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Establishing a Look

Lesson 7 from: The Business of Professional Photo Retouching

Lisa Carney, Simon Peter Raible

Establishing a Look

Lesson 7 from: The Business of Professional Photo Retouching

Lisa Carney, Simon Peter Raible

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Lesson Info

7. Establishing a Look

Next Lesson: Who is The Client?


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Who Should Be a Retoucher?


Genres of Retouching


Comp vs Finish


Lisa's Path to Retouching


Simon's Path to Retouching


Establishing a Look


Who is The Client?


Lesson Info

Establishing a Look

This is a little bit of a debate and I like debates, I like talking about things that are maybe, dare I say, controversial, but not set in stone. So, establishing a look. Should you establish a look and be known for a look? And, I don't want to say that we have differing opinions but There's for and against. There's for and against. So, I will tell you that, like, with my photography, my photography is my, I don't know, it's my thing, my soul. There's something that I give when I shoot, and I love shooting, everything's always back-lit, it's what I do. It's kind of my style. So I have a look. Like, I think it's fair to say, if you look at this stuff, it's got a certain look, vibe. It kind of looks like the same person did it, I think. And it's not just the black and white nature, but it's the dealing with light. So, in my work, do I have a look? Now, after 25 years, I don't have a look. And I don't want a look, because I want to do everything. And my job is not to produce, as a ret...

