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. 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 and 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┬áthat 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.