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Tag : natural retouching

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Aging and anatomy in retouching

Facial aging is a dynamic process involving the aging of soft tissue and bony structures.
In image editing or retouching, we influence this bone structure and the fall of light on the human face through Dodge&Burn (painting with light and shadow) and Liquify.
We must therefore be clear whether we are artificially rejuvenating a model and whether this is intentional or undesirable.
We also have to be careful not to mix different signs of age, i.e., to hide some signs of aging while others are preserved. This can lead to an unusual, inharmonious, and unnatural overall impression.
It is particularly essential to maintain the age of so-called “best agers” and only to make them look “fresher”.

The goal of this article will be to know different signs of aging and to use this knowledge (carefully!) accordingly in image editing.

The major forces responsible for facial aging:

    • Gravity,
    • Soft tissue maturation,
    • Skeletal remodeling,
    • Muscular facial activity,
    • Hormonal imbalance
    • Environmental factors: mental stress, diet, work habits, drug abuse, disease
    • and solar changes.
      (Zimbler MS, Kokoska MS & Thomas JR, 2012, p. 1)

The age-related facial shape change is similar in both sexes until around age 50. Afterward, the effects of aging are more drastic in women (Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1).

Signs of Youth:

The youthful face is characterized by a diffuse, balanced distribution of superficial and deep fat, which confers a well-rounded 3-D topography that is delineated by a series of arcs and convexities.

In profile, three primary arcs are the most definitive features of youth:

    • The lateral cheek projection (the “ogee” curve), extending as an unbroken convex line from the lower eyelid to the cheek,
    • The arc of the jawline, extending from the lateral lower jaw to the chin
    • and the arc of the forehead.
      (Sydney R. Coleman, MD; Rajiv Grover, 2006, p.5).


Figure 1 – Woman aging from left to right. Arrows illustrating the loss of facial fullness that occurs with age. (Source: Aesthetic Surgery Journal 2006)


Signs of Aging:

The face loses volume as the soft tissue structures age. Epidermal thinning and the decrease in collagen cause skin to lose its elasticity. Loss of fat, coupled with gravity and muscle pull, leads to wrinkling and the formation of dynamic lines. Facial bones are also effected (Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1).

This is shown, for example, in:

    • Global:
      • Textural skin changes,
      • Skin thickness decrease
      • A flatter face,
      • Reduction in facial height,
      • The defining arcs and convexities of youth are disrupted in higher age.
    • Upper third (forehead and brows):
      • Loss of fullness underneath the skin in the forehead, brow, temple, and upper eyelid areas,
      • The bony outline of the skull and supraorbital rims become more evident, as do the muscles of the brow,
      • The temporal blood vessels assume an increasingly tortuous appearance,
      • Loss of fullness in the upper eyelid,
      • The eyebrow seemingly descending to a position at or below the superior orbital rim,
      • Fixed wrinkles or folds
    • Middle third (midface): 
      • Smaller visible areas of the eyes;
      • Deeper and broader orbit and double convex deformity of the lower eyelid;
      • Darker coloration to the thin infraorbital skin, resulting in a tired eye appearance;
      • Lid-cheek junction lengthening,
      • Deeper nasolabial folds,
      • Tip of the nose dropping
      • Ear lobe lengthening
      • The upper jaw decreases in size,
      • In profile, the primary arc of the cheek is broken.
    • The lower third (chin, jawline, and neck):
      • Lips are straight, thinner, drier and angular,
      • Sagged soft tissue (“broken” jawline)/ bone resorption in the lower jaw, the height and length of the lower jaw decrease, the lower jaw angle increases, so the shape of the chin changes,
      • A relative excess of the skin occurs in the aging lower face, leading to loss of definition of the jawline,
      • Development of the characteristic jowled “turkey neck” deformity,
      • The hyoid bone and larynx gradually descend.

(Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1)(Sydney R. Coleman, MD; Rajiv Grover, 2006, p. 4 ff.)(Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.678)


Figure 2: Aging of the female face, as represented by models representing an individual at ~20 years of age (left), ~50 years (center), and ~75 years (right). The first event of aging is the loss of facial volume. All the aspects mentioned above can be recognized (Source: Aesthetic Surgery Journal 2006)



Figure 3: Aging of the female face based on facial scans in different stages of age. (Source: American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2019)

Have a closer look at those images and compare them. Use those references at the beginning, when retouching middle age or older models, to do a proper natural style of retouching.
50-year-old women don’t have to look like 20-year-old ones!
A little tip for better image editing at the end of this article: If the intention to reduce wrinkles, you should only reduce the small ones; the large ones are very important for facial expressions and anatomy.

Now we have dealt a lot with the topic of aging to be able to edit model images better. If you want: Here you will find books on how you can do something good for yourself:

Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
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Retouching relevance of footage

Almost every one of us is seeking a change of one kind or another. Being thinner, firmer, smoother, better trained, or simply a different look — beauty is at its peak. Photographers and retouchers apply this analogously to the digital image: A flawless appearance of the image becomes the goal. The discrepancy between the beauty of the recipient and the medially ideal of advertising is increasingly emphasized by retouching.

When does retouching starts?