oucher, finisher, my look, my job is to produce your look. So I don't personally have a style. However, if you're starting out as a retoucher, I think it's really, potentially profitable, to have a look. And why is this? 'Cause then you'll get known. People will come to you, you have a style, a vibe, a signature. Hm, "Who did that? "Let's get that guy on the phone and give him a job." Right, so it might be a way to channel income especially when you're starting out. However, if you're old school, it's a hindrance. When you think, is that what you were thinking about? Well yeah, you don't want to not be thought of if an opportunity comes up. So that's why I always relearn and then getting these other skill sets. So let's talk about this. So, Horror Man. Yeah. They call you for horror. Yeah. They don't call me for horror jobs. I could do that American horror stuff. You'd do a great job at it. But, they're not gonna think of me, so are we cutting ourselves off when we're not known for a certain style? I don't think so. I think that the thing to keep in mind is always be improving yourself, always be trying new stuff. And look at what you're not good at, and practice it. So if you're a little weak at illustrating shadows, if you're a little weak at color, start practicing that and get that 'cause you're gonna be asked to do it, perform that, eventually. And it's better to have that sorted out and come to the show with your woodshedding done. So, and then it presents another problem, then how do you communicate that? How do you communicate what you do? So, for example, I'm going to explain a little bit, I asked around actually, I had some conversations in our industry with folks who hire us, and I actually said "Why do you hire us?" "Why do you call Simon, or why do you call..." It was really kind of an awkward question, if you can imagine, but it was really telling. So what I was told, and what I found out was Simon is known as the heavy-lifter. Big projects, heavy-lifting, sorting things out that are not figured out. The Disney Building, like there's an idea that's expressed but it's not really worked out. They're gonna call you. Timing. They know if they call him, deadline met, period, paragraph. There are finishers out there who don't hit their deadlines, if you can imagine, and they're really good, beautiful, amazing illustrators, but they don't hit their deadlines. So they get a reputation for that. What else are you known for? Deadline, big builds. He's the big builds guy, like if there's 17 people and the building's one fire behind and there's smoke and there's explosion and the logo's all (mutters), they're calling you. Mhmm. And I'm kind of known as the beauty gal. I get a lot of makeup ads, I get a lot of entertainment work that's big head, big skin, older women, like Desperate Housewives, that cast is not 20 year olds. That was mine for the whole, almost the whole duration of that program. Folks know you also as, not the question girl, but that you're talking back and forth, so where other finishers you got, "Yeah, got it good," and they come back and they might have it or they might not have it, you're gonna be, "Is this what you want? "Are you sure you don't want this? "We're definitely not doing that." Those communication skills are definitely a plus. Now, why am I more of a communicator? So my look, and if you look in my book, you'll see I do a lot of work with photographers and client direct. So I'm working with smaller business space, meaning there's not a huge staff, there's not a lot of people in the food chain. There's one or two people, maybe three at the most, who are making decisions on the project. You're the big heavy-lifter. So he goes from his production manager, or mid-level art-director, then goes to a creative director, then it goes to the studio connect, whoever is the studio connect. Then it goes from them to the producer and creators or whatever product, movie, TV show. So you're food chain is very involved and long. My food chain's very short, so it's easier for me to communicate up the line, where it's not so easy for you to communicate up the line. Yeah, I'm a little cut off, the head, head, head guy is not calling my directors, like coming all the way down. And it's kind of, yeah, I guess I've never had the practice of talking. So he's cut off. You know what? We're invisible. If we do our job correctly, you don't know we exist. So it used to be, back in the day, back when we started 20 years ago, finishers were known, like it was whoever, I don't want to say any names, but there were names, and you were known as finishers. Well companies realized, if you worked in-house at a company's finisher, that the clients were coming for you. And if you went to another shop, you left and you took the account. So what the companies did, because they're very smart, those companies, they isolated us. So I guarantee you, nobody at ABC, for the most part, knows that I've been the main finisher for them for 18 years. They don't even know who I am. And it's smart, it's a smart business decision. Keep me isolated, then you don't have any chance of losing contact. So, for you, you're still in that position. Also, would you say for your entertainment, once a one-sheet is determined, once a design on an entertainment piece is determined, you do not change it. Mm-mm. That's it. That is it, that is the one-sheet, and you just need to execute it. Would you say that's fair? Yeah, and I think that's come along 'cause folks are getting better, are better Photoshop than, when we were out there, there was two dozen? I was there when I was the only Photoshop guy, of two, in a group of 30. Now, everyone comes out of art school and they know enough so they can get a lot closer what they want, and once they get that all sorted out, they won't want you messing with it. So what it used to be was, here's this thing, this is the best we can do about it, but it's so far beyond what we're capable of doing, that that's what we're hiring you for. And that part of the industry has gone away. Yeah. Yeah, it's not my favorite part of the pulling-away part, so we're not really asked to be artistes anymore, but more craftsmen. Yeah, I want to re-illustrate what you're talking about. It used to be that jobs would come to us and we were supposed to make it better, we were supposed to put our magic touch on it. But for high-end entertainment, they don't want our magic. They just want what they asked for. Just do your job, get it done, and turn it in. So, it's a little different now. And, so I want to circle back and talk about establishing a look. So, why would you establish a look, should you establish a look? My theory is if you are the author of the look, so these are some folks I would like to suggest you check out, they're all photographers. So you got Jill Greenberg, you've got Jim Fiscus, you've got Joel Grimes, and you've got Dana Hursey. They're all photographers, they're all authors or producers of the product, themselves. And thus, they have a look. Now, Jill Greenberg does some of her own retouching and then she hires out, but it's her look. Jim Fiscus, same thing, hires out but it's his signature look. Joel Grimes does all his own work. His signature look. Dana Hursey could do his own work, doesn't do his own work. I do his work for him for the most part, but he came up with it, it's his signature. It's not me, it's him. So there is gonna be a time when you wanna establish a look especially if you are the producer of the product. And we haven't really talked about that, retoucher as author, you know. The actual author, the producer of the work. I would say Daniel Clark, even though he's working on other people's designs, he actually gets to put his look on it. Yeah. Drew Struzan designs his own stuff, too. But if Drew Struzan is hired to do a poster, is my educated guess, that it's his look and style and vibe that is being applied. So think about that for yourself, if you want to come up with your own signature look, that is fantastic, and you're the author that's great. If you want to be a gun-for-hire, I love being a gun-for-hire, I don't have a look. I will give your look to you. I will help establish peoples' looks, by the way, that's what we did with Dana. He wanted to come up with a more illustrated style, a different kind of vibe, and we worked together on a bunch of testing projects, and came up with something that he eventually felt was what he liked, and then now that's a signature style he has. And we did it in collaboration. But no one will ever know I existed. It's him, it's his name, and I like it that way. It's fine, I'll stay in the back, I'll stay in the backroom. So, any questions? A question from Marsha35, back when you were showing us the illustration slides, what the illustrator does, and you're talking about starting with something from nothing, creating something from nothing, do you get any kind of rough comps about what that thing is that you're supposed to be creating out of nothing? Sometimes, not always. Sometimes, it can be just a pencil sketch. It'll be one way of doing it, sometimes they'll come in and go, "Here's an idea," and what I'll do then is start getting references off the internet, and starting with something just to give me a basic idea. For illustrations, often times it'll be comped together and then we have to rebuild it bigger, cleaner, bigger, faster, more. So there are a bunch of different starting points and then knowing where you wanna go with it. Mood boards and scrap. Yeah They'll give you a scrap of some other work they've found, and we want this kind of vibe or this kind of line work, or this kind of look. Disney, man, they would just come in from their commute, they'd be commuting in for an hour and they go, "Okay, I want this, this, this. "You know, here's three different ideas." And they'd just be talking, and you gotta start from there. So, that's zero, just an idea, just ether. And you would start with that. And this is for both you guys, One of them main things that I'm kind of hearing is that you have to embrace your history, your past, and your personal, who you are as a person, to get the type of product that you're looking for. And, can you talk about that a little bit, about embracing what you are naturally inclined to? Well, you'll find yourself being called to a certain ask, so that just kind of goes hand in hand, but then it's everything you've done in your life kinda makes you the person that you are. Makes you the spouse that you are, makes you the mother or father that you are, and it also makes the artist that you are. So all that livin', all those experiences are gonna affect your creativity, and affect your artwork. So I think it's, I know dark people, they have a dark art. And then bubbly people, they'll have bubbly art. But then, the thing is, between you and I, when we're designing, you kinda go, you start with a black background and start putting monsters coming in, and then I'll be over there, starting with a white background and everything's blown out white and colorful. So it can also be just the mood you're in for the day, too. You're so accurate about it. His comps are all light and fluffy, and mine are dark and (mumbles). To answer your question, it's a fantastic question, I will, say first of all, on the embracing your past, I would agree in art history, and that helps me, that helps me eye, that helps my understanding of color palette, like I can say to my client, "Great, do you want "a Maxfield Parrish style of color palette," and they might not know what I'm talking about, but then I can illustrate, show it, pull up the Maxfield Parrish. But I know to even look for a Maxfield Parrish piece, or a Jackson Polluck vibe, or a Rothko, for color, because I studied art history. The degree in photography, which cost me a gazillion million dollars, worth its weight in gold. I know lighting, and composition, and I got that from photography. So that's not a waste. My mother might disagree a little bit, she's alarmed that I don't take pictures for a living, but it all works out. And then something else you said that I'd like to address is about your skillset. Look, I would love to be awesome at explosions and rendering 3D type really crazy, I'm not good at it. I'm just not. So I don't get those jobs. And I have to be honest, I used to beat myself up about it, a lot. Like God, I wish I was better at this, I wish I could do something else better, or be. Some skills I worked out, hair. I didn't used to do hair. Hair was really tough for me, and that took a lot of handwork to really figure out how to get good at it. But other stuff, it just doesn't come to me, and I've let it go, I've got plenty of work. He can do it. You can do that dead zombie TV show thing with all those body parts, you do Saw, that's great. There's plenty of work out there, I don't need to put myself through that kind of pain, of struggle. So I don't know if that answers your question a little bit. This is from ScaryMonster, who says, "What are your "thoughts on being versed in drawing, illustration, "and photography, as a retoucher?" I know you guys have both touched on that but how much of that is absolutely necessary? Lisa's the photographer. And with all that schooling you know all the buttons and bells and whistles. And to watch you take a photograph, and it's phenomenal stuff, but she does a lot of photography on the iPhone, and what she can pull off just blows my mind. I didn't have a photography background, but I've started from photographic manipulations, so I go in and I shoot stuff like that's good enough, like I can use that and get to where I'm going. So that's, I see the difference between you and I when we do our photography that way. And then I just think, again everyone starts drawing at some point, whether or not it clicks with ya. I was given lessons by uncle on how to draw a couple things, and yeah, it definitely helped. I was gonna say, I think you don't give enough credit to your illustration start because you're better at creating from nothing because you can illustrate, you're better at it than I am, because of that, I assure you. You think that skillset came from that? 100%. And so what I'd like to do to answer that question, so drawing and photography 100% awesome for retouchers to get better, and I can speak to photographers, and I can speak to what I need, because I know their terminology and I speak their language. And drawing helps, I love to draw, I try to draw, I suck at it but I love it, just for practice. However, what I want to caution against, I feel, and you can let me know if you agree or disagree, I feel like there's a bit of pressure for you all to know everything, and to do everything, and I would like to, while I'm a huge promoter of education and do the work and craftsmanship, absolutely, do the work and get your craftsmanship, but remove a bit of pressure of knowing everything. You don't need to know Cinema Max 4D, you don't, you absolutely 100% do not need to know it. We're gonna go over, through this course, some of the things we think you should learn from mastering this craft, a few basic things to start. You'll keep educating yourself and growing. But you don't have to know everything.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

