Whether you're doing your portrait retouching in Lightroom or in Photoshop, here's some things that can make life easier.
- Get it right in camera. Well that's obvious! Still you'd be suprised the amount of photos that need rotating, exposure changes or colour balancing. Even things like clutter or dirt in the studio all add to the time spent retouching a photo. Better to fix things in the environment before shooting, than to fix it in loads of photos! Fix the strays hairs, clean the floor – it's quicker to do in real life than in post! Use your meter to get the right exposure. If your meter is off, figure out what needs to be added or subtracted from the meter reading and remember it! Or better yet, have a meter than can be calibrated.
- Use a makeup artist. Nothing helps speed retouching like having a good base to start with. A good makeup artist is worth their weight in gold and can really make your work shine. You can find them via sites like Model Mayhem or Purestorm.
- Avoid Magic Fixes. For the most part auto retouching doesn't work. Even a lot of the retouching programs look really fake. Sometimes you just have to do the work. The more you do, the faster you'll get at it. Remember to fade back the opacity on your retouch layers to see how less of it looks. Often less is better.
- Start Big. Fix the big things. View at around 25% (considered the same as print size – think about it 72ppi for screen is almost 1/4 of 300 ppi for print) and fix the stuff all around the image that's obvious. Then move in. That way if the client needs it in a hurry, it'll still look acceptable.
- Portraiture in small doses. While I'm not a fan of most retouch programs, I find using a little Portraiture (from Imagenomic) on the skin is faster than manually skin softening. For emphasis, I mean small amounts, there's nothing worse than fake plastic skin. I'm not saying I've never been guilty of it, but it pains me to see images of mine out there where the skin was overworked. They don't sponsor me either.
- Colour Toning. It's great to have an arsenal of looks, from cross process to aged B&W, but save them until the base retouch with normal skin tones is done. Never colour first and retouch later. If the client doesn't like it, you'll have to start from scratch. At least with the base retouch done, you've only half the battle to finish!
Retouching can be tedious work, but a little planning and a lot of practice make it much faster. One thing to consider as a mini-tip is to limit your time on each photo. Retouching is a black hole of time, so give yourself a hard limit, unless it's a special project.