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

Best degree/academic background for retouching?

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Old 08-30-2016, 10:34 PM
Doug Nelson's Avatar
Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Re: Best degree/academic background for retouching

Every high-end retoucher I've ever interviewed had a background in fine arts before getting interested in retouching. Usually drawing or painting, but not necessarily (Chris Tarantino studied music).
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Old 08-31-2016, 11:19 AM
Profesh Profesh is offline
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Re: Best degree/academic background for retouching

Originally Posted by klev View Post
No it wouldn't. That would be a complete waste of money. The basic techniques are very simple. If you attend classes or workshops, these will cost a significant amount of money due to the cost of vetting instructors and renting a space. I can't think of anything that would justify it, and no one will ever care if they award a certificate.

I know two areas where people get stuck and/or plateau at a very high rate. The first is mechanical. I don't know if you're using a mouse or a wacom tablet, but you should be able to draw a decent circle, a straight line, and a smooth arc with little effort. Retouching work includes some amount of detail, and I find these to work as a basic sanity check. Generally you don't want to zoom in past 100% whenever possible, so if your dexterity isn't there, this will become much more difficult. Once you're able to pass that basic sanity check (if you can't right away, practice 10 minutes a day consistently for a month or two), learn to mask really really well using both the pen tool and something like quickmask for soft layer masks. It's one of the most important fundamental skills, and it's much easier if the dexterity is already there.

The second area is really judgement. You would probably learn more from illustration courses that focus heavily on rendering smooth detail. You also need some domain knowledge, meaning that you should understand basic anatomy if you're going to retouch images of people. You should look at jewelry if you're going to work on that. You will be surprised how much this helps your work.

On the subject of judgement, you should spend some time analyzing other work. People regularly post on here asking "how do I get these colors" or whatever variation on that. It helps to look at this work, because you develop a sense for times where the color used for a dress, lips, or a car would have required a somewhat different treatment than the rest of the image.

Some basic 3D knowledge is probably essential at this point. You don't need to understand a lot of it as the tools change. A lot of modern tools are slowly displacing things like UV mapping and stuff. It is however a skill that many shops will incorporate at this point. The older professional labs and things aren't really doing all that well at this point. As for maya a student license is free for non-commercial work (anything where you aren't accepting payment for that work or derivative work for any reason).
I shan't elaborate on the above, except to say that taking the time to develop a robust technical foundation in colour-theory has improved my workflow considerably.
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Old 08-31-2016, 07:58 PM
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Aladdin Aladdin is offline
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Re: Best degree/academic background for retouching

Retouch is about Color, texture, composition, harmony, Light, advertising (yes, it is form of advertising), film editing, etc, etc

Study any of the above to widen your horizon, you don't need any, but, it will be of great help to have strong back ground in subject listed above. Then, as it was mentioned, practice, practice and practice some more.
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Old 09-06-2016, 09:09 AM
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Benny Profane Benny Profane is offline
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Re: Best degree/academic background for retouching

Originally Posted by Doug Nelson View Post
Every high-end retoucher I've ever interviewed had a background in fine arts before getting interested in retouching. Usually drawing or painting, but not necessarily (Chris Tarantino studied music).
You never interviewed me. I have a five year degree in English with a minor in decadence.

To answer the OP, do as much retouching as possible, but, commercially, because you need the pressure of a deadline to define yourself as a pro. Anybody can sit there and perfect a picture for days, but, when you have to have it done yesterday, that will teach you not to be a doodling schoolboy anymore. And DO NOT scoff at the necessity of learning 3D. That will seperate you from the rest of the people who think they're retouchers because somebody who doesn't really retouch professionally told them they were after accepting a high fee for photoshop instruction in one of their workshops/courses. They're becoming a dime a dozen, but, a good 3D technician can name his/her price. Yes, it's hard to learn, but, if you want easy, try being a barista.
The video instruction on this site is an excellent resource for learning the craft, btw, and a good value. Chris Tarintino's are awesome. The guy is a masking savant.
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Old 10-08-2016, 06:07 PM
Keven Keven is offline
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Re: Best degree/academic background for retouching

Hey, just wanted to thank everyone for the help and suggestions. Sorry for the late reply; have been really busy.

I also wanted to say that I have been hired (almost certain; need to prove my skills, but won't be difficult) as a full-time retoucher for a photographer.

Regarding the topic, while a formal degree would have been good, I think I will instead focus on really improving my skills (Photoshop, photography and general understanding of light, anatomy, colour, etc). That, combined with buying and diligently studying Ben Willmore's Photoshop courses. After that, repeat, repeat and repeat.

Cheers and good luck!
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