Book Review: Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques by Scott Kelby

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: April 22, 2011

Category: General

If you ever find yourself sat infront of your computer screen staring at some portrait shots you’ve taken, Photoshop open and saying “Now what?” or quite simply you want to make your portrait shots look their very best, then I can’t say it any simpler than You Need This Book!

Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers using Photoshop’ is the latest book by Photographer and Photoshop Guru Scott Kelby and in my own opinion this time he’s out done himself and produced what I predict will become the Retouching Bible! Seriously…the book is that good!

With what appears to be an infinite supply of Photoshop books out there lining shelves in book stores it can be incredibly difficult knowing which ones/s to get especially when each and every one promises to ‘share the secrets of the pros’. The risk of possibly wasting your hard earned cash on a book that you’ll glance through disappointingly and then never pick up again is real, and one that I’m sure most of us have done on more than one occasion.

However, this latest book changes things. We now have a book that not only gives us techniques that are easy to follow and apply but a book that eliminates the feeling of ‘What do I do now?’

This new book is full to the brim of techniques that work and work extremely well and what’s more they’re written and explained in a way that makes them easy to understand and then apply to your own work.

If you’re familiar with Scott’s Digital Photography Book series [Link] and the one page, one tip style then this is kind of written in the same way. Now obviously I don’t mean that each technique takes just one page to explain but what I do mean is that the techniques don’t drag on and confuse the heck out of you; Scott gets to the point and in a way that feels like he’s there with you…“Do this, now do that…there you go!” Simple!

Some folks have ‘complained’ in the past about Scott’s humour in his writing but I think even ‘they’ are going to be impressed this time. I don’t know if it’s an intentional decision on Scott’s behalf but this latest book does seem to be written in a way that’s slightly different to what we’ve become accustomed to, but that’s definitely a good thing. Personally I like Scott’s writing style…I’m a very visual person so for me to read, I need to be entertained as well as informed but this latest book will definitely appeal to all.

So what does the book cover?
The book is made up of 7 Chapters each covering a different area of retouching and on most occasions showing more than one technique to achieve the same/similar result so you can choose which fits in best with your way of working…

Chapter 1: Retouching Eyes

  • Increasing Contrast in the Iris
  • Darkening the Outer Rim of the Iris
  • Adding More Life to the Eyes
  • Enhancing and/or Creating Catch Lights
  • Brightening the Whites of the Eyes
  • Removing Eye Veins
  • Changing Eye Colour
  • Reducing Dark Circles Under Eyes
  • Making Eyes Larger (or Smaller)
  • Swapping One Eye for the Other
  • Enhancing Eyelashes
  • Creating Beautiful Eyebrows
  • Making Fuller Eyebrows
  • Darkening the Eyebrows
  • Sharpening Eyes to Make Them Sparkle

Chapter 2: Retouching Skin

  • Removing Blemishes
  • How to Avoid Plastic-Looking Skin
  • Basic “Quickie” Skin Softening
  • Softening Skin While Retaining Texture
  • Softening Skin & Adding Texture Back In
  • High Pass Skin Softening
  • Softening Skin Using Channels
  • Reducing or Removing Wrinkles
  • Removing Hot Spots
  • Balance Skin Tones
  • Reducing Stubble
  • Applying Digital Makeup
  • Creating Porcelain-Looking Skin
  • Sharpening Portraits

Chapter 3: Reshaping Facial Features

  • Reshaping the Face and Head
  • Making Features More Symmetrical
  • Sculpting the Face by Dodging & Burning

Chapter 4: Retouching Hair

  • Adding Highlights to Hair
  • Removing Stray Hair Strands
  • Fixing Gaps in Hair
  • Changing Hair Colour
  • Darkening a Part Line
  • Hiding Roots

Chapter 5: Retouching the Lips and Mouth

  • Making Lips Larger
  • Creating Glossy Lips
  • Applying or Tweaking Lipstick
  • Changing the Shade of Lip Colour
  • Repairing Teeth
  • Whitening Teeth and Reducing Yellowing

Chapter 6: Slimming and Trimming

  • Overall Slimming
  • Slimming One Person in a Group Shot
  • Reducing a Double Chin & Thinning the Face
  • Thinning Arms or Legs
  • Getting Great Abs
  • Fixing Clothes (Lumps, Bagging & Folds)

Chapter 7: My 5-, 15-, and 30 Minute Retouches

  • Retouching Checklist
  • My Five-Minute Retouch
  • My 15-Minute Retouch
  • My 30-Minute Retouch

Now this Chapter is the icing on the cake! Sure it’s ok to know all these different techniques but when do you apply them, and in what order and more to the point how do you decide what needs doing anyway?

