Retouching tutorial: Using camera RAW

My name is Mike Caffrey, and I’m a freelance retoucher and editor with over a decade’s worth of experience using Photoshop. I’ve created a series of tutorial videos exclusively for Model Mayhem that walk through the basics behind digital retouching.

This first video highlights my preferred retouching process using Camera RAW, as well as a bit of advice on color balance, addressing issues of the skin and hair masking.

Other retouching topics that I plan on covering in subsequent videos include:

  • Frequency separation for skin retouching and sharpening
  • Whitening eyes and teeth
  • Dodging and burning
  • Re-coloring
  • Background removal
  • Reshaping
  • Adding make-up and eyelashes

Throughout the series, I’ll be working on one single image (the supplied RAW file) so that viewers can both see and follow step by step should they choose to do so.

As I mentioned, the first video highlights my own preferred retouching process—it’s pretty much what I do with any image I work with, and it should serve as a solid base for anybody unfamiliar with working on RAW files. Please keep in mind that my videos aren’t Photoshop tutorials; they’re more like retouching tutorials. That means that I’ll often skip a section when talking about a particular tool or palette simply because I don’t use it. Much of what we do as retouchers falls under the subjective, but there are (of course) technical considerations that we need to keep in mind—unless we’re going for a particular look, which in that case these considerations can often be ignored. It’s all about how the image looks to us (or the client); consequently, I don’t believe that there’s a right or wrong way to retouch a photo—just use what works for you!

And, here’s the link to the RAW file:

I’m always happy to receive feedback from viewers (positive or negative), and I’ll try to incorporate advice and ideas into what I do, or at least try them and see if they fit. Depending on the level of feedback, I may produce a final ‘review’ video using all of the review highlights!



Mike Caffrey is a freelance retoucher and editor. Mike has taught Photoshop and Illustrator at the college level in the UK for 10+ years. His website is

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