The not yet professional retoucher. Now semi-pro?

Last week marked my first paid job. I met my first client at a retouching workshop late last year and left my contact details with her. It pays to talk to people when you have the chance!

It wasn’t a ‘retouching’ job as such, she contacted me for some one on one Photoshop training. So, I went over and we discussed some techniques for her to use on her images. I made sure to prepare some actions for her in Photoshop to make things a little easier to remember. Also, so she feels like she got to keep something.

Sending my first invoice felt amazing. I was punching the air as I pressed the send button.

On to the next paid job!

Joshua Jones.

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The not yet professional retoucher. Knowing what you have and what you need.

Click Image for before/after rollover and credits.

The first step to take in order to go ‘pro’ is to know where you are currently and where you need to be. Meaning, what have I got in my bag of tricks in terms of skill, website, research and what do I need that I don’t already have in order to be successful.

Lets look at what I have;

  • A website. jelphotoretouch.com I am fortunate enough to have a friend who really helped me out in with this. I put together a template in Photoshop and he coded it and uploaded it for me. If you are not fortunate to have a mate who can help you out I would probably recommend paying someone to do it. At the end of the day, you want to spend your time retouching and not learning how to code a website.
  • Competent Photoshop knowledge. This is a given. I’ve been playing with Photoshop since I was in year 8 (1999). I will admit though, it wasn’t until about 2007 that I really started to unleash the potential of Photoshop while I was studying 3D Animation at Qantm College. The web is full of good (and very bad) tutorials on retouching. Please stay well clear of any tutorial that suggests you blur the skin. This is a very amateur way to retouch. No one (good) uses blur. I have found that the best source of information is from modelmayhem.com and retouchpro.com register or sign up and participate in these forums. I have found the people on retouchpro to be a little more helpful at times. I feel a very competitive vibe on modelmayhem.
  • Competent retouching knowledge. When you feel you ‘know’ Photoshop and you think you ‘know’ how to retouch, you probably don’t. I didn’t, It wasn’t until I came across the terms “Split Frequency Healing”, “Inverted High Pass”, “High Pass Sucks” and “Dodge and Burn” that my retouching really took off. I have heard that this DVD from Natalia Taffarel goes through these techniques thoroughly. I’m yet to see it but I’ll be attending a Workshop of her’s next week. If the Workshop is half as good as her work then it will be well worth it. I’m at the stage where I think my work is good enough, I feel I’m confident enough in my own abilities that if I’m asked to retouch an image for someone I’ll be happy to put my name to my work. Once you feel like this, you’re ready.
  • Hardware. Most importantly, you’ll need a machine that can handle high resolution files. If your machine struggles to keep up with the work you’re doing it will make retouching very painful. You’ll also need a backup solution. There are two types of people in the world. The one that has had a hard drive fail on them and the other is a person who will have a hard drive fail on them. I have a 1TB drive hooked up to my iMac using Time Machine. Time Machine is fantastic, I highly recommend it. Colour calibration is important to your potential clients. If they find out you’re not using a calibrated screen you’ll immediately lose credibility. Do your own research on this, I’m using an iMac 27″ and calibrating it with an xrite Eye One. Works great. Finally, a Wacom tablet. Personally, I use the Intuos4. You will hear people some people saying that they don’t retouch with a tablet and that you don’t need one. Yes, you probably don’t need one but it really does make things so much easier. To quote Gry GarnessYou simply cannot retouch well without a tablet. In my experience, people who do not have stylus experience tend to shy away from hands-on work during the session, and it becomes a 3-hour demo. Until you do something hands-on, it’s not really going to connect with the brain, so this part is essential. Also, I find that if you use a tablet it’s evidence of retouching commitment!” So there, you heard it from a professional.

What do I need?

  • Network. I need to build relationships with Photographers, I need to gain their trust personally and professionally. I need to be able to offer them something that they need. I need them to think of me when they need it. I’m fortunate with my work at Wacom that I come in to contact with quite a few photographers. First impressions count.
  • Marketing/Business Smarts. I need to skill myself when it comes to marketing and business strategies. I know the basics but I really feel I need to invest some time into learning more about this. I will get into more detail on this topic at a later date.

So, now that I know what I have and what I need to get going. It’s time to knuckle down and network and skill myself in marketing and business strategies.

Joshua Jones.

The not yet professional retoucher.

Sunglasses Retouch

jelphotoretouch.com for before/after and photographer credits.

This is the first of hopefully many posts.

My name is Joshua Jones. I’m 25 and I live in Sydney Australia. I work full time at Wacom as a Sales & Marketing executive. In my spare time I like to retouch photographs. Visit my retouching site here. I hope to turn this hobby in to a profession. This blog is about how I’ll go about this. Now, from my 12 months or so of reading forums such as retouchpro.com and modelmayhem.com I’ve come to the conclusion that there are an absolute shit load of ‘professional’ retouchers out there. Most of which are very nice and happy to help. If you ask them about how they obtain a certain ‘look’ in their images, or how they retouch skin so wonderfully they’ll more then likely help you out. Which is great! So, participating on these forums and watching retouching DVD’s will certainly help you develop your retouching skills but, does this mean you’re a retoucher?

No. It certainly doesn’t. Yes, you can retouch a photograph… Perhaps you do it quite well. The question is, are you being paid for it? This is where I am currently. I feel like I can retouch a photograph, but I’m not being paid to do so. So, how does one go about becoming pro? The question that has been asked many times. If you jump in to your google machine you’ll find there maybe quite a few articles on how people got to where there are now. One I can recommend is from professional retoucher Pratik Naik written for photoshopmag.net link. Visit Pratik’s website. Now that is how you retouch.

The above mentioned article is extremely helpful and is the inspiration for my blog. I came to the conclusion that there would be many articles like this, but who is talking about their journey to becoming pro? Who is going to put the above mentioned suggestions In to practise and then summarise whether they worked or not? I am.

Let me start by briefly summarising what I plan on talking about in the future…

  • Where I am in terms of skill level as a retoucher and how I got here.
  • The plan of attack to becoming ‘pro’.
  • What works and what doesn’t.
  • Retouchers that will inspire.
  • Tute time! Wacom and retouching related tutorials.
  • Summaries of events that I attend on behalf of Wacom.

I’m very excited about sharing my experiences and thoughts with you on how someone like myself becomes ‘pro’. I hope to help anyone in a similar situation, let me make the mistakes for you. Lets get paid to do something we enjoy.

Joshua Jones.