Go Back   RetouchPRO > Business > Work/Jobs
Register Blogs FAQ Site Nav Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Work/Jobs Talk about the business side of things. Advice, questions, inspiration, and moral support

Are retoucher's a dying breed?

Thread Tools
Old 03-02-2007, 02:58 PM
videosean videosean is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Columbus, OH
Posts: 115
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

Re: Ant and Cricket1961

A lot of truth in both of your words IMO... and I only see these things from the relatively uninformed outside looking in. I think that anyone that spends a good amount of time looking for work will see that most employers simply do not want someone who only knows Photoshop. It's seen a a valued extra even in some general office work ads I've seen.

Good artists (regardless of what their art is) are generally not respected or appreciated enough and I'm not so sure that's a sign of the times.
Many people DO think it's all easy and should be done for peanuts because of digital and computers in general. I think that you always get what you pay for and if you have unrealistic expectations that's your fault. There's no such thing as a one-click fix that will work for everything but I often get the impression that a lot of people think that's how it is.

I don't consider myself an artist. I'm a geek/dork with artistic tendencies, poor social skills, mid-range intellect and the ability to amuse myself by finding missing pieces, fixing something broken or just making something better than it was before I got ahold of it. I didn't grow up around art, photography or with money. One day I got a job at a photo lab because it was the only thing that had come my way in 3 weeks that I didn't think would drive me insane 2 weeks into it... and I haven't been the same since

Sorry if I got a little soapboxy
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-02-2007, 04:03 PM
mche mche is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 14
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

I just wanted to know what other people are going through in this ever evolving industry. Over the years, I have seen alot of excellent craftsmen become dinosaurs within a matter of months, myself included. Yes, I am behind the times with the newest trends and got blind sided by a corporate merger. Basically, spent too many thankless nights preparing victoria's secret for submit. I can not blame anyone because it's just business as usual, but when you've made a living doing something that you love, get caught in the cross hairs, and no access to all the work produced for clients....well, it gets sort of rough. Thanks for your responses, just wanted to know what's going on and Ant...hey, I had to take my frustrations out on someone and your snarky response pulled the switch. But at least you were honest....I know your good at what you do. Take care and no harm was meant. I think it's time for me to pack my bags and ride off into the sunset.
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-03-2007, 01:20 AM
Gary Richardson's Avatar
Gary Richardson Gary Richardson is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Yorkshire, England
Posts: 2,717
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

I think it's time for me to pack my bags and ride off into the sunset.
Or conversely you could stay here and give others the benefit of your skill and experience. I'm sure it would be appreciated.
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-03-2007, 07:02 AM
skydog's Avatar
skydog skydog is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Carolina
Posts: 1,293
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

A few comments and questions...
Define a high end retoucher...what are their skills vs. a non-high end retoucher? What does a high-end retoucher retouch? Models? For magazines? Does one take a test to be a qualified retoucher? Again what are the skills? I can imagine a high end retoucher has a unique touch. Someone creative. Someone who can deliver a quality product quickly. Some one that can provide a unique look? Just curious.

When I think of photography and touching, I first think of film. Digital has really taken off during the last 5 to 10 years. Before that it was film. Processing film took time. Today I can go out and take 1000 digial pics in a few hours. In the past, with film, every shot counted and cost. Then there was the post processing. I'm sure there are those who have been in a dark room dodging and burning with light and a piece of paper at the end of a pencil. The "film" retoucher was indeed a very respected artist - trust me, I was not one of those. Times are now a skills must be learned by us old dinosaurs..or we will die or get close to Minolta and Kodak. It appears to me, that there is a new breed of retouchers: those that can retouch digital and can effectively use the tools like photoshop.

More skills more possibilities.

I admire those who pursue photography and retouching or any other art as a full time means of employment. .
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-03-2007, 02:44 PM
mche mche is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 14
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?


From what I've seen on the forum, you guy's are far ahead of me.
Besides, after viewing Chris Tarantino's site, I'm convinced that
RP has benefitted from someone that has carried on a tradition of
excellence in the retouching arena. Darn, should have been here sooner.
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-03-2007, 03:01 PM
CJ Swartz's Avatar
CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Metro Phoenix area, Arizona
Posts: 3,344
Blog Entries: 19
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

Originally Posted by mche
... Darn, should have been here sooner.