File Naming Convention Sample
Estimate Worksheet Form
Finishing Delivery Example
File Naming Convention Explanation
Worksheet & Billing Checklist
Solar Curves Action

Bonus Materials

Adobe Stock Contributor
Alien Skin Software Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Bill Buckley

I'm a photographer who wants to be as good at Photoshop as possible. In my field few retouchers get hired, so it's all on me. Plus my creative vision cannot be accomplished by photography alone. Not to mention that in the field, as a photographer I can't always be perfect. Photoshop to the rescue. This is possibly THE best class I've purchased on Creative Live, and they've all been good. Great insight, entertaining, well taught Lisa and Simon were awesome. Bought more LC tutorials based on this course.

Kari A. Youkey

This course just opened my world. I started ( back in the Jurassic era) as an illustrator/drafter ( pen and ink), then CAD programmer, then GIS analyst with photoshop just coming onto the scene pregnant and unplugged focusing on parenting and my inner artist. I was gifted an IPad 6 years ago in the mist of my Taxi Mom years. My favorite ‘hobby’ became manipulating images and an addiction to Adobe apps. Now, In my new empty nest status, I have been trying to figure out my next direction in life....and CreativeLive has been a wonderful resource to explore different creative opportunities, feeling somewhere between photography and graphic design, I wanted to ‘paint’ photos with my tool of choice the tablet, not the camera. ...but it wasn’t until this course that I clicked with an Aha! I don’t have to become an photographer? I could get paid to retouch? Other people’s photos?.....and, I have a work history skill set that backs it up! Thank you so much for this course! Loved the instructors and how they shared their experiences and knowledge. You two have just provided a wonderful map and whole new path to explore and inspired a much needed creative spark to get back to work❤️. Thank You!

a Creativelive Student

Lisa knocked it out of the ball park again! Amazing work Lisa and Simon! I just can't find the many words that express how much I gain with each and every course she teaches. Once again, a wealth of information that was given in a down to earth manner. I absolutely love her teaching style! Amazing course Lisa and Simon, awesome job!

Student Work