Today’s article comes from guest contributor, Kris Fulk. Born in the Philippines, Kris is now a commercial photographer and educator currently based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
One of the things I get asked about is why I don’t retouch all of my work. When you scroll through my Instagram, you’ll note that I tag or give a shout out to the retoucher with whom I have had the pleasure of working on a image, especially if it’s beauty.
As a photographer, I have put in a countless number of hours learning to master my craft: photography. Or if you break that down into its root elements: “drawing with light,” with natural light, strobes, or a mixture of both. A professional retoucher has spent as much time and effort in perfecting the art of retouching as I have invested into learning photography.
A professional retouching artist will not only give my images a great finish — he or she will speed up the time it takes me to complete a project. Being in the business of photography means that I allocate amounts of time to certain things, and most of my time is spent building my business.
Most beginner photographers dream of shooting one campaign after another. We would all love to do that, but first, let’s get out there and get our work in front of the people who will hire us for these big campaigns. Not to mention winning bids and getting any work in the first place so we can pay our rent. This means networking, administrative work, e-mails, blogging, updating social media, and getting that SEO juice — there are a lot of tasks to complete in order to obtain and maintain clients other than shooting (although you should always strive to create work better than your present portfolio. Always.) We only have so much time, and working with professional retouchers allows me to hit my deadlines and have happy clients.
Also, professional retouchers will help elevate your work. I can’t stress this enough, especially in beauty, and in whatever style you decide for your images.
There’s a gamut of retouching levels that you will see when analyzing beauty campaigns. CVS just launched a beauty mark program where it touts to have little retouching done on the imagery in their stores: “We’re making a commitment to not materially alter the beauty imagery we create for our stores, marketing materials, websites, apps or social media. We will not digitally alter or change a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color or enhance or alter lines, wrinkles or other individual characteristics.”
On the other hand, Pat McGrath, one of the most influential makeup artist in the world, has been busy in her beauty lab bringing new lip and eye products to her followers. If you look at the images shot for her brand by Desiree Mattsson, you will see poreless skin and almost graphic perfection.
They are two different ends of the spectrum and your portfolio will show your prospective clients where your visual preferences and skill level are.
I have two thoughts on this: on the one hand, it’s important to look at current campaigns and see what’s being created. On the other, it’s essential to be true to yourself and produce work that speaks to YOU, and that will determine how you or your retoucher finish your images.
When you work with a professional retoucher, you want to provide them with quality files that have appropriate lighting. An excellent base will always yield quality results. When it comes to beauty photography you want to be on point with the makeup and hair, so the skill level of your creative team is very important. You may build a team from creative professionals who are at the same stage in their career as you are, or, if you’re lucky, you may connect with a more experienced group of artists. As you create better work, your network of creative professionals will expand.
It’s a good idea to “test”, and having beautifully finished images in your portfolio at all times will help you connect with creative professionals who will elevate your work, including retouchers. If you’re unsure where to find such retouchers, check out Retouching Academy’s very own Facebook Group!
You’re probably wondering, if the goal is to outsource retouching so you can shoot more projects, should you even bother learning retouching? Yes, yes and most definitely, affirmatively yes!
Understanding retouching and how to retouch is a must for a professional photographer. You may not have the funds to hire an experienced retoucher in the beginning of your photography career. Additionally, once you start getting business — congrats, by the way, for overcoming the hard part! — your clients may not have the funds to hire a retoucher.
However, sub par retouching will affect your work negatively, and it is imperative that you are able to distinguish one from the other. Possessing a working knowledge of what good retouching looks like will aid you in performing minimal retouching yourself, while making smart decisions on which professional retouchers you invest in.
Now that you know the why about working with beauty retouchers, stay tuned for my next article on the how. If you have anything to add to what I have shared, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!
Author & Featured Image: Kris Fulk