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Getting Hired as a Retoucher

Lesson 25 from: The Business of Professional Photo Retouching

Lisa Carney, Simon Peter Raible

Getting Hired as a Retoucher

Lesson 25 from: The Business of Professional Photo Retouching

Lisa Carney, Simon Peter Raible

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Lesson Info

25. Getting Hired as a Retoucher


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

Getting Hired as a Retoucher

I know that, and Simon I'm sure will agree, look being on set and doing jobs, it's such a huge subject matter. We can only kinda touch on little bits, because you got folks shooting dogs, folks shootin' models, cars. The world of retouching is so broad that we kinda are trying to weave our way in, as best as possible for the subject matter. And we had a really interesting, didn't you think this was interesting process? I like this, yeah. We set out and started asking people, "Why do you hire retouchers, what are you looking for?" As a photographer. As a photographer, as creative director, as an agency. We asked a bunch of different people. And these are some of the responses we got, and we thought we'd share 'em with you. And I have to same some of 'em are really eye-opening for me, because it was things that I didn't expect. So, for example, the first question we asked was, "What do you look for in a retoucher?" That was craft, technique, skill, knowledge, the ability to liste...

n. The ability to listen. Because they want, it's very hard at times to articulate your vision. And make it blue. Well is that cerulean blue, is that cyan, is that royal blue. You have to be able to have nuances, and retouchers need to know that, and be able to listen and accurately estimate time and cost. This was number one, accurately estimate time and cost. And the answer that popped out most to that question, the question again is what do you look for in a retoucher? What I have highlighted here is the ability to handle most any situation, which I agree with whole-heartedly. So we were talking earlier about having a look, I was like don't pigeonhole yourself. Make sure you have a bunch of skill sets you can call on. Here it is, be able to handle different situations. And it also said a delight to work with. It is half barber shop, so you can be good and be a schnook, but your gonna get along a lot better, get a lot more work, get a lot better work, if your personable, and its just minding your manners, and hand shakes and being on time and just. Well, imagine your on that set, and they're stressed out, they don't want someone with an ego in that room. They want someone keeping the room calm, and keeping the provider calm. The captain of the ship. I'm there to serve. I wanna make sure you know we're gonna get the job, and that really resonates with people. This one I thought was fantastic. They want someone who doesn't say no. So if you ask me can you do job A, this one thing on job A? If you have to say no I can't do that, please have five other solutions. For example, "Can you take this water, and make it ripple like a volcano?" No, you know what, I can't do that, but you know what I could do? I could make it look like a cascading river. Would that work for you? Or you know what else I could do? I could try this, would that work? Problem solve, problem solve. That's what they're looking for, some partner in the execution of, we did a job once, Restasis eye drops, and this water needed to come out of a waterfall, and the photographer didn't know how to do it, and I was like, "That's alright, darlin', let me show you." And let me show you how to do it, so he understood. I didn't just say, I could do it and walk away. I showed him how I could do it and then he was like, "Oh, okay." 'Cause it's his head on the plate, not my head. It's his head on the plate. What else, did we want to talk about. Oh, the next question. Mm, what percentage of the time do you want a retoucher to enact their vision versus yours? Pretty much don't. The answer I got was just be in addition to what I have to do. So whatever my job is, whatever I want to create, if you can add to it and elevate it, do that, but don't swap out, don't make it yours. I have something I want to make right here, right now, so this is not your gig, this is my gig. If you can help me on my gig, make my vision, then we're all buddies. Yeah, that's a pretty good one. Now, same question, different person answering. "My approach to everything, is that I can not be an expert "in every field. "As such, I have to consult with experts and let "these experts provide their insight "and their own approach." So that particular person actually wants to hire us for our mastery. Ah, it's so nice. Instead of just do exactly what I say, they're expecting us to come to the table with something. That's pretty nice. It's getting a little rarer I'm gonna say, but it's pretty nice. Then, the third question of five, only five or six. The question was, "What are the retouchers not providing you "with that you wish they did?" And this one is saying, "Asking for/getting fully "layered files back." This photographer wants the full layered files back so that he can quickly make adjustments. So if you give 'em flat stuff and it just wants to be a little lighter say, he can't make it a little lighter, but if you gave him the layered file, he can go into the adjustment layers and make it lighter. Now, that brings up a conversation. How much leverage do you give these folks? Do ya kinda put a safety belt on 'em so they can't get in trouble? Do you give em, do you know that they are very fluent in Photoshop and they can handle a bunch of smart objects and frequency separations? You gotta think about that case by case. So, and I wanna bring up a point, because they was actually an incident, if I can call it, with this client which caused this answer. So, the photographer presumed that they were not getting fully layered files, because we were trying to withhold proprietary techniques, and so that it would make them come back to us. We weren't providing fully layered files, 'cause we knew that photographer didn't know how to use frequency separation, for example. And their likelihood of causing error in the file was high. Because there were a lot of layers. So that turned into a communication issue. We needed to communicate better, and, or train him in frequency separation, so we could provide that. A similar issue about that was a look, so do you remember we talked earlier about having a look? Do you have a look? Do you wanna have a style? This photographer, we've developed a style. So there's a plain retouched image, and then there's a smart object with an xmp, that puts the look and/or style, attached to a copy of that file. Why do we have that? You have plain retouch and you have the style. The client can then have less or more of the style. 