturing just that right moment by photographing a lot in that moment.


Good lighting exposure, technique, the models pose, along with good composition is a must in creating a nice portrait. Although, when you know your subject and the intent of the images you're taking, you Capture Moments. Those Moments Make a Great Portrait.

The first edit is the easiest and removes all the images that are poorly exposed due to flash misfires, off focus and motion blur. There are also blinks and mouth flubs, I just “86” those puppies out of the set. Hours of labor to produce retouched photographs is a waste of time if the shot is not right to start with.

The second edit is for choosing the key shots that contain the look I wanted. That is, completely in the moment, not too posed and is fresh. If you look at Gila’s portfolio these 5 images were taken in succession within a span of about 20 seconds. I narrowed these down to my two favorites. My first choice being 9152. I removed my second choice because, although it’s a nice expression on her, I felt I cut her head off just a bit too much. Also, because I had taken so many other portraits of her I knew I had other great smiles. My first choice stood out in showcasing that nice “bubble” within her. Shots like these added to her overall portfolio. Ultimately, out of almost 300 images from her photo shoot. I narrowed them down to around 45 really great portraits for her to choose from.

Post Processing

Once editing is complete there are some touches to make to each image in order to create a finished portrait. Producing final retouched photographs is a lot more involved than just smoothing away wrinkles. The objective is to finish something that essentially looks un-retouched and completely natural. When looking at the image it is clean and polished and your attention is 100% on the subject and what their eyes are communicating.

Retouched Photographs Include…

  • Color Correcting, color balance
  • Sharpening
  • Color enhancements and/or vignetting
  • Framing and cropping if necessary
  • Flyaway hairs
  • Uneven hair edge-line or holes
  • Fine lines around the eyes and on the face
  • Uneven or odd shadows and highlights on the face
  • Brightening of the eyes and teeth
  • Evening out lipstick and brows if needed and smoothing the skin overall
  • Evening out skin tone due to excessive redness
  • Removing distracting people or obstacles in the background

With Gila’s portraits I went one step further in correcting the image. My objective was to photograph her with this yellow window frame in the back to highlight her sense of spirit. In the end, I felt it looked like she was at an auto garage. Therefore, the final step with this image was to de-saturate the color of the window frame.

Any portrait worthy of being published in a Magazine should go through this process. “The Magazine Shot” is the one portrait that “says it all” about who you are and what you want out of life. People will look at you completely differently if this is how you present yourself to them. This is what making a good impression is all about and it’s worth the investment.

If you’d like to get a new portrait and want to make a great impression CONTACT me today!