The question of where exactly image manipulation starts is difficult to answer since some decisions, for example, the choice of a suitable camera, the lens, the light filter, the light conditions, the image crop, etc. are taken at the moment of the acquisition. Also, the choice of color (schemes), accessories, make-up artist, stylist, and model decision takes place. After selecting the technical and personal parameters, the models are prepared according to a conceptual ideal in a complex and several hours process. They get professional makeup,  hair, and excellent styling.
Timeconsuming or impossible changes, lacking quality elements or flaws, are perfected in post-production. The mediale beauty is considered as a result of an appropriate staging – for example, by the right lighting – and the use of digital retouching techniques. So these are artificial situations that are optimized to the respective advertising goals and for the consumer to be as realistic and desirable as possible.

Rule of suppression

To achieve a positive effect on the target group of advertising, fade-out and fade-in mechanisms are used, which have led to the designation of advertisement as a distorted mirror (Wiles, Wiles & Tjernlund, 1996, cited by Gartmann, 2008, p. 12). Accordingly, everything in the picture that could have a negative effect on the consumer is not displayed, and everything that appears conducive to positive emotions is displayed (Schnierer, 1999, cited by Gartmann, 2008, p. 12; Gläßel, 2010, p. 15). Image processing serves additional emotionalization by first creating emotional attention and then the emotional attachment (Pleiner, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 46). The influence of advertising on the consumer is even more significant and more effective when he/she is in a passive, experiencing, and enjoyable mood, which is more likely the more beautiful the image is (Buddemeier, 1987, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 23 ). This passive attitude leads to an uncritical examination of the visual image impressions intended by the advertisers (Behrens, 1976, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 23).

Natural optimization

The question is: To which extent are retouching and naturalness mutually exclusive?
A natural appearance is characterized by the fact that not everything is completely retouched. Still, small deviations from the ideal of beauty, e.g., wrinkles, tooth gaps, freckles, or a fuller figure, remain preserved. An immaculate appearance, on the other hand, is defined as having a perfect correspondence of the ideal of beauty (Jäckel et al., 2009, p. 40). However, it depends on the image type and purpose of how much retouching will be done. So one differentiates already between portrait and beauty images. For example, if it’s a beauty shot with a product, the model is just an accessory. For jewelry, for example, the model is the holding frame for the piece of jewelry. Accordingly, the retouching is adapted to this type of image: The model is exchangeable, all personal characteristics, such as birthmarks, are removed. Differently, one proceeds with celebrities, thus prominent persons, whose occurrence is known and with whose reputation and recognition value the product is sold. The basics of any retouching, however, are things that can not be done while photographing, such as the setting of light for bones, temporary skin problems, dust and make-up marks, gloss corrections, peach fuzz, small protruding hairs to the taming of the main hair, slight color differences, which are also due to the differences in the pigments.

In some cases, body shadows or body shapes are adjusted. In the last case, it depends on the knowledge and style of the retoucher. Such body changes are continuously made. Until it is altered in a realistic, discreet amount, it is not necessarily bad.

Criteria of quality

Each retoucher sets his own rules and regulations to be able to deliver good work continuously. Within a set of rules should be the technical perfection, because the retouching should leave no trace. The viewer should never get the feeling that the image has more natural. If the viewer gets the feel of the image being edited, he will start looking for mistakes and will find them.

Amount of shape/body retouching

Due to the latest developments in technology, the question is, to which extent is it possible to alter the image? An intense retouching of the silhouette of a model does not take place without traces and thus works against the mentioned quality criteria. At a certain level where photography does not correspond 100% to the optimum, one has to save the image, and the price is that the result is not credibly anymore. Our perception can unmask very quickly what looks real and what is strange or unreal. Therefore, in high-quality advertisements, attention is paid to the smallest details when the raw material is created, so that heavy retouching does not have to take place.

The current trend in retouching

Retouching is an everyday occurrence in today’s advertising world. Already in 2012, there was a trend towards more realistic pictures. It is also changing in magazines to natural retouching.
Many photographers say they do not retouch or very little and experience great successes. It became increasingly important that things are less retouched, more taken out of everyday life scenes (as one can see through the current trend of influencer marketing). This seems to be a new authentic way of bringing products closer to the target audience.
Nevertheless – as our previous investigation of the retouching label shows – there is also the trend for a bit overretouched images, especially with big brands; they may not respond immediately; there will stick to heavily retouched advertisements.
This may have its origin in how Hoffmann (2008) states that young people in principle like to reclaim ‘authentic’ media actors, on the other hand […] They tend to prefer flawless bodies that correspond to the current ideal of beauty in the media (Hoffmann, 2008, p. 1760). As long as there are no significant changes to be made, this market will not, until only slightly, adapt.

Danger of naturalness

But what is the result that can be expected from a more natural retouching? The most critical aspect of digital image manipulation is its goal of creating the viewer’s belief in actual reality: perfect models that are away from reality, are of course, no longer credible. Naturalness is connected to realness. If the advertisement plays with the naturalness, with all the effort that is done to bring naturalness to paper, it is a little more dangerous. It’s easier to identify with something real and more natural to compare.




  • Hoffmann, D. (Hrsg.). (2008). Zur alltäglichen Wahrnehmung von Körpern in den Medien und den Konsequenzen für die Selbstakzeptanz von Körper und Sexualität im Jugendalter. Verhandlungen des Deutschen Soziologentages. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag (S. 1754–1764).


  • Gartmann, K. (2008). Der Einfluss der werbemedialen Kommunikation weiblicher Schlankheitsideale auf körperbildrelevante Größen der Frau: Eine experimentelle Studie (Dissertation). Universität zu Osnabrück, Osnabrück.

Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
You are welcome to share this post. We are very grateful for every recommendation.