Photo-retouching is so “yesterday”, and the new trend is not to bother to retouch your images at all.
Smartphones with cameras have changed how many people perceive photography, and have also exerted pressure on camera makers and traditional and digital photographers alike.
There are many Android smartphones with sufficiently usable cameras, even with image stabilization. Some of the phone makers have even gone on to create custom apps that will smoothen the skin tone of your subjects, what some of them called the “beauty” mode.
To traditionalists like us schooled in large and medium-format photography on film, this would seem like a travesty to what photography is. To many of us, it is heretical. In the old days, we would have taken pains to compose our shots, use a light meter to meter the ambient lighting and then spot meter our subjects or objects, use bounced light through various means to balance deficient lighting, and then carefully take a shot or two. Everything was deliberate and meticulous, because a roll of 120 film had very few exposures, and every exposure counted.
These days, with ever-increasing micro-storage capabilities of digital cameras and even smartphones, the trend, however cavalier, seems to be taking as many images as possible with little regard for the traditional school of photographic and visual thoughts. I have seen professional photographers go through a single commercial event with thousands of images, with only a few usable shots. They would then spend tremendous and painful effort in front of their computers to edit those shots until they were usable. Some of these “modernists” seem to think that post-production makes more sense than solid preparation and proper photography. And at the end, they would have put in more effort than desired.
And another problem with the use of image editors is that although technically you can create stunning altered images through editing, the effort to create fine detail is excessive compared to what could have been more easily achieved through a carefully planned photographic session. And details edited out by the image editing software would be lost from the image forever. For example, fine facial hair and skin pores that shout out explicitly the reality of a person in an image would become non-existent in a smoothed but unreal image. And, smartphones with the right apps seem to create these smoothed and unreal images so much more easily than hours of editing.
So, pardon this oldie who believes that details are there for a reason in a photograph. Leave the domain of interpretive and expressive art to paintings and sculptures. Photographs are unique because they preserve reality in a frozen form that can transcend time and space, and every bit of reality adds to the history, context, and emotion behind them.
There is always exhilaration when we plan, prepare and labor for every image. That to me, is what true photography is.