The Retouch Process: What Happens After The Photoshoot?

You’ve spent weeks in anticipation Preparing For Your First Nude Photoshoot and you know from my last blog exactly What To Expect At Your First Nude Photoshoot (you might have even shot it already) – but now what? You pack up your things and head home to eat as many carbs as possible in one sitting. Hopefully you’ve already spoken to your photographer about what happens next and discussed any questions you might have about the retouching process, they will usually be open to talking about this with you and you should always ask what will or won’t be edited in advance. Whilst every photographer is going to have a different process, I am happy to openly discuss my way of doing things.

When I’m shooting for Suicide Girls, the retouch process is probably what I’m asked about most often. The idea of doing a nude shoot is one thing but shooting for SG means you’ll be creating a set of 40-60 images, nude, in all different poses. It’s quite different because you’re not going to be able hide your ‘bad side’, cover blemishes with your hand from a certain angle, suck in your tum or stretch out in the way that flatters you best in every single image. However, sometimes when girls bring up a specific bruise/blemish to me in advance, we can use the poses to hide it easily in most the images so that no retouching is necessary but, depending on where it is, that’s not always going to be possible so you and your photographer are going to have to accept that.

This set is about you in your natural gorgeousness, practice poses that flatter your shape and get used to what your body looks like in different poses. I promise you the members at SG will always love you the way you are and you’re not going to be compared to anybody else in the ways that you’re imagining, every set is its own – some girls on SG have no editing on their photos at all, it’s amazing and really refreshing! Ideally, I would love it if this became more common and I try hard to keep my images as natural as possible. I mostly try and work with the rule that if it’s permanent, it stays. It’s you. I tend to use whatever is most flattering between natural or artificial lighting and, actually, you’d be surprised at how much having a professional photographer take your image will lessen what you feel are your ‘problem areas‘ even in the unedited shots. I can’t begin to explain the amount of times a girl has been worried out of their mind about their skin, cellulite or stretch marks only to be shown the images on the back of the camera, on the day, with no editing whatsoever, and to breathe the biggest sigh of relief that it’s nowhere near as bad as they were imagining. As a woman, I know what it’s like to struggle with your skin, hate parts of your body and want to hide your stretch marks/cellulite from the world but, as a photographer, I am always keeping an eye on my models posture and advising any changes when necessary. Your photographer would never want to take bad photos of you. We get no benefit from submitting a terrible set of you to SG – if nothing else, it makes us look bad, lessens our skill level and will stop others wanting to shoot with us. We want you to look your best, you just have to trust us. I’ll break down the main things I’m asked about:

Will you get rid of my cellulite and stretch marks?
A few years ago when I was shooting for magazines, I would have been expected to get rid of every speck of anything that even nearly looked like cellulite but, with SG, not so much. 90% of women have cellulite and I’d love to start seeing it more accepted in photography – especially when so many people love big butts and thick thighs right now, these babies come riddled with cellulite and stretch marks most of the time! Get used to it. Usually, flattering lighting alone will make these things less visible but I do sometimes lighten the visibility of them with Photoshop as well, a lot of girls ask or expect me to and it’s easily done.

Can you make my bum/boobs bigger, and my waist smaller? Make my legs longer!
Nope. This is a step too far in my opinion and any shots you don’t like – we will just delete them! I’m not going to be liquifying your body into a whole different shape. Women come in so many different shapes and sizes, be proud of yours. Suicide Girls is about appreciating and celebrating your body, you don’t need to alter it to this extent in order to be able to do that. This also goes for those that see my images and assume I’ve edited them when someone might have larger than expected assets…I haven’t. The girls you’re seeing, they are real.


SG Chad in our set Sakura – I always see people accusing her of photoshopping her selfies but this butt is all real, as insane as that might seem. It’s a miracle, really!

Can you reshape my jawline or just make my nose a bit smaller?
Also no. Even small adjustments like this are just so very false and they will come back to haunt you later. Every time someone says how amazing you look, you’ll be thinking; ‘yes, but that’s not my face.You’re beautiful as you are and any images you really aren’t keen on won’t ever see the light of day, let alone make it onto the internet! Strangely, I often find that whatever girls like least about themselves other people will pick out as things they love which is probably one of main reasons it’s such a confidence boost.

I’ve got this weird bruise/cut/spot – can you Photoshop that out?
Usually, yes! This is easy and I’ll always do whatever I can with blemishes because they aren’t really part of you forever and you won’t lose any realness from the image. I know what it’s like when your skin just decides to go all kinds of wrong at the time you most want it to be well behaved.

