Business & Clients

Starting Out As A Freelance Retoucher

So, you want to work as a freelance retoucher. You would like to know what type of training is involved, right? You may be surprised to find out that you are not required to attend any classes or receive any certification. All you really need is solid experience that will allow you to work diligently and produce quality results.

This begs the question of where you can actually get this experience. Well, it’s usually acquired from working with, or for, experienced professionals. Some examples are advertising or design agencies, photography or retouching agencies and studios, or even simply retouching for a commercial or wedding photographer.

Before You Start Looking for a Retouching Job

If you don’t have any prior experience as a retoucher, it would be very helpful to start as an intern. The importance of this, is that you get to learn about diverse aspects of this craft, while still being guided and supervised by more experienced professionals.

Don’t forget to improve your skills by practicing complex retouching at home. Personal work is very beneficial to your growth because you can explore your talents, strengths, and preferences, without any limitations.

RELATED: Where And How To Find Clients For Retouching Jobs

Furthermore, you can attend live or online classes with other experienced educators. This will give you the opportunity to ask about anything you don’t understand as the classes go on. Watching retouching tutorials on YouTube or Lynda is good when you need to learn about specific tools or techniques. If you want a full course, a great place is Udemy. So, while knowing about the tools is very important, just remember that practicing a lot is what will actually make your skills better.

Setting Up Your Online Portfolio

No matter what your experience is, your portfolio will be the primary thing that will determine whether you will get hired or not. The content and presentation of your portfolio will influence the potential employers’ decisions.

In this day and age, one of the best ways to get your work in front of your potential employers is setting up a website and posting some of your best work on it. Your visitors will be able to see what you are capable of as a retoucher, and they might reach out and offer you a job. Or, they may even recommend you to someone else who might offer you a job.

RELATED: Your Portfolio Can Help You Start Getting Clients That You Want

If you don’t have access to any quality images, you could look for some stock art to practice on. There are a few forums that come to mind where you could find, or ask for images from other photographers like or You could even find opportunities on You may be surprised how many quality images are available to you. Keep in mind, photographers are not necessarily retouchers, so it can easily be a win-win situation for both parties.

Even if you do not have a full website, you need to get your portfolio online. One easy option would be from Adobe. Simply create an account, and start uploading images. Other options could be Flickr, Smugmug, or Photoshelter. Honestly, I could keep right on going with 500px, Livebooks, 4mat, or even ModelMayhem. These are just some of the ones I’m thinking of. There are so many options available, it’s actually overwhelming.

noteIf you are an experienced retoucher with a professional portfolio, and you are about to start freelancing after working for a photography studio or advertising agency; check out this great recommendation on what your “Contact Me” page may say to filter your clients: You Have To Value Your Own Talent & Time And Educate Your Clients To Do So.

If you don’t have any experience in HTML, you can use online services such as or, which have a simple ‘one click’ WordPress installation to get yourself up and running. Even simple Before and After plugin on any blogging platform is good enough to show your work when you’re just starting out.

Local Clients

After creating an attractive online portfolio, you can begin researching local photographers in your area. Find email addresses and send them links to your website. Even if you don’t get job offers right away, keep in touch with them and reach out to remind them about yourself. For example, when you add new work to your portfolio is a great time to remind them that you are a possible resource for them.

Personally, I started collecting a list of possible photographers within 100 miles of where I am located. I now have a list of hundreds. think about the power of that. With little effort now, I could send out an email blast to hundreds of photographers. Some of them will value the services I offer. Remember, you only need one client to get started.

Magazines & Agencies

After establishing yourself in the local scene and getting more client retouching experience, you can venture into bigger areas through contacting the decision makers in creative agencies. You can also contact editors of various magazines and see if anyone might be interested in using your skills.

Visit newsstands in the local bookstores and find magazines that your skills would be ideal for. Most magazines usually list their team members’ names along with their contact details on the first pages of each issue – use those contacts.

Social Media & Forums

Social media and internet forums are also great ways used by many creative professionals to market their work. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and especially Linkedln and Behance are great platforms for networking.

It is apparent that getting hired as a retoucher depends on how you promote yourself and your work. For fruitful promotion you should focus on demonstrating what you are great at. That will give you an upper hand in the competition with other professionals looking for similar opportunities.

But if you are just starting out and don’t even have good work to display in your portfolio, try bidding for jobs on various freelance websites such as Odesk or eLance (updated: these two services have merged into If you are interested in getting hired to gain more retouching experience on such websites, you can bid for published projects at lower rates and you will eventually get hired.

Hope this helps you to get ideas on where and how to look for work as a beginner retoucher in this challenging economy. You should always bear in mind that there are thousands of creatives like you, who are equally or even more talented, and looking for the same opportunities. So make sure to reserve time in your calendar for perfecting your skills and marketing yourself as much as possible at all times.




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