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How far is to far?

Posted 02-09-2008 at 10:58 AM by cricket1961
Updated 02-09-2008 at 01:59 PM by cricket1961

Recently I was working on an image for a client. I was doing my normal everyday skin work to some models who had devastating skin. As I was working, a question that a attendee to my Las Vegas retouching class asked popped into my mind.

How do you know when to much has been done? Is there ever a clear way to know when to stop retouching an image?

Its a great question and one that a lot of retouchers ponder over probably daily. It is also a question that has no easy answer.

Some Photographers like freckles and some don't. Is the mole on the check supposed to be there? Is it the Models trademark? Does smooth skin mean NO texture or pores? It is also not necessary to remove ALL the hair on a face in hi-end retouching. As long as it is just light peach fuzz though!

First thing that comes to mind is that you do whatever the Photographer wants. He does after all have creative control over the image. Sometimes along with a creative director. Either way, the RETOUCHER has little to say in the matter unfortunately.

Unless the Retoucher has a long standing relationship with the Photographer or Creative Director, the retoucher needs to just do what is asked and try to get a feel over time for what the final goal is. This can take quite a while, sometimes a couple of years, very rarely in a couple of months. At that point the retoucher can voice thoughts over artistic direction and they might be listened to.

One thing that surprises me a lot, even after all my years in the business, is that sometimes the Photographer (rarely) and often a Creative Director gets so used to "crappy" retouching that when they get good retouching they don't know what to do. All of a sudden they are seeing on FIRST show what they usually see after the THIRD or FOURTH show. And this throws them for a loop because they FEEL THAT THEY NEED to mark something up. They will study the image for a while, and finally mark up something that is not really wrong with the image but starts to lean the picture back towards what they were so used to getting. And didn't really like, hence the use of a new retoucher. Call it their normal comfort zone.

So now an image that looks good and needs minor work has headed down the road to looking way over retouched. Something that is different than the original intention.

This has happened to me to many times over the years and has lead to some images that I am not so proud of. But it is a reality in the industry. It has also lead me to make sure that I get as much information about what needs to be done ahead of time. Lack of direction and wrong assumptions are very bad practices in Retouching.
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  1. Old Comment
    briarrose's Avatar
    Fantastic post--thank you so much for sharing it with us!
    Posted 02-09-2008 at 01:38 PM by briarrose briarrose is offline
  2. Old Comment
    the "NEED" to mark something up is quite annoying when you run into it, it's too bad someone has to justify their job and make unnecessary changes to an image...
    Posted 02-10-2008 at 12:45 PM by pixelzombie pixelzombie is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Markzebra's Avatar
    Ive learned too that its a bad thing to get general brief, or worse a brief that is just ... "lets see what you can do". May SEEM like a compliment but it rarely works out that way. fact is most photographers have a fairly clear idea in their head what they want before they send it out, whether consciously or unconsciously. Trying to get an idea what their vision IS .. well lets just say bore them with questions, its easier to type emails than it is to do a reatouch 5 times. Least is is for me.
    Posted 02-13-2008 at 04:53 PM by Markzebra Markzebra is offline
  4. Old Comment
    cricket1961's Avatar
    Excellent advice Mark. Sometimes, as impersonal as email is, its still the best way to get knowledge of what to do down on paper.

    Posted 02-13-2008 at 06:14 PM by cricket1961 cricket1961 is offline
  5. Old Comment
    shellby's Avatar
    I find that if there are a load of images to do say over a week or two for one client, at the start of the week you get lots of mark-ups BUT as the deadline nears the mark-ups become less as they know time is running out!
    Posted 02-16-2008 at 02:24 PM by shellby shellby is offline
  6. Old Comment
    cricket1961's Avatar
    Sometimes that is definitely true Shelby. I have found that that is the case mostly with Photographers and Art Directors who have been in the business for a while and have a clue.
    Posted 02-16-2008 at 09:58 PM by cricket1961 cricket1961 is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Markzebra's Avatar
    Yep, the ones that are newer and think that Photoshop is just a question of pushing some buttons, "lets try it out smoother even, we'll see what it looks like, then you can still take it back if we've gone too far" -"oh forgot to say, take her hair off her shoulder, and we need it for tonight". Don't realise they are compromising the quality of what they are going to get with last minute instructions.

    Had a job weekend before last where somehow found I'd agreed amoung other things to do 60 composite retouches in a weekend! was up all night. Try and make sure you still get payed by the hour.
    Posted 02-17-2008 at 02:06 PM by Markzebra Markzebra is offline

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