What about scars, do you edit them?
Scars are something I can usually get rid of if you want me to but I try to keep it looking natural so if you don’t dislike your scars – leave them in! Personally, I love them, they’re interesting and make you so individual. It doesn’t matter what your scars are from or where they are, if you are proud of them – keep them! It’s all down to how you feel, if you are uncomfortable with a scar or it holds bad memories for you, I can usually fix that easily enough so don’t panic.

Indigo in our set ‘Pink Matter’

Aside from the editing process itself, the other thing you want to clear up with your photographer is roughly when to expect your photos and when the set will completed and ready to submit to SG. I’ll try and break down the stages I work in:

  • Firstly, I’ll definitely have taken way too many photos but I won’t be sending them all to you. I’ll get rid of any that are just plain terrible; bad lighting, blurry or you’ve blinked for example and then I’ll aim to have around 100-200 to send you on a PDF like this, usually within a week or so but sometimes even same day:

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 18.24.28.png

  • I send the photos over in a PDF format. This means you can zoom in on a screen and see them better and it’s also a quick and fairly small file size to deal with when compared to dealing with individual images. Underneath each image is a file number which I ask the model to list anything she hates and wants deleted, never to be seen by anyone ever again and her favourite shots – this lovely lady is Runa, a brand new Hopeful SG so this was her first set for the site, fingers crossed! I was recommended to her by some friends I’ve also worked with, I rely almost entirely on word of mouth.
  • Once I have the list of loves and hates, I’ll cut the set down with the favourite shots in mind to try and make something that flows well as a set. Occasionally, some of the favourites just don’t fit in the set for some reason or they are too similar to other shots but usually I manage to keep hold of them all.
  • If there’s still too many shots left in once I’ve done this, I’ll usually go through any similar ones with the model and get them to chose between them so I can filter out anything that’s too samey. This allows the model to be active in the selection process but I’m still able to keep an eye on the overall look of the set.
  • I will then send a new PDF with larger thumbnails of the full, final set unedited so the model can double check if there’s anything they’re not keen on before I spend any more time on the photos.
  • After I’ve been given the go ahead, I’ll start the retouch process! I will check that the overall aesthetic of the images are cohesive throughout the set by adjusting exposure, colour temperature and then manually crop and retouch each image. I don’t batch process anything and I don’t use skin-filters which everyone thinks I’m insane for it but it’s the only way I get the results that I want to. Once the sets been edited, I send it back to the model again for one final confirmation. You can see the images are a little brighter and warmer than the unedited ones but there no dramatic change.
    Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 18.38.17.png
  • I usually say the set will be edited and sent within a month just incase but it’s often much sooner, just depends on my work load but I stay in touch the entire time so there’s no surprises. By this point, the models been so involved throughout the entire process that we’re usually good to go! As a Staff Photographer, I’ll then send the set for you – all you have to do is come up with a name for it! Then wait a few days whilst SG Staff verify your IDs, paperwork and pop the set in the Member Review queue. This particular set will be out in four months time but until then you can find her on Instagram – thanks for reading! Let me know below what you think and anything you’d like me to answer in future Blogs.


Relevant links:

My Portfolio

My Suicide Girls Portfolio


Model Application

Staff Photographer List (worldwide)

Other Blogs in this series:

What Is ‘Suicide Girls’?

How Can I Become a Suicide Girl? Pros and Cons.

Models: Five Steps to Becoming a Hopeful Suicide Girl.

Models: Preparing For Your First Nude Photoshoot

Models: What To Expect At Your First Nude Photoshoot.


3 thoughts on “The Retouch Process: What Happens After The Photoshoot?

  1. Great stuff, I think SG is a place where people really appreciate natural shoots but I can see how a lot of “glamour” photography would require ladies to hide there “imperfections”. The very things which set SG models apart from the rest.

  2. Hi Gemma,

    Me again! It’s refreshing to know that I have a lot in common with photographers I admire. Thanks for sharing this.

    My workflow is slightly different. I can build proofing galleries on my website where models can select the photos they like best and tell me in comments the ones they don’t like. I create one proofing gallery per set shot and add photos after culling the obviously bad ones. It’s fairly simple, though it takes a little time. I try to get at least one set shot into a proofing gallery within two days of the shoot. I give the model a couple of weeks to make selections and provide feedback, more if they need it… some models are super busy. Then I process and deliver to a new proofing gallery. They can request re-edits (up to two per photo)

    While I show models some back of the camera photos, the screen is too small to get much of a look. I bought a little gadget that lets me insert the SD card and plug it into a computer, an iPad or iPhone, or an Android phone or tablet, to view photos at a larger size. I usually do this after the shoot, just so models can get a better look.

    The Lightroom and Photoshop stuff I do is similar to you. If I have bandwidth I’ll start on the ones I like before I get selections and feedback. Of course there’s a chance the model won’t like one or more of the ones I like, but it’s a low percentage gamble.

    Thanks again for sharing! Super informative.

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