Dominique Fraser, an artist who is quickly becoming one of the most sought after professionals in the world of high-end photo retouching, has just joined Retouching Academy as one of the high-end commercial retouching instructors. We are pleased to have her join us in that role where she will contribute regular articles on business of retouching as well as the technical skills and be an invaluable resource to our current and future retouching students.
Dominique, tell us about yourself. How did you come to be a retoucher/digital artist?
I had a very traditional art background, but never even knew that retouching was a career until I was approached by a highly popular photographer from Montreal to see if I would be interested in working with him.
It was amazing because I was able to use all of the skills I had accumulated over the years working as a graphic designer, creating 3D textures in the gaming industry and even traditional animation. Now I could take an actual photograph and completely remake it. After that, I was hooked and did everything I could to become an expert and specialize my career as a retoucher.
Click on images to enlarge:
Did you have any formal training in photography or traditional/digital painting?
I started as a graphic designer and the training included taking many photography classes as well as traditional animation classes and an in-depth study of movement and anatomy.
I was lucky to have had all of that training which allowed me to become a senior retouching artist quickly.
At the same time, I would really like to emphasize that it is possible to start a career in this field even if you don’t have some of these skills or training, and it is possible to succeed although it may take some extra time.
Retouching is like anything else you do in life; you must put in the time and effort to become highly skilled and successful.
The students at my online retouching school Sublim (www.jesuisfabuleuse.com) come from a wide variety of backgrounds – it does not matter what you did before – but they all have one thing in common: a desire to get better, and a belief in their ability to become great retouchers and achieve personal success.
What types of retouching do you do primarily for clients and who are they private or companies?
My clients are mainly luxury-brand cosmetics and fashion companies.
Typically there are three ways to get work for a specific brand:
1. You can contact the marketing/advertising department directly
2. You can be hired by the Photographer
3. You can be hired by the Agency in charge of the product promotion
Personally, I prefer to work with the companies directly. I also love working on creative projects by teaming up with great Photographers.
What did you do to shift your clientele into the area of retouching you most like?
That’s a really good question, because we all make the same mistake when we are starting out. Initially, we take on any job at any price, only to find ourselves in front of our computers wondering: “Why did I say ‘yes’ to this project and how much am I making (or actually losing) on this project?”
To avoid or get out of this pitfall, I recommend that you first have to identify WHO IS YOUR IDEAL CLIENT – and be VERY specific as you answer this question for yourself.
Think about whether you want to work with men or women, the type of client or project you want to deal with, what kinds of pictures you prefer to work on, and so on.
I actually sat in front of the computer and wrote a description of my ideal client. She even has a name: Mercedes.
Additionally, you have to record as much information about this client as you can.
Don’t forget to document information or ask yourself questions such as:
- Where can you find this client?
- Who in your network could refer your name to somebody else in the business to help you get closer to your ideal client?
Another key lesson I learned was to say NO to projects. Just because you can do something does not mean that you should do it.
I had a great mentor years ago who taught me what I am about to share with you, and I think it’s what helped me succeed as a photo retoucher:
You always have to give a WOW impression to people who contact you – even if they need you for something you don’t really want to do. Be attentive and LISTEN to their needs and if they don’t have the budget or enough time, or it’s just not your specialty, then you might not be able to work on the project, but you should always assist them by advising them or referring them to another reliable retoucher who will be thrilled to work on the project.
Make it a win-win situation for everyone at all times.
What are your three personal qualities that you think have really helped you to become successful in your craft and business?
I have several qualities that have helped me succeed:
- the ability to multitask
- being bold and having confidence
- knowing my “why”
First, I’m a multitasker and a great juggler. I’m very resourceful as a photo retoucher because I know the shortcuts, know WHEN to use them, and also know when and where to spend more time. Everything I learned in the artist world has served me well and I often find myself referring to it in the retouching process.
Secondly, I pushed aside my shyness. I forced myself not to be afraid to make cold calls and knock on the client’s door.
Being confident in myself as well as my work, helped me get to the next level. Confidence in my skills and believing in myself were key. Not only did I have to know my stuff, I had to have enough confidence to show it and be PROUD of it.
Lastly… Know your Why!
This is something I have learned through the process of becoming a photo retoucher.
You have to identify WHY you are doing this. It seems like a simple question, but it took me a while to think about it and to know WHY I want to do retouching as my work.
Answering this question greatly and positively impacted the way I retouch and the way I deal with clients and subcontractors. My work and attitude literally changed for the better.
It also helped me to identify the projects that interest me most and helped me justify saying NO to the rest.
All throughout the process, don’t forget that you have to be professional and the expert in the relationship with your client. I used to be impressed by my clients, thinking they knew exactly what they wanted, and only gave them what they were asking for. I think that is another beginner’s mistake, especially for women. Don’t forget the clients are coming to you because you are the expert, not them. It’s okay to ask questions or make suggestions – not criticisms – provided you remain professional about it.
