Since the earliest days of photography, it has been customary for the photographer to improve the appearance of their portrait clients with some sort of retouching. Early methods included a simple paintbrush to alter prints. Prior to the emergence of digital photography, the airbrush was the standard method. Editing notes from the archives of Playboy Magazine have been published that show how every part of the model's body was smoothed or altered to meet their editorial standard which then spread throughout the publishing industry.
Most people now expect women's portraits to meet that same standard. That's why they seek out a professional photographer, especially if their portrait is for business purposes where they need to project the image of a young, energetic person.
Digital cameras record far more detail than the old film cameras. Every pore, wrinkle and blemish is visible. Soft lighting helps some, but for mature women a bit of facial retouching is always welcome.
In the modern era, Photoshop is the most popular method of retouching. It allows far more control and is much more versatile than earlier tools. But it is not is faster or easier. Learning to use Photoshop effectively takes hundreds of hours of study and practice. The learning curve is steep!
Even when you are an experienced retoucher, it can still take an hour or more to do a serious retouching treatment. The photos you see on magazine covers are said to be the result of several hours of Photoshop work.
There actually is a program that claims to do the whole job with just one click, but the results can be pretty bizarre. Photoshop allows us to make many tiny, careful changes that all add up to the final, carefully orchestrated result. I feel it is important to keep the image looking natural. Many images you see in advertisements have had so much skin detail removed that the model looks like a plastic doll. I hate that look. I just want to make my clients look better. Typically, I estimate that I take about 10-12 years off their age.
Here is an example of an attractive lady I worked with who asked for my normal retouching. This job took me about 45 minutes.
[This example of facial retouching is temporarily unavailable.]
Retouching the body is a different thing entirely. For an example of body retouching, please go here.