Image editing techniques – Retouching, manipulation and optimisation

Analog or digital, image editing is characterised by three editing processes: retouching, manipulation and optimisation. We take a look at the different procedures and their differences.

Image retouching – Detailed and invisible

Br24 Blog Image editing techniques - Retouching: Portrait of a woman. Original, natural and extensive retouching
The main task of image retouching is to edit image elements that should not appear in the final result. This primarily includes the removal of interfering objects and irregularities. For example, dust, scratches, artefacts, reflections and lens flares. Another component is the correction of colours in certain areas, such as in the sky or on clothing. In many cases, however, this process is assigned to the colour correction, depending on the requirements.

Image retouching is often the only option to get a perfect picture. Especially in the beauty and product area, subsequent retouching is standard today. The degree of editing always depends on the desired visual message. The aim of the natural image retouching in the beauty area, for example, is to obtain an authentic result. In other cases, the processing goes much further.

The aim of image retouching is always to work invisibly. A professional retouching is not recognisable afterwards. And turns good shots into perfect images.

Image manipulation – Subtle to creative

Br24 Blog Image editing techniques - Manipulation: Composition of underwater photos and image of a ballerina
Image manipulation includes image changes that go beyond mere retouching. Including, among other things, composing. And involves the combination of different elements to create a completely new image. Objects, people, backgrounds are removed, added, moved, exchanged and/or changed in their dimensions. Clippings and alpha masks as well as the combination of creativity with highest precision are indispensable for this process.

The dimension of image manipulation ranges from subtle changes that look natural and realistic. To obvious, creative and artistic manipulations. The possibilities of digital image manipulation are incredibly diverse.

Image optimisation – Improve and process

Br24 Blog Image editing techniques - Optimise: Graphic showing different optimisations for images
The term image optimisation is often used for two different processes. On the one hand, it stands for a basic image editing. Which includes, among other things, correcting the exposure, the optimisation of brightness, contrast as well as global tone and colour adjustments. However, these steps are also allocated with retouching.

But primarily, image optimisation refers to the optimisation of image data for various media. A completely different process. Depending on the intended use, for example for print or online, images have to be processed differently.
For printing, this includes the preparation for the used printing technology. So that the end result represents the colours, contrasts and sharpness of the digital data in the best possible way. Online, image data usually causes the largest amount of data. All the more important is appropriated image optimisation. To improve loading times and thus the user experience. And at the same time maintaining the best possible image quality. The optimisations include adjustments of image size, file format and compression.


The lines between retouching, manipulation and optimisation are blurred. Many processing steps go hand in hand, even complement each other. They all require a trained eye, expertise and technical understanding. Professionally executed, they are excellent tools to create perfect images of the highest quality and according to any imagination.