Sometimes the best way to improve your craft, in any field, is to look a little way outside of it, to explore and examine closely related arts and to get a feel for the skills needed in other fields beyond retouching photographs.
In retouching a great way to do this is to look to the creative team around you. As a retoucher, understanding photography, lighting and make-up by studying your fellow creatives can unlock a deeper level of understanding for your own work than sticking rigidly to the technicalities of photo editing software.
In this fantastic article at Fstoppers, photographer and retoucher Quentin Decaillet looks further afield, even into traditional drawing as a supplemental skill to boost your retouching knowledge.
The feeling of using a brush, or even a pencil, isn’t the same as a tablet, but it’s close. I’d say it’s close enough that drawing is an excellent way to improve your retouching skills ~ Quentin Decaillet
Color theory also makes the list, something we at Retouching Academy often teach, as there are few greater disciplines than the science of color to improve your work (arguably this is far more vital to your work than for example skin retouching, but is often too sparsely studied).
While tools such as Adobe Capture or Paletton can aid the process of choosing colors that work well together, it won’t tell you what colors give what mood to your image, neither will it apply it for you. ~ Quentin Decaillet
The article is a fantastic, succinct look at some of the disciplines that are easily ignored when wading through the many technical tutorials to be found on how to retouch a photograph, that rarely seem to cover why we must make those changes, and when we mustn’t. If you’re moving on from the basics and truly want to raise your game, Decaillet lists five great suggestions to get you started.
You can read his full top five list at Fstoppers, and I highly recommend it.