Retouching a Cell Phone Photograph

Most cell phones shoot jpeg imagery which means that there is not a lot of room to retouch imagery. Most cell phones do not shoot very good quality images and so it is difficult to make adjustments to an image. As my previous blog entry states, I recently shot an entire editorial with a variety of cell phones. I have completed retouching the images and have worked with a designer to complete the spread. This entry is to discuss my findings when it comes to retouching and to give some suggestions to photographers who are interested in shooting with cellphones. 

In order to produce a good quality image you must:

1. Have good lighting conditions
Use daylight balanced continuous lighting
Do not mix light - tungsten, incandescent, daylight

2. Get it right in camera
If you don't like what you see, keep trying until you can make it better, it will be impossible  to fix it in post

3. Keep things consistent
When shooting a series of images, make sure that all of the lighting appears to be consistent, this way you don't run into any issues regarding skin tones - it is nearly impossible to correct skin tones that are dramatically different.

4. Work with a model that requires little skin retouching
A cell phone photograph is not suited for beauty or close-up shots. There is not much you can do for massive skin retouching so selecting a model that requires as little work as possible will save you from producing a bad job for your client or for your personal work.

5. When retouching - make all of your adjustments in one go.
Once you open a jpg file you automatically change the pixels. Every time you close and reopen that file you are destroying image information. 

6. Use non-destructive retouching techniques - always use layers. 
Try your best not to make any permanent changes to the image. You don't have much wiggle room to correct any problems with previous damaging retouching you did.

Here are the images that I retouched:

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As you can see from my samples above, the biggest issue I had was skin color consistency. The red image is completely off and when I tried to lighten her skin it looked grey. So lighting is extremely important. You have to keep your lighting consistent and make slight adjustments when necessary to ensure that the skin color of your model always looks the same. 

The other issue that I had was adjusting the background color. As you can see I have three very different colored backgrounds. When I shot these images they were not what you see. The yellow-green background was a much darker yellow, the red one was a bright red and the blue was a dark green background that photographed yellow-green. In order to change the backgrounds I had to completely remake the background in photoshop. Altering the original colors brought out all of the pixels and only had a small amount of wiggle room to adjust brightness, contrast, and the color itself. In order to get the best background possible I had to remake it. Thats why I am saying it is incredibly important for you to get things right in camera. It will save you a lot of time and will help make your life easier. 

The next issue I had was correcting skin issues. The skin on my model is extremely pixelated so there wasn't a lot of spaces to pull information from to correct the issues and even though I managed to do a good job, I couldn't correct everything. 

Color consistency is also difficult, not just with skin tones, but also with the background. As you can tell the two blue backgrounds are not the same. This is because one utilized the original background and the other was constructed in photoshop. Even when using the eyedropper to get the color of the background it was not accurate, so there are additional adjustments you have to make to ensure everything is consistent. 

Although I could not fix everything I do feel the images look nice and when blown up to 8.5x11 the images did look good, but I would not suggest going any larger. 

Here is the final spread: