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How do I get work as a retoucher?

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  • How do I get work as a retoucher?

    Hi, I have worked as a photographer in the past and because of my interest in photography I have spent a lot of time trying to master Photoshop which I love. As it is hard to make ends meet as a photographer in a small country town and I'm sick of having to work weekends, I'm thinking about a career in re-touching (freelancing from home). I have what you might call "intermediate skills" working with photoshop and I'm learning all the time. How would you reccomend I proceed from here? Does anyone know what re-touching companies in Australia I should contact? Should I send them some of my portfolio now and ask for feedback as to what I need to do/improve to get work from them? Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Some stuff to think about...


    What I would do is get your best stuff together and pick out about 3 or 4 of the best from that, then let everyone here, or any other forum similar to this and let them tell you what you 'might' need to work on. (Before and after's)
    I say that 'cause the real working world is full of people that really know their stuff, but on the other hand, there's a lot out there too that aren't as good as the people you'll find in any forum similar to this, meaning, some of these people that just play at it are as good as some I have worked with.
    If you did retouching from home, that might be the best of the two choices for you, 'cause the real work envirionment isn't nowhere near as fun.
    Working from home has it's advantages, and also disadvantages, but you can learn at your own pace, and learning all you can be a big asset when you begin looking for work at any company.
    From 1996 to 2001 I worked at 5 companies (in the US) and learned a lot, but what I learned mostly was that I hated it, it definitely took the fun out of the job for sure, but the money was good.
    That's over simplifying it really.

    I spent a year after I got my computer learning how to use my PC, then, after that first year, I spent the next learning Photoshop, I had a friend that said he'd give me a job if I learned it well, that wasn't a problem, I LOVED Photoshop, I couldn't get enough, it literally changed my life when I first got it.
    (My present job was being phased out due to computers)
    I was given a job by my friend, and I couldn't believe that I was actually getting paid for something I loved, that was the first time in my life that I actually looked forward going to work.
    My friend had told me to learn Photoshop, but he really didn't specify 'what' to learn, so I mainly played around in it and learned what I 'assumed' would be the stuff I'd be using, which turned out to not be true at all, and it was partly my fault 'cause I didn't know what to ask, but should've...
    (This was before I was online, so I couldn't go online to search out how to do certain things, and I did my best)
    To get more to the point, I found out that what I had learned wasn't really what was needed really, I mean, yeah, I needed to know it, but what 'they' wanted me to know, I had to learn at work, and fast too, 'cause they were paying me, and "hot jobs" were waiting...
    During this learning process at work, I also had to learn the Mac too, which was fine, but it made learning it all, just that much more, but it wasn't too bad.
    Retouching may be a general term really, here, I'm not sure about Australia, but it involves knowing, masking with Quick Mask, Paths, Curves, Unsharp Mask, the Stamp Tools, Layers, Layer Masks, Color-correcting, and of course a good working knowledge of Photoshop in general.
    This was all much needed for magazine ad work for pre-press, etc., and you may be interested in working for something entirely different, such as a photography studio.
    I had worked in printing for the past 25 years before this, so what I did now was nothing new to me, but it was definitely a new way to go about it all.
    Another thing, in the business, you will more than likely still be working week-ends, long hours, and holidays, there's always "hot jobs" that need to go out, but that all depends on where you work, what kind of work you do, and what kind of place (read: bosses) it is...
    I also had to take a cut in pay, about half of what I was making before, and I was able to swing it, and within about 3-1/2 years I was making more than I was in my previous job, which was really good.
    That didn't last though, the crunch that the industry went through after 9-11 trickled down and I got out of working for someone else.
    Actually, every place that I had worked for closed their doors for one reason or another, and the last place I worked laid me off right before, they used seniority as a way of laying people off, which was the fair way, but laid off I was, even though I was told that they'd rather lay off others than me, but I still think it was fair to those that worked there for years, versus my two.

    I did end up free-lancing for a year and a half or so, which was REALLY good money, (about 4 times what I made hourly) but it was few and far between, my main bread and butter account lost their bread and butter account, so that stopped that for the most part.
    I was really tired of looking for work way too often, so I went into business for myself, which was hard, but worth it, for a while at least.
    (I worked 16-18 hours every day, 7 days per week, and that alone contributed to the inevitable burn-out in the years to come)
    Again, I found myself thinking that I couldn't believe that I was getting paid to do work that I considered "fun", but a year later, I was back where I was, it wasn't fun anymore, having to deal with customers daily, consumed MOST of my time playing secretary, and what I do can't be shared with another, 'cause they'd have to know 'exactly' everything I did to answer questions, help out, and take orders, etc.
    I couldn't pay someone, much less find someone to help me, so it was all on me, every day.

    So, to shorten an already way too long story, although it might seem glamourous at first, (and it may be for you) there is a lot to be considered when doing this type of work, and everybody and their dog has Photoshop nowadays too, and there's schools that train, so that narrows the road to what you want right there.
    The bottom literally dropped out for me locally in the business back then, and when I was looking for work, (before I went solo) I would've been paid almost what I started out in an hourly wage, meaning very little, like starting over again...

    My thoughts on this is to first make sure you are good enough to hire, you'd be judged on how good of work you'll do, and experience, they may even have tests, one place I applied for had tests, which consisted of daily routine stuff for that company, and it had all of the above concerning color-correcting in it.
    Know your stuff, ask around a LOT before jumping in, have people on the forums tell you the truth about your skills, and find out what you'd be getting into before this decision.
    I'm not knocking working in this field at all, but I say all of this in hopes that 'your' hope's aren't knocked, with surprises.
    Working in the field is a lot like being on a forum, you'll learn new things daily very fast due to other techniques that people know, so that's good.
    If you can swing it, land a job, and work for (probably) a smaller amount per week, and not mind working week-ends (possibly), you might be happy doing it, you may not mind the same things that really bothered me working at these places.
    Most was due to lack of good leadership, which was a constant thing for me, and others at ALL of these jobs, but maybe I was just unlucky, and I have always taken a lot before finally letting it get to me.
    I'm definitely not trying to dissuade you though, but hopefully you can gleen something from this, mull it over and see for yourself.

    I wouldn't trade what I did for the world though, it was a great learning experience, and I applied a lot of it to what I do today too, and hands on is better than any classroom to me, even with the bad elements I ran into.

    This is of course, all besides 'how' you learn 'what' you learn, there's lot's of people here and places online to get that info... meaning courses/training, etc.

    Sorry about this being long, sometimes I like to type, and I kind'a overdo it...

    Last edited by recrisp; 06-09-2006, 12:38 PM.


    • #3
      Benny, Randy,

      welcome to RP to both of you!!!


      Photoshop is just a hobby for me, so, I can't give any advice whatsoever on 'how to' turn it into a profession... But I wish you all the best for your future as a professional retoucher!!


      thank you so much for sharing your feelings and experience as a professional retoucher!!
      I'm one of those who just adores 'playing' with Photoshop ... I've never had any experience as a professional retoucher and had no real 'feeling' of how hard it could be or of the real 'other side of the medal' ... but, what I'd heard and read from professionals made me realize that I loved working with Photoshop 'my way' too much to risk spoiling everything with rules and strict instructions on 'do, don't' etc. ...
      I'll surely remember your words whenever I might be 'tempted' to change that!!

      Thanks again!


      • #4
        Randy - thanks for a very informative insight. I too, like Flora, do this as a hobby working on my own stuff. I do some work for another photog friend of mine, but that's just to help him out. I've thought about trying to get some work retouching/restoring on the side as I'm not ready to quit my day job yet, but looking down the road a bit when I can retire from my day job, but still have something to do to keep busy. Also, trying to get a photography business going for myself. You have definately opened some thoughts about working for someone else in this field. I enjoy it too much. Thanks again.