There's plenty of room in this internet "town" for "the two of you" or even many more -- the more knowledgeable people around, the more the rest can learn, and you can find plenty to do with your skills here!
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-17-2007, 12:57 PM
stockriderman stockriderman is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Toronto Canada
Posts: 8
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

A lot of photographers now know how to do retouching. I've seen good and bad. As high end retoucher,you have to be way above them,to show it's worth paying you. For what I've seen in my area and field,there are way too many wanna-be retouchers who aren't even good.
A lot of photographers now have photoshop and are able to adjust brightness/saturation and do basic skin adjustments. Not a lot however can mess with backgrounds,eyes,futuristic effects(eg. sin city or any movie posters). Not a lot have wacom tablets,which are a must with retouchers. There are many noobs out there who think mouse is the best tool..
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-17-2007, 04:27 PM
stevebarrett's Avatar
stevebarrett stevebarrett is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: San Francisco Bay Area (Antioch, California)
Posts: 20
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

Some thoughts. Sorry for rambling.

In the end it is the Advertising Creative or Art director who makes the final decisions on an images. They want more control over creative and cost.

Some do all or part of the compositing work themselves, if they have the skill, leaving the color work for production retouchers.

Some try to get all of the retouching done by the photographer, if possible. There is more money budgeted for creative retouching work. Though, I have heard that some art directors exhaust photographers and their retouching teams, squeezing out every penny.

Print producers still have a lot of respect for prepress retouchers, because they direct the work to us and are the one's responsible for the printed image. Although, there is a lot more competition for less and less of this work, since color profiling has arrived.

In general advertising retouching, my peers and I have worked on many projects from the best commercial photographers, where we have taken the photographer's RAW files or RGB digital selects and have restarted the project from scratch. Usually, the problems are a combination of bad Photoshop compositing, color work, impossible subjects, creative differences (between the photographer and the AD), or changes made by the Creative Director or client.

These images eventually convert to CMYK. Product color matching, ink densities, black only shadows, newsprint UCR are always tough to tackle. Color profiling is getting better, but CMYK retouchers are needed to answer many problems.

Art directors oversee these minute retouching and color issues.


There is a constant tug of war between creative and production retouching. Some agencies have taken some or all retouching in house. Many haven't because large companies can handle high volume retouching, turning it around overnight.


There is much more job competition now. In the past three years, we have lost two high end scanner operators. These guys truly understand color better than most retouchers hired for their compositing skills. Getting to contract color is expected by our clients and these guys get there faster.

Since good retouching is a combination of artistic compositing AND color, you can rarely find both in the same person. You now have to try to attain both skills or you are left behind. Although, being a great artist will NOW overshadow being a great technician.


There are just more people doing this type of work, because the technical barriers have crumbled. Retouching will be around for many years to come, but more artistic types will be able to survive the changes.

This happened with photography and illustration. Many left those fields altogether, after the digital age started effecting them. The more creative ones who could learn computers and adapt have moved into retouching design, art direction or computer graphics.

If you are more of a technical retoucher or color operator, taking art and drawing classes, learning perspective, 3D, typography, design, layout etc. will help you survive.

If you are the artistic type, study color theory, take prepress and printing production classes.

Everyone should know Photoshop and expose themselves to Illustrator, InDesign, Quark and some 3D programs. Learn from each another while you are together. Hopefully you will help each other survive the changes.

Reply With Quote top
Old 03-29-2007, 08:46 AM
DBizzzaro DBizzzaro is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: New York
Posts: 14
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

My experience and thoughts

I think older retouchers are a dying breed. ( no pun intended). A little about myself first. Started Photo restoration (before the pixel was even invented) . Most of this was done using an airbrush. Moved on to commercial retouching B&W for newspaper, Dye transfer, C-Print and some illustration work. There were skills involved you could only learn as an apprentice and you still needed a strong art background. There were maybe 100 retouchers in NYC back then. Making a very good living. Minimum was $50.00 to $350.00 per hour.
Then the pixel was invented, I held out as long as I could. Went to learn the Quantel Paint box, Shima Seki, Hell Combi. Barco Creator. and now
Mac Photoshop.
I worked for 4 different companys and they all were sold or went out of business due to mergers. I was let go after 6 years due to a merger and also because they relized they could hire 2 people for what they were paying me. It took 3 months to find a job. I making less then I was making.
I think they still need retouchers and Photoshop has made alot of competition and the price agencys and employees are willing to pay have come down alot. There is no such thing as a retouching studio, They need to have scanners, output devices, billboard ect. ect. to stay in business.
Retouching has been good to me and there were alot of good and fun years. Present I'm working at Marcus and Indranii studio.

