A photo retoucher specializes in taking an existing photograph and enhancing the image through the application of certain artistic enhancement techniques. Retouchers work predominantly in digital formats and provide services for a variety of industries using digital images on a regular basis. Editing backgrounds, adjusting color tones and retouching skin textures are some of the many tasks that a photo retoucher incorporates in her daily work.
Doing Traditional Retouching
Traditional photo retouchers use inks and paint brushes to add embellishments or edit an existing print image. One common retouching task is to repair dust spots on images with ink and brush techniques. Retouchers remove dust spots on black and white photographic prints using black ink and a very fine-tipped brush. Another common technique is brushing color on black and white images with oil-based or water-based inks.
Making Digital Edits
A digital photo retoucher is the most common application for editing and retouching images. Retouching an image can include editing skin blemishes on models, reducing or manipulating certain body parts on models, enhancing the sky or removing objects or obstructions. Photographers shooting in high volumes or working with fashion photography images often hire a photo retoucher to fine-tune their digital images for the client as these techniques are difficult and time-consuming.
Retouching with Software
A modern digital photo retoucher uses a professional-level photo editing software program, such as Adobe’s Photoshop or Corel’s Paintshop Photo Pro. Using these programs allows you to achieve complex retouching results and save time when working on photographs. Photo editing software uses a variety of actions, tools and layers to help achieve the final perfected result from the original digital image.
Using Essential Hardware
While complex editing programs are a necessary tool for a photo retoucher, the appropriate hardware is just as important. Computers with a high level of processing speed, RAM and data storage space are essential to the photo retoucher. The complicated software programs use high volumes of computer processing speed to edit large image files quickly. Storage is also essential, as image files become a much larger size with the application of layers and editing actions. A retoucher also needs a large high-quality monitor for editing multiple image files and working in multiple programs at one time. The monitor should be color-calibrated using special calibration software and devices to ensure that the images undergoing color correction match the actual color desired. Monitors and printers render color profiles differently, and calibration is a key element in the photo retoucher’s toolkit.
Launching a Career
Photo retouchers often work freelance as independent contractors on a per-job basis. Most photographers who work with independent contractors for their retouching needs hire in a sporadic manner as larger photographic jobs are not a frequent occurrence. Photo retouchers also work in advertising agencies, for magazines, galleries and other businesses that use high volumes of digital images. After gaining experience with the profession, the best method for launching a career in photo retouching is making connections and interviewing with professional photographers, creative directors and editors.
Crystal Street is a documentary photographer, an award-winning freelance multimedia producer and writer who is currently based out of Arizona. Street has worked throughout the developing world and studied visual communications at The School of Journalism and Mass Communications at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.