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  • Retouching Tests

    I live in Brooklyn and am just beginning to look for work as a retoucher. A successful retoucher friend offered to introduce me to a studio he used to work for. He mentioned that they test you to see if you have the chops. For those who've been there/done that, any advice as to what is generally involved?

  • #2
    Re: Retouching Tests

    Probably a job that they do most of the time. Hard to tell from a distance. They're probably going to give you a file and ask for certain corrections, and watch how you handle it, as far as speed and quality of work. The latter is more important. Any good manager shouldn't expect speed from someone thrown into their deep end. Hell, I would spend a few minutes adjusting my workspace. Like, the chair.

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    • #3
      Re: Retouching Tests

      Note that I worked on the west coast, but it can be anything. It's likely to be a specific image or set of images that is of medium difficulty relative to what they handle. It's probably the same thing from person to person to avoid discrepancy. I've gone through this a couple times. I have also seen other people go through it. Typically speed counts, and you're going to be unfamiliar with things, as tablet, screen size, and whatever else may differ from what you're using at the moment or what you've used in the past.

      It's quite easy to screw up when you don't know what to expect. The images are typically standardized though to avoid bias between candidates, from what I can tell. Are you able to provide any more information such as the type of work the shop typically does or any example of your own?

      The last thing I'll mention is that if they tell you to keep all of your layers, make sure they're organized and labeled. It's a good habit in general, and it's absolutely necessary if others may need to work on them.

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      • #4
        Re: Retouching Tests

        I have taken a ton of them, they are almost always a job that has been done previously in the shop. Always stressful. Using a new machine that isn't set up the way you like to work, pressure of getting enough time to do the job.

        Advice, take a USB with all your prefs and load them on to the machine, familiarity always helped me out. Like Benny says, adjust everything that make you feel comfortable, even the chair.

        Greg

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        • #5
          Re: Retouching Tests

          Thanks guys for sharing your experience. As chance would have it, a potential client wanted me to test shortly after my OP to see if I could handle the workload for a project. 500 images for a small clothing store look book over the course of the month at $5 an image. I turned her down as she didn't seem to grasp that retouching is more than just pressing a button. I could easily have done it if it were e-commerce masking and background swapping and general color correction, but she wanted full editorial and beauty style retouches. Not to mention the implication that I would design the overall aesthetic of her look book. Didn't seem worth it for her budget, let alone possible for me as someone just getting his feet wet.

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          • #6
            Re: Retouching Tests

            Dodged a bullet there Nathan! Knowing your worth is half the battle.

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            • #7
              Re: Retouching Tests

              Originally posted by Repairman View Post
              Dodged a bullet there Nathan! Knowing your worth is half the battle.
              I would go a little further than that. You couldn't maintain a viable business model at that rate, even in a country with much lower cost of living. I also don't see it as a one person job over the course of a month. While it's not that uncommon to need a large number of images brought to a presentable level of quality and uniformity, budgeting just an hour each would set you back longer than a month.

              Let's call a month 4.5 weeks, which is just over 31 days. You have some administrative overhead, but consider the actual retouching hours to be capped at 60 hours per week, with non-essential administrative tasks deferred until after the rush. This would put you at 1.85 months and really closer to 2, not including the design work. Design work in itself is absurdly time consuming. It's even worse for people who don't regularly work as designers, yet have a conditioned level of taste.

              I don't know design well enough to factor that in without going line by line, but on long jobs like that for a not so well established client, you might be limited to an hour an image to hit large details, kill blemishes, etc. It's not ideal, but if you start with quality images and really prioritize it can be made respectable.

              So you're looking at close to 2 months aside from design work for a grand total of $2500. You wouldn't be able to get that even if you sent the work off to a low cost country.

              My advice for the client would be expectation management. Design alone can eat a much larger budget than that, and frankly their money should be spent on design. If budget is that low, it should be on the photographer to deal with this, and he shouldn't create extra post work. It should be primary color correction done in Lightroom, then a few minutes to clone out a few flyaways and a pimple or two, and maybe work on the eyes slightly. The way it's shot should actually be designed to generate minimal post work, regardless of the restrictions that places on art direction (and yes hire a graphic designer with experience in art direction).

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              • #8
                Re: Retouching Tests

                Somewhere in India, a young person with a nice laptop but no access to a working toilet is dreaming of taking the job.

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                • #9
                  Re: Retouching Tests

                  It's naive to think that India is an outsource wonder where work costs nothing. Yes, they can do the job it seems for a very little price. But I heard many stories about indian programm coding quality with very bizarre examples of it. You can even google it.

                  I don't say there cannot be good retouchers in India, but if somebody pays a much smaller price for the job then it should be payed, they get job done for what they payed … even in India… one (freakish) way or the other.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Retouching Tests

                    Originally posted by Benny Profane View Post
                    Somewhere in India, a young person with a nice laptop but no access to a working toilet is dreaming of taking the job.
                    so true, killed our career.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Retouching Tests

                      We do assessment tests for new hires. One written and one skills test. We do not expect the applicant to answer all the questions or edit all the images in the time given. What matters for the skills test is the quality of the decisions they made. The purpose of the written test is to tell us how much additional training they will need. We also give a Hue Test so we know how well they see color.

                      I took a retouching test once for a company in the mid-west. They had very specific goals for the images - color changes, complex masking (chain link fence), and compositing from photos shot in-studio of dirt (that was blasted with an air hose) into an outdoor image, and swapping out faces and arms. They gave me 2.5 hours.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Retouching Tests

                        Originally posted by Greg Curran View Post
                        so true, killed our career.
                        One of the photographers I do contract work for, sends all images to India first, for clipping paths, which they are very skilled at. Retouching though is a different story. Not quality needed, so my career is intact. Creating paths is my least favorite thing anyway!

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                        • #13
                          Re: Retouching Tests

                          What is a "clipping path" ?

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                          • #14
                            Re: Retouching Tests

                            Originally posted by Shoku View Post
                            I took a retouching test once for a company in the mid-west. They had very specific goals for the images - color changes, complex masking (chain link fence), and compositing from photos shot in-studio of dirt (that was blasted with an air hose) into an outdoor image, and swapping out faces and arms. They gave me 2.5 hours.
                            Judging by your description, I probably would have failed that. I know how I could approach any of that, but 2.5 hours for everything mentioned seems like it would severely limit your viable options.

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