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The life of a professional retoucher

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  #11  
Old 09-14-2011, 09:27 PM
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

I began my career as a traditional retoucher, doing negative retouching, work prints (photographs), using sprays and colored pencils, frisket and airbrushing - all for the purpose of scanning the final art (conventional in-camera separation) for print reproduction.

This of course, evolved into an electronic function, and I was fortunate to work for a company and an owner, who rode the digital wave - and was intent upon being at the forefront of all new technologies.

I was the first electronic retoucher in the Pittsburgh area. After a considerable financial investment on the company's part and an extensive training investment in me (6-8 week stints in places like GlenRock, NJ, Burnsville, MN and Watford, England) I established and maintained Pittsburgh’s first, digital retouching resource. Nicknamed “Moonbase”, the department housed a Crosfield Drum Scanner, 3 Dicomed Imaginator Retouch Workstations, File Servers (reel to reel tapes and climate controlled rooms) and Digital Film Recorders.

As a premier retouching resource, we serviced accounts nationally, offering the very best in retouching and image editing services. Some of our clients included Stouffers, National Geographic and the Franklin Mint.

As the department and technology changed, Macintosh Workstations were added and Photoshop was incorporated into the mix. As Macintoshes capabilities, speed and firepower expanded and Adobe’s Photoshop evolved with added capability and functionality, the proprietary workstations were phased out and all work was done in a streamlined, Macintosh based, desktop work environment.

As a retoucher, I saw the industry evolve from it's early slow-motion days to today's real-time, speed capabilities. To think that I once worked on a Scitex machine that took hours to rotate an image - and was ironically named "The Blaze". In the early days, I worked on many top secret projects which required me to sign many non-disclosure agreements. I worked on the first Saturn car to be in a printed advertisement - before the company opened. Today it is closed. I did the first bald Larry Bird Ad Campaign for Lays Potato Chips (he lost a bet about "eating just one"). The first ad run was done electronically (retouched) and ran in a limited market. After its success, they went to the expense of skin caps and professional makeup artists for the TV ad campaign that ran nationally.

I worked for the studio that trained me for 12 years until I left to make a go of it on my own. 8 years - the first 4 were great and then the economy slumped - and suddenly everyone with a Macintosh (even PCs) and 700 bucks (Photoshop and/or CorelDraw) was my competitor. It was a good run and I got to work on some major accounts including Del Monte, PPG and American Eagle.

Today I work for a major health corporation in their Marketing Department as their in-house Retoucher. With the speed and expert capabilities available to them, there is almost NO image that goes through the department that is not touched somehow. I am particularly responsible for all post processing, color correction, image manipulation and enhancement for any image that is going to be used in broad distribution.

In response for some of those considering going into the field, the learning curve (in depth education) is steep, the pay is bad and getting a start is particularly hard. There is an over-abundance of competition for the jobs out there, and you have to possess some attributes that clearly distinguish you from others. Actually... PhotoLogic made a good point about the importance of professional congeniality - an attribute not be under estimated. I would suggest however, that you be proficient in the entire Adobe Creative Suite to increase your chances of finding employment. Besides... knowing how all the applications interrelate will make you a better retoucher in the long run.

Schools? Don't know what to tell you there. I genuinely feel bad for many young kids who spend tons of money on an education at an Art School (Associates) or a four year degree in Graphic Arts (Bachelors). So many of them come out so ill prepared for even the most rudimentary of jobs. Any teacher that spends a great deal of time having you play around with all the filters and special effects that you can apply to an image in Photoshop should be dropped as quickly as possible. First off - you can buy Photoshop and play around with these on your own. You don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have someone show you this, not to mention that you will rarely, if ever be asked to simply have fun and run whatever filters you want on an image. Your tasks will be more specific. An Art Director will have an image or concept that is already approved and he/she will want to have "you" bring "his/her" vision to fruition.

Final thought... if you can learn to do one thing very well in Photoshop - you will have a leg up on all other graduates, and a potential "path"way to a starting job. If you can cut Clipping Paths accurately, precisely and with good speed - someone could use your help.

Last edited by daygraphics; 09-15-2011 at 12:56 PM.
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  #12  
Old 09-14-2011, 09:52 PM
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

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Originally Posted by Jakaleena View Post
I've actually asked what they had in mind as a price they were hoping to get it done for, and most times have had them say that they figured it would only be $5-$10....
WOW... I feel for you. I was always dismayed by those unwilling to pay 35-70 dollars an hour. I used to try and convince some that I could do in 10 minutes what a novice might take "all day to destroy".
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  #13  
Old 09-15-2011, 01:29 AM
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

Excellent posts PhotoLogic and Daygraphics.
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  #14  
Old 09-15-2011, 07:09 AM
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Greg Curran Greg Curran is offline
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

I am a full time retoucher/color corrector for a large prepress shop in Canada. Been doing it for over 10 years. We generally get our images from our inhouse photography department after they have been sent out for color masking. We deal with 100 000+ images a year and have every piece of merchandise in our shop to color match to. If the merchandise is unavailable or has to be release back to the client, we have swatches for color. Everything is done through Virtual color proof also, no more hard copy proofs. Calibrate our monitors every 24 hours, calibrated color viewing boxes, dual monitors, tons of RAM and new MAC's every couple years.
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  #15  
Old 09-15-2011, 05:30 PM
mushmush mushmush is offline
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

How often do you replace your D5000 lamp bulbs?
I try to keep it 6 months but would be curious if others have found it necessary to change more frequently.
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  #16  
Old 09-15-2011, 06:47 PM
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

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Originally Posted by mushmush View Post
How often do you replace your D5000 lamp bulbs?
I try to keep it 6 months but would be curious if others have found it necessary to change more frequently.
I have a story on this that is sure to cause some debate - as it did for me and my clients.