        • #5
          Hi Benny,
          To get started as a pro retoucher you need clients of course. So you'll have to do some "sales acquisition". This is one way to go about that:

          1) compose a short text introducing yourself, and your experience as a retoucher;
          2) put together a digital portfolio – e.g. a PDF – with small "Before & After"s and blown up "After"s (8"x10"), and references if you have them;
          3) put together a list* of pro photogs and photographic agents in your region;
          4) eMail 1) and 2) to the first 10 addresses** on your list in week 1, to the second 10 addresses in** week 2, to the 3rd 10 addresses** in week 3, etc. etc.
          That way you can stop (e)mailing when you have enough assignments to keep you going for a while, and continue again where you left off when you can use new assignments.

          * names, complete with street addresses, eMail addresses and phone numbers.

          ** and call them on the phone 2 days later to inquire whether they received it and to ask when (not whether!) you can come by to get acquainted and discuss a possible collaboration.


          • #6
            Thanks Flora and DW,

            Remember though, these are my thoughts, and as they say, "Your mileage may vary!" heheh

            One thing too, if one does get in the business, it's best to do what "RokcetScientist" said too, good line of thought
            to get a job, once you're ready.
            After you get in, most everyone I know is 'recommended' rather than picked from from a resume, so while a resume
            is important, networking is (usually) king here, or at least in my experiences, and my friends too.
            Mine's definitely not the last word on this subject, but it might help fill in some gaps, and I'm sure eveybody has their
            own stories that would be completely different than mine.
            If I had it to do all over again, I would, but to try and get back the 'fun' from it, I do wish I had that still.
            Don't get me wrong, I still love Photoshop, but it's more rare for me to 'just play' like I used to, or maybe I'm just kind'a
            gettin' old! heheh

            I think that if one doesn't need to change careers, then keep on playin' in Photoshop, but if you do, it's still a fun job,
            or can be, it beats doing some jobs, I know that.



            • #7
              Competition is high, especially online. So I don't reccomend pursuing jobs that way. Especially when you are a beginner. I run a service that puts me in contact with artists and the following advice is something that I tell every aspiring artist (including retouchers). You need to overcome being the small fish in the big pond. And the way to do that is to redefine your pond. Look locally first. Find out if there are other retouchers in your immediate area. Chances are there aren't and if there are, you need to evaluate their ability to see how you measure up with them.

              Anyway, there's this thing in sales called a circle of influence. That's basically everyone you know personally. Tell them all what you do and be specific. For instance, can you reasonably say that you are the best photo-retoucher/restorer, within a 5 mile radius, specializing in the restoration of family heirlooms for under $XXX.xx? Or the best photo-to-art artist in town, specializing in fine art printing of pet portraits?

              Do this locally -- your friends and family first, then your neighbors on the block, then local businesses and so on. Being local and providing exceptional service is a huge advantage for your clients over your competition. Your prospects usually are fishing for over the internet to find similar services you offer. Can you see here how you are defining your pond? If you just put up a website, you're basically jumping in and saying, "Hello ocean! I'm here." But by concentrating first with your circle of influence and then local businesses, you are working within a more manageable territory.

              Be careful with unsolicited email, you don't want to get the reputation of being a spammer. Direct mail (although more expensive), when done right works 10 times better. When you do send correspondence, you have to portray yourself as an expert in what you do. Send along an article that relates to what you do and is of interest to your prospective client.

              Also, work the local newspapers. Write a press release annoucing your business. And write articles on a semi-regular basis. This will go a long way toward the perception of you being the big fish in YOUR pond.

              Hope this information helps.


              • #8
                Wow some of the best practical advice I have read on the web, nice one guys.

                For those that are interested in developing a small business here is a good place to start good luck:



                • #9
                  yes great ideas and information, thanks Guys really really appreciate it


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