When you were starting out, what were your main sources of clients?
Actually I was bold. I started Sublim with a list of the most lucrative top 50 fashion companies in Canada. And I just called them and asked them to meet me. I did something no other retoucher did before me – cold called the clients directly.
Most of them were so shocked and surprised by my call that they did not even think to say no to me.
Here’s a little secret I’ll share with you: never sell yourself on the phone. You have to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the person, or via Skype – it doesn’t matter so long as you’re able to present your work “in person.” When you call a new client, your goal is to secure this meeting, that’s all!
And for those who are wondering where I found this list, every country has organizations that collect statistics and you can have access to this information.
Where would you recommend beginner retouchers advertise their services?
Your contact info should be everywhere; wherever you advertise, it has to be easy to find your contact information. For example, I used to hang out a lot on Facebook, so my first impulse was to go on Facebook and look at the About section of the person I wanted to contact. I was amazed how many people didn’t have their contact info listed there – no email, cell or business phone, not even a website.
Also, you would be amazed at the potential for quality connections you have around you. But in order to find them, you have to spread your wings and reach out to the world.
Third, don’t forget to look your best. Always. The front page of your website has to be impeccable and when you meet a client, you need to look professional by dressing well. And when you answer the phone, smile, even though the caller can’t see you; they will sense a smile through your voice.
Don’t spend your money on your website – use social media more. I discovered an agency website recently that uses all social platforms to promote themselves. This agency is using their website only as a way to drive people to their social platforms. Their portfolio is available on Behance. Also, what’s cool about Behance is that when you post online, lots of people who normally wouldn’t visit your website can bump into your work.
It also means that the results from all of the hard work and effort you put into your promotion get multiplied.
It’s absolutely genius!
Tell us about your educational products, your website, and what level an individual should be to become your student?
I started my photo retouching school in response to people who came to me and were searching for the know-how on how to start a full-time career in the photo retouching industry.
I like to work with highly skilled and passionate artists, the ones who are ready to make the effort to improve themselves. Their level of expertise is not the main concern. The motivation and the openness to learn are the most important things. People who think they already know it all, unfortunately are not the most promising students. Over time, they get stuck in the same place in their career, even if they are good retouchers.
In Photoshop, you can find millions of ways to do things. Through our classes, I like to encourage my students to find their own style. I push them to experiment and find ways they like best.
My teaching style is to empower people. I like helping them find ways to grow their confidence, not only give them techniques or recipes. I like to make the students think like a professional retoucher.
Most people don’t realize that only 10% of the process of retouching is in tools in Photoshop. But actually 90% of the process happens in your head! This process in your head includes the way you will decide to modify an image. Ask yourself, “Why choose one technique over another? Why this color or a specific effect?”
As a retoucher, you need the knowledge about the trends of the moment. For example, what color effect will be everywhere next season?
The big trend currently is natural, so with all the techniques you know, you can decide to do Retouchethics® only by using those techniques that produce a natural look.
Jesuisfabuleuse.com/en is a site devoted to the retoucher, regardless of where you may be in your career. The goal of this site is to help people become a better retoucher by showing them how to find new clients, and how to continue impressing the clients they already have. The resources that will be available on this site in the near future will help people build a lucrative career in high end retouching, and turn their passion into reality.
I would like to extend an invitation to my next FREE WEBINAR to anyone passionate about digital imagery. It is always a pleasure to see new faces and meet new people.
Are there any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment?
As usual, there are plenty, but I especially look forward to my collaboration with the Retouching Academy Team. I think we are about to start a great adventure together!
STAY TUNED FOR DOMINIQUE’S ARTICLE “SETTING RATES & QUOTING RETOUCHING JOBS” IN THE SECOND ISSUE OF THE [RE]TOUCHED MAGAZINE.
About Dominique Fraser
Founder, Art Director & Senior Retoucher
A specialist in high-end photo retouching for over 15 years, Dominique Fraser has worked on projects such as Giorgio Armani, Moët & Chandon, L’Oréal Paris and Cirque du Soleil. Recently, her tutorial on Retouchethics® was featured in a 2015 edition of the German magazine Photoshop BIBLE. In 2013, Dominique’s company, Sublim Creative Studio, was a finalist in the ARISTA provincial competition for businesses, held by the Young Chamber of Commerce of Montreal, in the category for young international companies. In 2009, the company was nominated alongside Saputo and ActiVision for an award recognizing business excellence outside Québec, which is offered by the Chamber of Commerce of Québec. In addition, Dominique has been called in by La Presse on a number of occasions as a photo retouching and beauty expert. For three years, she has headed Canada’s first retouching school, where she has trained dozens of students from around the world.
Retouchethics® is a registered trademark of Sublim Creative Studio inc.