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Photo Retouching "Improving" photos, post-production, correction, etc.

Trade secrets.

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  #1  
Old 12-14-2012, 07:32 AM
Gratin Gratin is offline
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Trade secrets.

Shameful attention grabbing title, but "Are people more likely to accept advice if it's complicated?" wouldn't fit

I've been browsing the forum for a fair while, and felt compelled to sign up to ask the above question. This is a great resource for budding retouchers and photographers alike, but the more I read the more I feel that sound advice is swept aside because people refuse to believe that the techniques used to make the images they wish to replicate are so simple (Sorry for the mouthful). It seems like a never ending search for a trade secret that professionals use and won't share, when all it often comes down to is a matter of experience.

'Deconstruct' threads are often predicated by 'And don't just say lighting' or similar, which whilst I can see the point of filtering out the obvious (And no-one likes a thread full of "Just good lighting bro"), is sometimes implying that the secret to the images success is in some retouch dark art that they're not privy too.

The frequency separation is an excellent example of this. It's a reasonably complicated procedure that can give you a lot of control, it's certainly nothing you would accidentally stumble across in Photoshop without a pretty good knowledge of the various tools it uses. Now any advice on how skin is done is immediately met with 'They probably used frequency separation', when I'd bet 9 times out of 10, it's just bog standard D&B with a bit of healing. Doesn't sound quite so glamorous or secretive, but it's still the most widely used technique in pretty much all good skin retouching. I'm not hating on FreQ Sep here just to be clear, just that it seems to be accepted as good advice because it's complicated, not because it's what has actually been used.

Same for colour. I'm sure some would be astonished at what can be done with nothing more than a Curve and a Hue/Sat layer, or heck even just a Curve on it's own. Both for skin colour or global tone. And I'm certainly not saying everyone only uses these methods because they clearly dont, but people seem more receptive to colour advice if it involved a Gradient Map with a billion points set to Soft Light at 15% opacity, with a clipped Solid Fill set to Colour at 8% and the Blend If sliders split every which way possible. Likewise people are more likely to pass on this advice than something simple.

This could in all likelihood be nothing more than a rant from someone who's clearly not seeing the same thing as the rest of you, but if you're someone who finds themselves constantly searching for new techniques and still not getting the results you want, some simple advice. Stick to the basics and do them over and over and over and over again until you get good at them. And take a little time to understand why your tools do the things they do. Don't just know an S-Curve adds contrast, understand why it does. Knowing how a single Curve works in Photoshop is I swear to god one of the most useful things you'll ever learn. There really aren't many secrets!
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  #2  
Old 12-14-2012, 07:49 AM
SBeli SBeli is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

People should be know that professional retouchers work with professional photographers, models, MUAs.... and this starts with a good image

If you want to check it, look for a before&after and play with it...
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  #3  
Old 12-14-2012, 10:23 AM
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Steve Conway Steve Conway is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

[
Interesting "take" on working with images, however I suspect that the majority of those engaged in this are doing it as a hobby.

Hence most of us merely skim the surface of any given program to accomplish our goals.

For those wishing to sell artwork or work as an artist are the ones who probably will benefit from your advice the most.

The rest of us will have hours of relaxing discovery, and may come up with a few things that are marketable, but if they only serve to please us we are satisfied.

Steve C.

QUOTE=Gratin;313092]Shameful attention grabbing title, but "Are people more likely to accept advice if it's complicated?" wouldn't fit

I've been browsing the forum for a fair while, and felt compelled to sign up to ask the above question. This is a great resource for budding retouchers and photographers alike, but the more I read the more I feel that sound advice is swept aside because people refuse to believe that the techniques used to make the images they wish to replicate are so simple (Sorry for the mouthful). It seems like a never ending search for a trade secret that professionals use and won't share, when all it often comes down to is a matter of experience.

'Deconstruct' threads are often predicated by 'And don't just say lighting' or similar, which whilst I can see the point of filtering out the obvious (And no-one likes a thread full of "Just good lighting bro"), is sometimes implying that the secret to the images success is in some retouch dark art that they're not privy too.

The frequency separation is an excellent example of this. It's a reasonably complicated procedure that can give you a lot of control, it's certainly nothing you would accidentally stumble across in Photoshop without a pretty good knowledge of the various tools it uses. Now any advice on how skin is done is immediately met with 'They probably used frequency separation', when I'd bet 9 times out of 10, it's just bog standard D&B with a bit of healing. Doesn't sound quite so glamorous or secretive, but it's still the most widely used technique in pretty much all good skin retouching. I'm not hating on FreQ Sep here just to be clear, just that it seems to be accepted as good advice because it's complicated, not because it's what has actually been used.

Same for colour. I'm sure some would be astonished at what can be done with nothing more than a Curve and a Hue/Sat layer, or heck even just a Curve on it's own. Both for skin colour or global tone. And I'm certainly not saying everyone only uses these methods because they clearly dont, but people seem more receptive to colour advice if it involved a Gradient Map with a billion points set to Soft Light at 15% opacity, with a clipped Solid Fill set to Colour at 8% and the Blend If sliders split every which way possible. Likewise people are more likely to pass on this advice than something simple.

This could in all likelihood be nothing more than a rant from someone who's clearly not seeing the same thing as the rest of you, but if you're someone who finds themselves constantly searching for new techniques and still not getting the results you want, some simple advice. Stick to the basics and do them over and over and over and over again until you get good at them. And take a little time to understand why your tools do the things they do. Don't just know an S-Curve adds contrast, understand why it does. Knowing how a single Curve works in Photoshop is I swear to god one of the most useful things you'll ever learn. There really aren't many secrets![/QUOTE]
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  #4  
Old 12-14-2012, 02:50 PM
Gratin Gratin is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Conway View Post
Interesting "take" on working with images, however I suspect that the majority of those engaged in this are doing it as a hobby.

