It seems photographers are constantly looking for the best ways to retouch their photos–search any photography group and you won’t have to scroll far to find a post about dodge and burn or frequency separation. Recently, Stefan Kohler, Pratik Naik, and the rest of the Infinite Tools team added a new panel to their Infinite Tools Suite: The Infinite Retouch Panel.
This panel is geared toward providing the most useful tools in a retouching workflow and considering their history of creating other Photoshop tools to help with creativity and workflow, I decided to take a serious look at this panel to see if it is worthwhile as a photographer and retoucher.
To go into a little background about me, I consider myself a creative who loves to explore all the different ways Photoshop can bring different ideas to life! Although I am not a full-time professional, I have played with enough of the Infinite Tools products to know that their panels offer something for every level of photographer and retoucher. Knowing the kind of usefulness I have gained from their other products, I imagine the features will provide an even higher and different level of possibilities in the hands of a master photographer and retoucher.
My Retouching Background
On any given day, I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to “perfect” my images. I have actions both that I have created and that I have purchased from courses (Pratik’s Retouching Series, for example). Retouching takes me quite a while, and just when I think I have a good workflow, I realize I’ve forgotten a step or I’ve made some grievous error (flatten image, anyone?).
I’m constantly looking for ways to improve and/or simplify my process so I can have some consistency to my images and have tried a number of different plugins, as well as having taken a plethora of retouching tutorials and courses. I started really diving into retouching and fine-art images about 2 years ago and have pushed myself to learn a variety of techniques since then.
First Impressions: Customization, Frequency Separation, Saving Layers
When I first downloaded the Infinite Retouch Panel, I was surprised at how easy it was to get started. With the click of the “create” button, all of the retouching layers show up in my layers panel, and it all takes less than 2 seconds– I know, I timed it. I imagine it will be even faster for retouchers with better computers than mine.
I was immediately drawn to the customization aspect of the Retouch Panel. Let’s say you want the panel to default to the clone tool at 2% flow on the healing layer after you hit “Create.” You can set up a user preference to allow for this. Every part of the Retouch Panel allows for personalization for your individual retouching preferences. For example, another feature of the panel allows you to run frequency separation set to “high preview,” “low preview,” or “inverted high pass,” depending on your needs within your workflow. This has ended up being one of my favorite features and has encouraged me to revisit the use of frequency separation in my own workflow.
Help Layers and Fine Tuning
One of the more powerful features of the Retouch Panel is the Help Layers function. The panel produces a group of layers when you hit “Create.” As you open the group, you will find twelve layers that you can turn on and off as you need.
Whether you are an amateur looking to improve your retouching or a professional wanting to perfect even the most minute of details, these layers will act almost as a second set of eyes to show inconsistencies in hue, saturation, and color shifts, or you can use one of the exposure layers to reveal any dust, dodge and burn inconsistencies, or problem areas that you may have missed on your own.
During my first few uses of the Retouch Panel, I ignored the help layers, not realizing how transformative they really are. However, after watching the video, I revisited a few of my images and explored just how amazing these help layers are. Word to the wise: if you’re like me and just starting to learn or perfect retouching, use these layers. The saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” applies here and these layers will show you exactly what areas of retouching you need to work on. I think creatives of all experience levels will appreciate what these can do to improve your work.
Saving Your Layers and Actions
Along with the retouching layers, users have the ability to import their actions or layers that they use regularly, or even just a set of actions they want to use for a specific set of images. As an amateur retoucher, this was the most transformative for me.
One of my biggest struggles is consistency within my work and especially within sets of images–I am admittedly the worst about writing down what I’ve done, it takes time to copy and paste layers from images, and sometimes I forget and close out of images before saving layers for future use. The panel allows you to select a set of layers, and then simply save them as a button!
I cannot tell you how much I love the user settings on the Retouching Panel. For the first time in my 6 years of pursuing photography on an amateur-to-professional level, I retouched and edited a set of images this week that looked like they were edited by a real professional thanks to the control and ability to personalize everything within my workflow.
Not only that, but I actually edited images in 6 hours that normally would’ve taken me 20 or so–because I had such a level of consistency due to the Retouching Panel, I didn’t keep going back and tweaking or changing or re-editing any of the images.
Go With Grain
Often when I view an image that strikes me as particularly beautiful, I am struck by the artistic use of grain in the image that just seems to elevate things from “really good” to “stroke of genius.” Pratik’s images are easily identifiable, not just because of the flawless retouching and color toning, but because they too feature a beautiful incorporation of grain. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Pratik and Stefan incorporated a “grain” feature into the Retouch Panel.
The grain files are high resolution grain scans of popular film types. They produce a non-destructive and adjustable option to add grain to your images that replicate real grain! At risk of sounding like a broken record, the grain features in the Retouch Panel are customizable for user preference and offer many options. My personal favorite is the “Holy Grain” (cue sounds of angelic choirs) that include three Ilford options and a Kodak Gold option. Grain size and amount are customizable as well as a “lens damage” option for users looking for a truly old film camera look to their images. Photographers that work with seamless backgrounds will love the digital noise option to break up issues with banding, if adding noise is one of your preferred techniques.
Intuitive Exporting Options
While using this panel, it has become apparent to me that Pratik and Stefan have poured endless hours of thought into the different editing scenarios photographers and retouchers find themselves in. The export settings account for social media, client work, and printed work (and, in keeping with the rest of the panel, is fully customizable).
Once you’re done retouching an image and click over to the export tab, you don’t need to crop or resize anything. The panel itself will guide you through the process and produce crop lines that give you a chance to adjust the image till it fits within the boundaries of the intended destination. Then it crops and resizes it for you for any option you prefer! You will never have to worry about sizing again.
This will do wonders for artists who want to print their work while also sharing work to social media, as you are able to adjust what you need depending on how your image is going to be viewed.
I was honestly unsure what I was going to think of the Infinite Retouch panel with all the options there are out there, but this one is something crafted with workflow in mind. The panel is a powerhouse and I consider it useful to anyone who needs a tool to help them with their workflow. I’ve been playing with this panel for about two weeks now and feel I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of how useful it will be to me. I am actually enjoying retouching! It’s a beautiful tool and it will help you create beautiful images.
The best part is that the panel itself is completely free to download and try for as long as you want! The only thing you are unable to do is save your settings
About the Author
Rachel Langlois is a portrait and wedding photographer and retoucher based in Castle Rock, Colorado. You can find out more about Rachel on her website and follow her work on Facebook and Instagram.