What is Retouching?


I've been getting more involved with freelancing portrait photography, and so have been studying about retouching more in order to enhance the images that I give to clients.
What is retouching?
Retouching includes photo manipulations including: fixing the white balance on your image so the color is more lifelike, replacing arms or eyes, removing items from the background, inserting updated product shots, changing model positions, removing light poles... Whether you realize it or not, most of us already do some level of retouching.
Actions
During the last few months I've come across some Photoshop Actions that have improved the quick skin retouching that I do on portraits, as well as the color and enhancement of the photos themselves. An Action is somewhat like an enhanced filter – instead of hitting one button you hit "Play," and it runs through an entire series of gyrations that you may later manipulate mainly through your layers palette.
Example!
The following two images are of a friend's daughter. I arrived at my friend's house to photograph her family, but was surprised to find a significant amount of skin damage to my friend's daughter's face. My friend – being a photographer as well – wasn't phased by the scabs because she also knew how to retouch and said that she would work the photos afterward.







What I did... 

1.) The first thing I did was remove the scabs on her face: My choice was
- The Clone tool, set to a low capacity
- A small fuzzy brush
- Repeatedly "sourcing" new areas while painting over the damaged areas
2.) I then ran a few actions, such as those that would:
- Add realistic brightening and contrast to her face
- Eye and teeth whitening and enhancement
- Sharpening
With many minutes of tweaking, I settled on the image on the right. It may also be seen at my gallery on 500px.com
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