Retouching sucks. I love it, but it’s the most time consuming part of my day and a beauty photo edit can take 3 hours with no breaks. And the more I notice the little things, the longer an edit can take. Because of this, I’m trying to find new ways to be more efficient with my retouching. I’m not talking cutting corners, but finding all the ways to cut out distractions to make the process run as smooth as possible.
Below are some of the ways I’ve been able to cut down time or limit distractions while not changing the quality of the edit.
Get a Tablet. Right now.
Whether you get a Wacom, Huion, or something else, a tablet is the quickest way to make your retouching better. I’ve been using a tablet since high school, so if high school me can do it, you can too. It takes maybe a week to get used to, but once you really settle into it, you won’t go back. Using a mouse for retouching just doesn’t work, especially as you get more in depth. Using a pen gives you much more natural brush strokes and allows for much quicker movements.
This one is pretty obvious. I won’t even really go into it. Here’s some… Advanced Hotkeys… that might give you value today.
Shift + (- or +) : This changes the brush mode. When I’m using the healing brush, I use this to change between Normal, Lighten, and Darken brush modes.
CTRL + , : Turns a layer on and off.
Shift + ( [ or ] ) : Change the hardness of the brush.
I use actions for about everything I can now. When I make Dodge and Burn layers or luminosity masks, it’s all done automatically. I save a bunch of time and can go back to fix issues or make them closer to what I need.
And if you don’t want to make your own actions, Retouching Academy offers a Retouching Panel with every action you may need for your workflow.
Hide your phone
This is all about limiting distractions. The biggest one is definitely the phone. If I’m working on important edits that need to be done, I keep my phone as far away from me as I can. Just keeping it in a drawer in the desk I’m working on isn’t enough sometimes. If I’m trying to get through some edits, I have to make sure there’s no chance I open up Instagram or play a level of Bricks & Balls.
Auditory Entertainment Only
I use 2 monitors, 1 that’s only for editing, 1 for entertainment. I don’t like just putting on music for editing sessions, but I’ve learned when it comes to crunch time putting on a Raptors game isn’t the greatest way to stay focused. I pretty much stick to podcasts at this point or if I can find an online radio broadcast for a game I’ll do that.
I watched A Star is Born last week during an edit, but it would be more accurate to say Photoshop was open while I watched the movie.
Create a login that’s separate for retouching
This is the same as when people say it’s better to have an office to work in so you’re separating the work and life balance you get from working at home. Just for less successful people. I definitely get that impulse to quit what I’m doing to play Apex Legends when I see that logo, so taking away that option helps put me in work-mode.
Get Comfy, but not too comfy
This is about mindset. You know the phrase dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This is true for getting into the working mindset. You can’t be editing in your underwear and a blanket shirt all day. Subconsciously it puts you in a relaxing mood. Wearing actual clothes definitely helps make you feel like you’re about to do some work. You don’t need to go full uniform, but not looking like you’re having a lazy day makes you feel less lazy.
No Messy Snacks
Sometimes you need a snack. That’s totally cool. But eating something greasy or messy usually leads to me eating the entire snack right away because of all the powder or oil on my hands. That’s something you don’t get from a granola bar or broccoli. It allows you to take a bite and keep working. Not take a 30 minute break to finish the bag.
Get a Midi
There’s a bunch of options out there to use to get rid of hotkeys and to create a more efficient workflow. Things like the Palette or LoupeDeck. And if you have the desk space for those or use Lightroom or CaptureOne a lot those could definitely be helpful. But I don’t spend all day in Lightroom, I’m not a wedding or event photographer.
For beauty and retouching, you spend a lot of time in Photoshop and really I wish I could just buy 1 scroll wheel for changing brush size and brush hardness. That’s the only place I could see a big difference in efficiency. There’s this Logitech Keyboard I saw that literally is just a Bluetooth keyboard with a knob on it. I want that for 1/2 the cost it is right now. A really interesting option I’m looking at is this from Razer. I won’t lie, it looks complicated. But having that scroll wheel and enough buttons to replace all the keys I normally use in a small, convenient size looks like it would be exactly what I need.
At the end of the day
Efficiency in editing is important. Being able to cut down on time without cutting corners can dramatically improve what you’re doing. Take these tips, see what you think might help, and try to add it to your workflow!