Aside from techniques, I have noticed that there isn’t much information out there on retouching and the industry. I have been asked great questions over time that I thought people would love to know the answer to. Accordingly, I wanted to make a series to showcase them for the purpose of education and knowledge.
In case you missed part one, check it out here:
If you have any questions of your own that would be great to see answered that isn’t tutorial related, feel free to post them in the comment section below and I will pick a few to answer as I continue this series. As a disclaimer, these answers do not reflect the entire retouching industry. They are strictly answered from my own experience as a retoucher.
Kesvhav Chugh - As a retoucher, you might find multiple ways of actually finishing the photo, all of them special in their own way. What helps you decide which one to go for?
If you notice the work of retouchers, they may typically have their own style. This is primarily based on personal preference on direction. Starting out, my own style has been to stay as natural as possible while abiding to the overall look the photographer is going for. As far as deciding on the technique, there aren’t actually that many legitimate techniques available. I think people get confused because there are many techniques that are not correct but are being spread around. In reality, we don’t have a choice on what to use when working on skin or hair for example. The proper techniques all still take a while regardless. The most important element is patience and getting the look the photographer wants.
Aaron Kim - At what point does a photographer start hiring a retoucher? Is it more for collaboration purposes on personal work or is it because they don't have time to work on the images themselves?
They can hire a retoucher for a few reasons. If a photographer becomes too busy, they tend to enlist help to allow them to stay focused on shooting more often. They may not be able to handle it all on their own.
Also, they may outsource work to a retoucher to improve the quality of the final product. It also looks great to a client to see a team behind a product and it adds to their overall value. They just incorporate the cost into the budget proposal for jobs. Often, clients will have set aside a retouching budget anyway.
From the get go, some photographers will pay out of pocket to pay for a retoucher. This allows them to setup a great portfolio to reach out to potential clients with. It allows them to keep a consistent quality through their portfolio as well. It’s an investment that can pay off well.
Bethany Seagrave - What is your reply when people scold or reprimand you for the type of work you do by "changing the way people look"?
I understand where they are coming from. However, the concept of retouching starts before post production. It starts with the lighting, clothes, and makeup, which all change how a person looks. Each of these are just stages in this grand fantasy we create. It’s amazing what makeup alone does in changing a person’s look.
Vrijnesh Soomaroo - How long do you normally take to retouch a photo?
What used to take 5 to 6 hours has now gone down to one hour or an hour and a half for most files. The files that take longer are those that require lots of hair work, composites, and other time consuming issues. The difference has now become the ability to forsee what needs to be done and how I will do it without wasting time. Next, my efficiency with using the tools, enabling shortcuts, and getting familiar with each technique has really saved me time. Much like everything else, with time and practice comes better results in a faster time frame. These results are not common with everyone in the industry in regard to time.
Alex Masters - Do I use Gaussian or surface blur on skin?
Although Alex is definitely just kidding, I wanted to include this question to illustrate that most of us simply do not use blurring for skin work. I wanted to point out there is no magic bullet for retouching. A plugin will not give the illusion that you spent hours fixing skin. There’s no shortcut to good work when it comes to retouching, so be aware of that.
Bethany Seagrave - Do you ever find the constant adjustment to the newest photoshop software tedious or are you sincerely excited about how the technology is progressing?
Photoshop used to come out with great and useful updates in the past. I still remember when adjustment layers came out or the healing brush. Those felt revolutionary to me with retouching. Now it just seems I am updating Photoshop to keep up with camera raw updates for the most part. The new features seem minor and not so useful to me in my world. Perhaps they may be very important to others though.
Rob - In the industry, is it common practice for a retouching studio to charge more than a freelance retoucher even though they're doing the same amount of work, or are rates roughly the same?
If there is a cost difference, which I find there usually is, it comes down to a few factors. Usually, you’re paying for quality and reliability. With a retouching house, you have more of a reputation for quality and dependability based on their brand and name. Next, you have to factor in the cost of business. Retouching studios probably have a higher operating cost due to the place they rent, cost of equipment, employees, and so forth. With freelancers, usually it may cost less, thus translating to a lower price range. Finally, freelancers generally aren’t as established so you may find the cost related directly to this fact.
There are many factors, but these are some that came to mind. It isn’t necessarily always true, as there are some exceptions that break away from these points.
Also as a quick heads up, I will be teaching a few great retouching classes at the Fstoppers Workshop in the Bahamas this May. Check out the details here (http://fstoppersworkshops.com/pratik-naik/. Come out and spend some time with us, you need that break! Check out the promo video on what you can expect at this year's workshop!