In Chapter 7 Scott goes through 3 retouches from start to finish…each more involved than the next; a 5 minute, a 15 minute and a 30 minute retouch covering techniques explained throughout the book and what’s more there’s an included ‘Check List’ that you can use during your own retouching that goes through the kind of questions you should be asking yourself and that will help you to decide what to do.

As Photographers we should all aim to get the best ‘out of camera’ images we can but it doesn’t stop there! The money and time we’ve all invested, and continue to do so, to improve our skills still doesn’t take away the fact that EVERY image requires some form of editing…even if it’s adding a little more contrast and some sharpening.

Being proficient in Photoshop is all part of being a photographer just as knowing what to do in the dark room was in the days of film and this book will give you all you need to finish off your portraits and show them off at their very best.

No matter how proficient you may be in Photoshop you will DEFINITELY learn some valuable techniques amongst the books 384 pages, oh and although the book is written in such a way that you can dive into any section you want, be sure NOT to skip the introduction as there’s some valuable hints and tips plus details of the book’s accompanying website that includes downloads for you to use too.


Professional Portrait Retouching Technique for Photographers using Photoshop by Scott Kelby
ISBN-10: 0321725549
ISBN-13: 978-0321725547
Currently priced at £18.50 from Amazon UK

UPDATE: You can now catch the webinar with Scott Kelby & Matt Kloskowski discussing the book and showing some of the retouching techniques here [Link]

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  1. Terry Donnelly

    This is on my MUST HAVE LIST!!!

    Cheers for the review Glyn

    • Glyn

      @Terry…Money well spent for sure 😉

  2. Lorri E

    I knew I wanted to get this book, now I really can’t wait to get it. Excellent review, Glyn.

    • Glyn

      @Lorri…That’s great to hear; you’ll love the book…it’s just full page after page of Photoshop tips and techniques that will be used.
      Enjoy 😉

  3. DaveT

    Glyn, I echo what Lorri said. The other thing that makes your review and recommendation so valuable is that it is written by a person (shown through the many tutorials you have posted)that you know what you are talking about. In other words it is an expert opinion.

    I totally agree that there are a plethora of Photoshop books around, and not all are value for money. Your valued opinion on this book is very welcome – thanks.

    • Glyn

      @DaveT…It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Scott Kelby’s teaching; I owe alot to him for gettng me to the stage I’m at now. Truth be told I would have purchased the book no matter what BUT this one really has gone to a new level.

      I honestly think that whoever you are and whatever skill level you’re at, you will benefit from this book. Within minutes of reading the section on eyes I’ve found myself adapting my editing and using new techniques eg sharpening the eyes using Photoshop’s Sharpen Tool; quick and very effective!

      I’ve got the book on my iPad so can take it everywhere with me and grab a quick read whilst having a coffee 🙂

      You’ll love it…I guarantee that.


  4. AlexFrame

    Scott is always amazing at hiz job and jokes.

  5. Neil Holmes

    Hi Glyn, I received my copy on Wednesday, I followed Scotts tutorials on Kelby TV before and the book contains many of the techniques see there and many more. Top read! Cheers Neil

    • Glyn

      @Neil…Cheers mate 😉

  6. Tim Skipper


    Like you I make a living at portrait work. Over the years I developed my own style or editing and post production work. But when Scott released this book I ordered it right away. Already I have found techniques that make my work faster and easier. Scott always delivers with his books.

    • Glyn

      @Tim…Couldn’t agree more mate; a cracking read!

      ps> Hope all is well with you 😉

  7. Ken Anderson

    Glyn – Excellent review. Just got my copy on Saturday and can’t wait to put it to use!

  8. Richard O'Brien

    Great review Glyn! Would the book ‘work’ in Kindle format, do you think?

    • Glyn

      Hi Richard.
      Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words. Re the kindle version, I have it on the iPad using the Kindle App but obviously that’s all in colour. Not quite sure if it would work on the actual Amazon Kindle though to be honest.




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