'Cause sometimes a very illustrated looks, for example, looks great on an 8x10, but when you shrink it down, it's way too much and you really need to dial back the effect. Think of it like HDR toning, if you have too much, you wanna dial it back. So we gave him a file that was 100% flexible. He could do both with it. Only we gave him a smart object with an xmp with the code on it. That meant you could open that xmp, and there you got the secret sauce, right. Well, because he didn't understand Photoshop well enough, he didn't realize you could actually open it, and there's the secret sauce. So, he sent it to the client. So, now the client has access to his secret sauce, and the client doesn't necessarily, need to come back to him for all these looks, they could do it themselves. And he lost his cookies. I didn't realize he didn't know Photoshop well enough to know that. So these are these gray areas. And now I know, and it's like, oh okay, I need to explain more. But you don't know what you don't know. You don't know what someone else doesn't know. So, its really touchy and really interesting, and had we adhered to the non layered files, that wouldn't have been an issue. So, we are answering some of these questions with gray answers because life is gray. and some of these answers aren't. Down. Next question, or same thing? The same question. So, what are your retouchers not providing you with that they wish you did? The same photographer has a great, just nailed it, and until I saw in black white, he was saying the lack of bandwidth from my retouchers is disheartening. He was like that's your job. He goes investigate the fastest bandwidth you can. Make it quick between me and you, and I was like you're right. That is part of it. You get the fastest machine, you get the wacom tablet that best suits you, you get really good monitors, and you gotta have connections to the Internet that doesn't slow it down any more than necessary. I agree with him 100% on that. And I have to say, on some of these answers, I was like well, of course. Yeah. But evidently, it's not of course, because he has retouchers that have slow bandwidth, and then he's waiting hours for the file and I agree with him, he's not gonna hire them again. That where being professional, just an extra what? 30, $50 a month gets you that phone call instead of the other retouchers, because they know they're gonna get their stuff back quicker. Another one on what do you wish they would not do. Change naming protocol. If you can imagine, for retouchers out there in the world who are listening to this, photographers work and clients work really hard at their naming protocol because they've got a lot of images to manage. And evidently there's some retouchers out there changing those names when they deliver files. Ah! So, don't do that, and I can't believe you'd do that, but don't do that and we're going to go through this whole thing about naming files and folders and protocol to kinda assist with this to make sure that doesn't happen. I love this one. You wanna do that one? (humming) You take that, I had a different thing-- Okay, great, I'll take this one. He would rather that someone tell them right up front they're not the right person for a job. Don't take a job that's not in your wheel house, that you can't deliver. Just don't. And it's hard. It's hard to say no to a job. I've been there, and I want to share a little story about that. The first time I got called for the Speedo catalog it was offsite, it was rushed, it was a bailout job. A bailout means someone else has already started, they're not happy with it and they're trying to salvage it. So they're deadlines gone, they're budgets gone, and people are pissed off. So, uh, it's not a good situation to walk in, and it was an illustrative kind of job. Water, flowy, interpretive. I didn't take the job because I knew I couldn't deliver necessarily that they were asking for and I didn't want to be that job out of the gate, with, that would be it. I'd never work for them again. And it was too iffy. I might've pulled it off, but I didn't think so, especially given the circumstance. I got the whole catalog the next year. Now, I thought that day I turned that job down, well that's it, I'll never hear from them again. 'Cause they needed me and I said no. But he really respected that I said no, I'm not the right person for the job, and I got the catalog. That was cool. Yeah, that was nice. That's very nice. I love Kenny. So, the part I liked was what is a retoucher what do you wish a retoucher would not do? And this guy worded it he's basically said that to him it's obvious that the image should be clean top to bottom. Spot it, I shouldn't have to ask, the thing should be cleaned within an inch of its life every time. Perfectly good answer. What to me that means is it's time to have a Q and A with them, and with their everyone, before every job. And this is where Lisa is stellar. She will have this conversation without fail. I am learning it. This is something new I'm learning. When you get the job and before you start the job, ask 'em how far do you want this spotted, how far do you want this retouched? So, he's not getting that kind of return that he thinks should