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Retouching Standards

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  • Retouching Standards

    [rant mode]

    When are we going to get ourselves some sort of standard?

    Someone comes along and says that a "retouch" takes 4 hours, another comes along and says 2 minutes - and they think they are talking about the same thing!

    I can do a 2 minute retouch that will make the general public perfectly happy with their "fixed-up" snapshots.
    I can also do a 10 minute / 1 hour / 4 hour retouch for varying degrees of perfection / nitpicking. Each one has it's own, different, workflow.

    Defining a retouch in terms of time taken is the wrong way around - like knowing the answer and then making up the question.

    Why not define the type of retouch by the client?
    - general public;
    - portrait photo;
    - professional;
    - high-end

    ....or any other good suggestion.

    Defining a retouch in terms of monetary value is wrong twice. Besides the different types of retouch, the value of money changes around the globe. US$20/hour may seem cheap in the States, for me (Brazil) that's pretty good money and for our Indian friends it may represent top-class wages.

    So..U$1 per "general public" retouch in Brazil may end up exactly the same "rate" as a US$50 "professional" job in the States. But without some sort of standard nomenclature how are we ever going to know?

    [/rant mode]
    (feeling better now, thank you)

  • #2
    Makes a lot of sense Ro as the terminology you have used imbues both time and quality. Nice encapsulation.


    • #3
      Interesting topic!

      But the more you think about it, the more difficult it becomes. Using the client to define the categories makes a lot of sense, but even that isn't straightforward. Many members of the public might like to see their pictures airbrushed to perfection (we're all vain, aren't we?), but others will prefer gritty realism.

      I'm not sure about the distinction you're drawing between Professional & High-end, perhaps it could be between editorial & advertising?

      I suppose what I'm thinking is; it's worth considering what the client's need are too. Sometimes retouching is about fantasy: Heavy airbrushing, intense colours, high contrast, perhaps comping images into a result that would be impossible to achieve in camera. Other times it's about perfection, flawless skin, changing colours - but keeping them natural, and using different elements of images to blend into a image that looks as if it was shot that way.

      But I'd agree that the term 'retouching' can mean very different things...


      • #4
        A worthy rant, Rô. This is a subject I've been thinking about lately.

        As a retoucher/restorer, I often have a tendency to go to the 4-5 hour end of the spectrum to meet my own arbitrary standards, even though I'm sure the customer would be perfectly happy with a 2 hour result (the one I quoted, to be competitive). If I had the work volume, obviously I would not be in business very long if I kept this up. Having standards might at least allow a customer to make a more informed "quality vs. price" decision, while at the same time helping the retoucher/restorer know better what is expected.

        Standards might help some to understand what they're getting for their money, but even with standards I'm not sure the general public (my primary customer base) would be savvy enough to really understand the differences in levels. Most seem to just want you to do a "good job" fixing their photos and at a fair price. Would they care to understand the difference between Prime Cut vs Select? Is so, then I think the challenge will be in precisely defining what those differences are.

        - Kurt


        • #5
          Giving this more thinking, you need 1 portfolio shot which demonstrates the differences as a starting point


          • #6
            Without trying to define something, just opening a little discussion.......

            1) General Public Snapshot
            - automatic / semi-automatic actions;
            - masking brushwork, very little or none;
            - general noise removal and sharpening;
            - colour cast removal;
            - base time 1 to 2 minutes;
            - end product 4" x 6" photo print.

            2) Portrait Photo
            - semi automatic actions;
            - general masking brushwork;
            - masked noise removal and sharpening;
            - straightening; composition and cropping;
            - colour treatment;
            - quick healing tool / cloning;
            - base time 10 - 15 minutes;
            - end product 8" x 12" framed print-out.

            3) Professional
            - no automatic actions (except for setups);
            - detailed masking;
            - manual noise removal, specific sharpening;
            - distortion correction, straightening; composition and cropping;
            - complete colour treatment;
            - detailed healing tool / cloning;
            - base time 1 - 2 hours;
            - end product 10" x 15" framed or wallhanger / general publication

            4) High-end
            - as professional, but more detailed
            - base time 4 - 8 hours;
            - end product quality publication.

            Probably forgot a lot but, like I said, I'm just giving some ideas.


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