A Review of Scott Kelby’s Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers with Photoshop

I purchased Scott Kelby’s Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers with Photoshop (in electronic format) a little while back and didn’t give it much of a chance. I popped it open (virtually of course), flipped to the contents, went straight to a couple areas that I wanted to tweak in a photograph that I was working on at the time and closed it. That was a few months ago. More recently, having decided I wanted to learn some high key lighting techniques in an effort to expand my abilities, I went back to this book when it came time to do my post production and I couldn’t put it down.

This is my 5th Photoshop book from the folks at Kelby media (I’ve also purchased RC’s The HDR Book, Layers and Compositing by Matt K. and Down and Dirty Tricks by Corey Barker), and if you’re not new to their style you’ll quickly realize that it follows the same basic format; a series of tutorials with  step-by-step instructions paired with relevant screen shots, that allows even the most handicapped less-able-Photoshop users to complete the task.  However, though for the most part I read the book  cover to cover, trying out many of the techniques as went, I soon discovered that it was incredibly well organized.  An area in which I felt some of my other purchases were lacking. As I began to retouch many of my own images I found the interface of the book easy to use and I was able to jump right to the spots I needed with minimal fuss. This is an aspect that I found the other books to be lacking in. While they contained a heap of stellar tips and techniques I find myself using only a handful of them today and I don’t really use them for reference that often either. The way Professional Portrait Retouching is organized,it makes jumping to what you need a breeze, which in turn makes it a really great reference guide.

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That being said, I need to be clear that this review really only applies to the eBook versions, as I have not seen the printed version of the books. Although, I suspect my opinion would not be too different.

The depth that Professional Portrait Retouching goes into is also a strong aspect of this book. Kelby typically gives 2-3 different techniques in each retouching area. And I’m not talking about 2-3 ways to retouch the eyes. No, I mean he gives 2-3 techniques for each little area of the eye, such as the iris or whites, or removing veins or darkening eyebrows or… ….well you get my meaning.

Another aspect of the book I really liked was the reference material in the last chapter which include a comprehensive retouch checklist and  5, 15 and 30minute retouch guides. Now I really haven’t used the guides yet, as I’ve been playing around with everything and trying to master the techniques, but I do believe they’ll be invaluable should I ever have a deadline. The checklist on the other hand I have incorporated into my retouch workflow and use it regularly. It”s exceedingly handy to have at your side while your working to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

There are only a couple drawbacks with this book that I found and to be honest there both mute points. The first is this book, being a few years old now, was created using Photoshop CS5. Now if you’re a CS6 user (as I am) you may find some of the instructions inaccurate. However, I’ve worked through a bunch of the techniques without any hiccups so this really isn’t a major cause for concern. The second drawback is there some expectation on the part of the author that the reader is somewhat familiar with Photoshop so if you’re a complete newbie this probably isn’t the book for you. In defense of the book, I believe it’s important to mention, that at the time I read the book I considered myself an intermediate user of Photoshop and I found the steps were often explained in a little too much detail for my liking. Although I can appreciate that this was probably done to make the book more accessible to all levels.

If you’re a Photoshop user (and I suspect you are if you bothered reading this far) and a portrait photographer who wants to improve your retouching skills, or just someone who takes the odd photo of people and want to tweak their appearance I don’t believe you could go wrong purchasing a copy of Scott Kelby’s Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers with Photoshop.

Summary of Main Points

Pros

  • Well organized
  •  Exceptional as a reference guide
  • Very Comprehensive
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Suited for most ability levels
  • Includes retouching checklist
  • Includes 5, 15 & 30 minute retouching guides

Cons

  • Not written with CS6 in mind
  • Not for complete newbies
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