High end retouching is still alive.

Dan Bizzaro
Reply With Quote top
Old 03-29-2007, 07:59 PM
aaa1retouchskil aaa1retouchskil is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 7
Re: Are retoucher's a dying breed?

I'm a new member. I have to say that stevebarret is a gentleman and a scholar and it was such a pleasure to read his post.

I started retouching back in the day, used mornicks, calculated exposures with light candles on huge prints ... in a darkroom, all in a small city between New York and Washington. There were too many studios to count and although it wasn't the big city I was a hot retouch artist. Call it intuition or providence but somewhere around 1993 while studio after studio closed down I felt the only way to go, for me, was to return to school.

Playing both sides of the isle I majored in illustration but insisted that I take as many digital oriented courses as I could juggle.

By 2000 I kept hearing that illustration was a dying art because of the digital explosion. Maybe it's my "seeing the glass as half full" tendency but I saw a need on the horizon for a combination of the two. I had no idea at the time that manga, animation and 3D would breath life back into illustration on tv, comics the game industry.... at this point — you name it.

Right after graduation I recall freelancing at one of remaining local agencies. It was the first time I heard the words clipping path. I knew Illustrator like the back of my hand and paths were my friend. My rates were high and there was no way I was going to act like I had no idea what they were talking about. Keeping my cool, I watched, listened then ran home at lunch time and ravaged the internet to find out what they were expecting me to accomplish. I survived by figuring it out.

Very recently while working on a freelance retouching project, an art director complained to me, "how hard is it to get these retouchers to put together a decent clipping path." I know that there are fabulous retouchers that still don't know what this means. And I hope like me they too are running out on their lunch hours to find out. This week I read a post here from someone who turned down a job because they were missing a very simple pre-press skill. I would have moved mountains to find out how to address the missing skill and accepted that job.

Like Steve, I agree that you have to keep learning. Reconcile with the fact that just ahead there are 3 new softwares to master. When the manga rage hit, I hated it and resented that more than likely the beautiful illustrations of old might be of no interest to anyone. But having basic skills I had to decide
— adjust my attitude and embrace it or forget it. Or better yet use my creativity and make it work.

The good news is that once onboard with learning new skills — Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash... the upcoming software is similar in principle. Sometimes I think it is a matter of welcoming that we don't know everything and that it's ok even if we are accomplished to ask questions or look for answers. I acknowledge this must be extremely difficult for anyone who was worshiped as being the most knowledgeable and accomplished.

My son just graduated from if not the best, the most expensive recording art technical institutes. Having many reasons to smile while attending his graduation in Florida, one of my biggest grins came from hearing a final remark, "remember, never stop learning, never stop asking questions." This remark from a state of the art school whose tuition is $45,000. per year and they even concede how difficult it is keeping up with the latest technology.

We are not alone.

Oh and a freeing thing happened while accumulating all this new information, gear, technology, ftp's wacoms, toasters, modems, books, voip systems, portfolios, artwork, printers, scanners, websites, plug-ins... whew — I discovered that there was no room left for my ego. Well maybe it does still exist, but I'm either too busy learning or it's just too hard to locate under all this stuff.

Reply With Quote top

  RetouchPRO > Business > Work/Jobs

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
? for the High End Retouchers jenniferfrances Photo Retouching 6 10-07-2007 01:28 PM
Hiring freelance retouchers to work from home trixixco Classifieds 4 08-12-2007 01:34 PM
Advice from NYC retouchers Little Fisher Work/Jobs 6 06-07-2007 11:11 PM
Looking for retouchers in USA, Canada and UK NickGR Classifieds 5 01-15-2006 10:09 AM
Retouchers And Photo Art Experts Wanted pkanaly Classifieds 0 03-30-2005 10:43 AM

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 12:35 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
SEO by vBSEO ©2011, Crawlability, Inc.
Copyright © 2016 Doug Nelson. All Rights Reserved