Hence most of us merely skim the surface of any given program to accomplish our goals.

For those wishing to sell artwork or work as an artist are the ones who probably will benefit from your advice the most.

The rest of us will have hours of relaxing discovery, and may come up with a few things that are marketable, but if they only serve to please us we are satisfied.

Steve C.
No doubt, Steve But I think you may be slightly missing the reason I posted this.

I don't think topic is reserved for those who do this for a living, exactly the opposite, it's the hobbyists I had primarily in mind. Those who see professional work and mostly due to skimming the surface as you put it, struggle to replicate the results. If you do this a few times it's only natural to think you're missing a technique or trick somewhere. When you hear a solution that is particularly complicated it seems more plausible that's what the pro's do.

Many will be here just to occasionally pick up the odd tidbit to improve with no commercial purpose for doing so, but whatever their reason for reading/posting/deconstructing, my point is that the techniques are often incredibly simple, and the only thing that separates hobbyist work from the pro's (if performed on the same image) is the result of experience of those techniques. Not their complexity.
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  #5  
Old 12-14-2012, 04:25 PM
eraanexact eraanexact is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gratin View Post
...the techniques are often incredibly simple, and the only thing that separates hobbyist work from the pro's (if performed on the same image) is the result of experience of those techniques. Not their complexity.
Gratin, this is spot on. Speaking from twelve years of professional experience wherein retouching has been my sole source of income, this is a solid summation. Practice is everything.
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  #6  
Old 12-15-2012, 08:34 AM
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Steve Conway Steve Conway is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

OK, valid points all.

As for me, since I don't sell my work, I don't work on a project that requires many steps and a lot of finesse to complete. Part of the enjoyment is finding the less tedious road to travel to the same destination. The exception to this are the videos I do for posting on You Tube. These take time.

And as you know, the steps that work so well on one photo will be junk on another.

Steve C.
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  #7  
Old 12-15-2012, 01:52 PM
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Aladdin Aladdin is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

@Gratin and others. I agree 100%, it is the lack of knowledge of Photoshop or whatever other editing software that creates this aura of mystery surrounding the "secret" techniques.

It takes 4 clicks in LR (2 clicks & 2 drags in ACR) and under 2 minutes in either to create this dreamy glowing effect with yellowish/greenish tint (split tone) that every day some one or another ask "how to create this surreal creamy effect?"

Problem is, no one knows those 4 clicks! Why? because people afraid to experiment! afraid to "try" something, people stick to what they know and feel comfortable in their comfort zone, afraid to venture out and try few things.

I have many retouch DVDs, one of them stands out, "Calvinize" by Calvin Hollywood, he has AMAZING work, and yet, so simple, none of his techniques is more than few steps that you can count on one hand with a missing finger! and to push the envelop even further, he advocates "experimentation" and dedicates major portion of his edit time to "play" around and see what you get.

unfortunately, people do not want to think outside the box and get to know their tools. I see it every winter, people with big A$$ SUVs get stuck in 2 inch of snow! go figure. Why? because they don't know or want to get to know their car and that if you move the darn stick from "D" for drive to L1 "first gear" this would give you more torque than speed and this is what will get you out of snow! people are so animated, get the key out, open door, stick key into ignition, turn key to right and go, they don't want to learn anything else and yet, complain they can't get the darn car out of snow even though they spent $40,000 on a brand new SUV.

It is the TOOLS stupid! learn your tools, there is no secret! but, for reasonable amount of money, I will be welling to show you how
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  #8  
Old 12-16-2012, 01:52 AM
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Repairman Repairman is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

Never mind the toolset, it comes down to artistic ability; if you can't 'mentally' edit an image you will struggle with the execution, however sophisticated the software. Learn to make a decent mask, tweak a curve and deliver the goods on time you won't go far wrong as a retoucher. Oh, and a good working knowledge of the processes involved both before and after you get your hands on the image will be far more useful than 90% of the PS tools!
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  #9  
Old 12-17-2012, 03:47 AM
Jon10 Jon10 is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

I do't think this is just specific to retouchers - I think it's a human condition, where people want to know the 'hidden secrets' to any kind of activity - they don't seem to be able to accept that the people who are 'good' at that activity are pretty-much self-taught. By self-taught, I mean that they've actively taken responsibility for driving their own development and learning, through trial and error, research and sheer volume of practice. They may have picked things up from teachers along the way, but they haven't sat back passively and waited for someone else to educate them, but rather have been proactive in their learning.

I've played guitar for years and you see exactly the same thing on guitar forums - 'show me the best resources for learning to play xxxxxx style' - it never seems to occur to people to buy the records and spend years learning to play by ear.....they want a shortcut to get the end results without putting in the hard work.

For me this is one of the two things that separates someone who is really good at any activity; firstly, they enjoy the learning process as much as achieving the end result - practice = fun; secondly; they set themselves high standards which are constantly changing as their abilities improve, so they're always striving to produce better work.
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  #10  
Old 12-20-2012, 03:50 PM
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plugsnpixels plugsnpixels is offline
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Re: Trade secrets.

This situation (lack of proactive effort and inquisitiveness in any given field) has not been helped by the explosion of mobile apps for every task under the sun. Even Apple is chasing the basic consumer (while simplifying their OS and even desktop applications) and leaving pros behind. This creates a population of low-level data consumers rather than higher functioning content producers.

I work in higher education (IT) and see students take the easy approach (asking me questions rather than experimenting) all the time. The Help menu in any app is like cryptonite! When I have a technical problem I have to try different things, Google it, check tech forums, etc.
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