automatically come. And it's on me, that's part of my job to ask how far do you want? He said they assumed that every retoucher goes through every single millimeter of the piece and looks at it in spots. And it's the assuming part on both, so that was a good one. When would you consider having a retoucher on set? And pretty much, it's really interesting, pretty much everyone's like yeah, it's a budget issue. They just have to see the value of it. So, my job as a retoucher and business is I have to ensure that people see the value of what I do. And that's a tricky one. How do I explain to a photographer that hey, honey, you might not pick the right lens? That's not very nice to say, or coverage. So it's a really tricky balancing act for me to try to explain how much I'm there to assist them, and to make them look like a hero, like I'm on their side. I'm not gonna make 'em look bad, I'm there to assist. So that's a tough one, but this one was great about the paralyzing client. Want me to take that? Yeah, let me just add one other thing. When would you consider having retoucher on set? And it's when we do our job correctly. You didn't see it go wrong, you just see it go right. To puff ourselves out, we have to say here's why it went right. Remember when we had that checklist and we covered everything, and you thought we were done when you had the image you wanted? You changed your mind and you wanted it to have this other image because of this checklist. Didn't we have what we wanted? Everyone's a winner. And you kinda gotta point that out sometimes. So you never know how bad it coulda gone wrong because they just see the good stuff. I'm not fantastic at that all the time. Yeah. It's a learning curve. So, just to give a contrary point of view, and I thought this was fascinating 'cause this never occurred to me was that the comment is is I suppose it could paralyze a client in terms of making decisions, and as quickly, as often as needed. So it doesn't happen often, but when you are, I'm pretty fast on set, and this was from a guy I work with a lot on set, and if someone says I want it blue, I can make it blue like that. I'm quick, I've got some chops to me. What he found very rarely is sometimes what he ended up having was a client goes okay blue, okay red, oh how about green? Oh God. Oh. Can you turn it around? And it was these clients making 100 decisions because we were moving so fast and it took the client out of the process. And this client that he had actually worked better in a more analog. Okay, we were shooting this. And so, I think it's more about knowing who your client is, and if we are a hindrance, don't have us there. Don't. So you've gotta make those kinda decisions, as well. I would always like to be there, but I might not always be the right person. Anyway, I just thought it was really interesting-- If the client is paralyzed with too many options, it's up to us, we should be good enough at this point to recognize that, and skew our, yeah. Stop talking and yeah. Well, give nine, you 'em two. Do you like this one better or this one better? You coddle him a little bit. I don't wanna say dumb it down, but you make it a little simpler. I think that's, you just brought up a really good point. Reading the room, and being able to read your clients. We do a lot of that. A lot of okay, we're proceeding, okay. Things are going south right now. All right, there's some panic going on. We need to take care of folk's emotional state, because you gotta imagine, people's careers are on the line. There's a lot of money involved, and folks want to keep their jobs. And so a lot of our job is to keep people calm, isn't it? Yeah. It's all right, we got it, everything's okay. And part of that is folks don't want to make the wrong decision. So, that's where we come in and say okay, half a percent one way or the other isn't gonna save this or bomb it. So, let's stay here but let's give 'em some really wacko to the right, and really wacko to the left. Now you got three. You give that to your client and let them decide. That gets them off the hook. There's a bunch of those little scenarios that we do often. There are a few retouchers that we know of that we love dearly that have some bad social skills, and I think we need to talk about this. So sometimes, you have retouchers who like to explain every step they're doing. Okay, so I'm gonna use this lightning curve and then I'm gonna use the hue saturation, and then what I'm gonna do is do a channel pull, and oh my heavens, clients don't want to hear that, especially on a shoot. No, they don't need, no, none of this. They just do your job, and keep it simple. That happens. There are also retouchers who will comment on the quality of the design. Oh, who did that? This design's terrible. Who made this decision? Can you imagine? And this is usually an agency work. They'll be walking by someone else's job and they'll comment. Those people don't get called back very often, by the way. I'm just gonna let you know, because we're all in this together, and you don't need to pan on the guy next to you. And mind your manners. Right, mind your manners. And on that note, on social media you will find that there are folks who in our industry, the industry I'm referring to when I say our industry, it's not just retouching. I'm really speaking about entertainment. Who will pan on other shop's design and say oh my God, who did the poster for X, whatever that is. It's horrible. Now how is that retoucher expected to be hired by that agency when you panned on their work? You don't do it, you mind your manners. It may be 100% accurate that that is the worst piece of unlovely artwork there is out there-- Not your place to say anything. Not your place. Isn't there something about using a pond as a restroom? Don't use your pond as a restroom. There's a vulgar way of saying it, which I will absolutely not say. But keep your house clean. Keep your area clean. Don't make a mess in your own area. Just play nice. Kindergarten rules.

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