I, like most serious retouchers, had my 5000ºK (or D5000) viewing booths, lightboxes and color calibrated monitors. I worked diligently to calibrate my proofing systems (Epson 7600) and owned and regularly utilized densitometers and spectrophotometers.

Unfortunately, many of my clients did not prescribe to the same diligent practices. In fact, they made a convincing case that "they" didn't own all or any of those peripheral lighting standards, and did not care to invest in them. "They" looked at their end product ( a printed catalog or brochure) in their office lights. Furthermore, they went on to say that their ultimate end client (or consumer) also looked at, and made their buying decisions in office lights.

One client in particular, sold a wide selection of shoes for all industries and job sectors. They completed many company uniform's ensemble. They complained that many of their orders were often returned because the buyer made their decisions based upon the catalog color representation, and occasionally were not happy with the match when the shipment arrived.

I guarantee you that those shoes matched the originals under the before-mentioned controlled standardized environments - as we kept all product until the retouching, color correction, clipping paths and proofing was done. They agreed - as they made occasional trips to our studio to see our procedures and practices.

Nonetheless, they had more returns (not a lot, mind you) than they would like. So after much debate and consideration, "we" started viewing, proofing and color correcting in an office lighting environment. We then returned the files electronically - as we had previously - but with our proof/contact sheet(s) accompanying them. These were then kept with the files and sent along to their final printer as press proofs.

Of course, we documented all of this and kept records for specific color builds that were consistent and repetitive (such as black soles, etc.) and continued with a specialized top-notch QC practice.

Bottom line - they reported better client response and less returns. So I guess all is well that ends well. Not our common practice, but one that we employed for this account.
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  #17  
Old 09-16-2011, 11:43 AM
mushmush mushmush is offline
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

Now that - Daygraphics- is customer service.
I can appreciate how hard must have been to abandon all proper Color Management instinct to help some persons in an office with unknown lighting.

Maybe one day they'll understand how big a pain in the @$$ that is.

Kudos
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  #18  
Old 09-19-2011, 09:27 AM
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Benny Profane Benny Profane is offline
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

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Originally Posted by daygraphics View Post
"Nonetheless, they had more returns (not a lot, mind you) than they would like."
Dude, it's women shopping for shoes. You know, buy five pair, return four. It's a game you and I are not engaged in.
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  #19  
Old 09-19-2011, 09:38 AM
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

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Originally Posted by PhotoLogic View Post


Today's photographers, for the most part, have lost the ability or desire to get everything right in front of the lens and rely on the post-production aspects of digital to 'composite' the final image. There in lies a prime responsibility of the DigiTech/Retoucher to deliver perfect final images to the client.
Yup, this is what makes a good retoucher valuable today. Unfortunately, the shooters still regard us as second class citizens, and that conflict lives on. Personally, I would tell a youngster to learn Photoshop in and out, even working in retouching, before hanging up the "Photographer" shingle. But all that may be ancient history soon. If I was King, I would make everyone working around products learn 3D, and eliminate the shooting once and for all. It will happen, sooner or later. But I'll be in a lawn chair in Florida by then, complaining about politics or taxes or the early bird special I had last night, ready for my nap. Before the Big Nap.
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  #20  
Old 10-05-2011, 01:03 PM
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Re: The life of a professional retoucher

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Originally Posted by Benny Profane View Post
Yup, this is what makes a good retoucher valuable today. Unfortunately, the shooters still regard us as second class citizens, and that conflict lives on. Personally, I would tell a youngster to learn Photoshop in and out, even working in retouching, before hanging up the "Photographer" shingle. But all that may be ancient history soon. If I was King, I would make everyone working around products learn 3D, and eliminate the shooting once and for all. It will happen, sooner or later. But I'll be in a lawn chair in Florida by then, complaining about politics or taxes or the early bird special I had last night, ready for my nap. Before the Big Nap.
I kinda agree with Benny. a commercial photographer without a good retoucher is nothing. and someone serious about photography should learn retouching. but i must say an excellent retoucher doesn't make good photos. photography is not just pressing a button, as much as retouching is not about applying quick filters and blurs.
as i wanted to be photographer, i started to learn retouching.then i became photo assistant then commercial photographer, and now after 5years of hard work I manage a main fashion magazine. I learnt mostly everything I know about retouching in this website. thanks a lot guys.
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