Solstice Visuals

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Posts tagged with 'solstice retouch'.

Teaching In Denver: Our Retouching Contest Winner + How It Went

I recent got back from my trip to Denver, teaching our retouching contest winner, Jose Lopez. You can check out all the details about the contest we had and his winning entry here:

Time had flown by since the contest ended, and we finally met, spending a little under a week revitalizing his workflow. Not only did we work on retouching, we turned his whole marketing, social media, photography, editing, and retouching strategy on a new direction. I was able to show him not only what worked for me, but the common pattern of those that have found success. He took it all with open eyes and ears and it stuck with him at the end!

I arrived there on Friday, February 17th,, 2012, we spent the first day seeing Denver, Colorado and all it’s sights, eateries, and museums (art + science) and just got to know each other and the local photography community. Unfortunately, my Canon 5D had died that same day so I have just a few pictures.

From a couple of my pictures, you can get an idea how the rest of the time there went aside from working, I did get to take shots of the Rockies as you can see. Shame you can’t see all the other wonderful food.  

That Friday evening, Jose and I had an opportunity to put a meet together, in attendance were some of the most talented bunch of people in the area!

Charles Hildreth (photographer):

Alain Camporiva (photographer):

Connie Chavez (mua):

Jennifer Lopez (model) (yes, that is her real name).

What I quickly learned about Denver is though the market is small for fashion, the people there are great and down to earth. I felt welcome as though I’ve been living there for years, even though I had just met them.

The next 3 days we spent tirelessly going through everything, we even had two shoots thrown into the mix where I was able to show him everything I knew about varying lighting setups and how to work and get the most of the model, similarly to what our friend Bekka had to say here. Stefanie was our model who graciously lent her time for three different looks for our tutorial session. We ended up with a ton of great work!  

Boulder, Colorado

Finally everything wrapped up on Monday evening, and Tuesday morning we set out to Boulder, Colorado to meet and work with my good friend Luccia. There I also met the very musically talented John Borst, and worked with seasoned makeup and hair artist, Lindsay Ambrosio.

Boulder is a city unlike other, nestled right at the foot of the Rockies, everywhere you go the mountains serve as a towering backdrop. Even bigger than the sheer size of those mountains, are the clouds that come rolling over them, like a child sitting on top of his father, if the child were twice as big! It’s one city you have to experience seeing at least once. Fortunately, the drive from Denver to Boulder is only 30 minutes!

For breakfast, one of the most memorable places was a Crepes place called Foolish Craig’s.  

The breakfast crepes along with their 21 layer rum crepe cake was pretty epic. The other notable places to eat in Colorado all thanks to the suggestions of our friends: (The Sink, Brasserie Ten Ten, Sams No. 3, and The Kitchen).

The Kitchen was absolutely the best place to eat, from the beautiful décor, priced very low, extremely fresh, and service beyond what I had ever experienced. Thanks Charles! All the eateries sit dotted along the outdoor Pearl Street Mall where you find plenty of unique stores that keep you entertained for a long time due the variation in what you find, often independent stores that cater to arts and crafts.

Boulder was a breath of fresh air, literally, with the purity of the moutain air way above sea level, it’s as though it’s filtered air you’re breathing.

Two days had passed and we wrapped up that afternoon after our shoot and headed back home, where we had our last dinner with Jose and his family, before heading to the airport that evening.

At the end of it all, going to Denver was a very memorable trip. Working with Jose was incredible. He learned so much and picked up everything so quickly. I can’t wait to see how he evolves in the future with his career!

A quick side note. A while ago, I had posted this hilarious “fashion fail” nose warmers from etsy and how ridiculous and funny they were. As a joke, Jose got his mom to actually made me one! She’s really talented at stitching and crafts since she owns a company that makes items for newborns and such – Elo Beanies. Now I can make my models wear it during every shoot in complete seriousness for a second – ha!

Although sad the week had already passed, by then I felt I lived there and got quite close to everyone, including Jose and his wonderful family.

Photographers You Need to Know: Chris Fatseas

I recently came on across the work of Chris Fatseas (

Surprisingly, it turns out that Chris has only been shooting for 2 years! I immediately recognized his potential and asked if I could do a feature on him; he was more than delighted to partake. I want more people to see his work and to have him become more recognized.

What I really enjoy about his work is that it’s ethereal. It’s full of emotion yet subdued at the same time. It plays that delicate balance of purity and edginess. It has a whimsical feel yet it’s delicate. In short, it’s simply beautiful and I have an affinity to his work.

If I’m right, he’s going to be big in a few years so keep an eye out for Chris’s work in the upcoming months and years.

Check out his work below along with a short interview.


1. Tell us your history with photography and what got you into it. 

I bought a camera at 19 so I could take a few photos of my first car. Soon, my mates were asking me to take some photos of there cars too. Then at 20, I was approached by a few motoring publications to shoot for them. It was good pocket money while I was studying at the university but my heart was never really in it.

The subject matter just didn’t inspire me. By the time I graduated from the university I was itching to shoot something more than sheet metal and decided to take on the world of fashion photography. What could possibly be more interesting and inspiring than taking a photo of a person? 

2. What inspires you to stay passionate about your craft? 

It’s not so much about inspiration as it is compulsion. I’m fascinated by the process of bringing a vision into reality. There are so many elements that go into a fashion shoot, such at the model, lighting, environment, clothing, hair, makeup, pose and expression, lens selection, composition, perspective, and the list goes on. There is nothing more satisfying or exciting than seeing each one of those elements coming into alignment and seeing a vision transform into reality in front of you. 

3. Why do you shoot fashion and beauty specifically?

Fashion and beauty are very subjective and elusive terms and that’s what makes exploring them so rewarding; the creative possibilities are limitless. It’s that freedom of self expression and the process of creating and capturing art, there’s nothing else quite like it.


The Art of Dodge and Burn (DVD): Review

I recently had the opportunity to do the official review for the Art of Dodge and Burn, which is the third DVD in the High End Retouching series. It is taught by the incredibly knowledgeable and talented, Krunoslav Stifter.


After doing the official pre-release review of the 2nd DVD in the series, Beauty & Hair Retouching High End Techniques by Natalia Taffarel, I felt reviewing the 3rd DVD would be a perfect continuation as I had a basis for comparison between the two. 

You can read the review below, or on the site directly (past the table of contents) at 

With the recent launch of, The Art of Dodge and Burn, I was excited to hear that the talented Krunoslav Stifter was the presenter in the third DVD of the High End Retouching series. He has always been a guy with tremendous amounts of knowledge and also a very good teacher. So this was a perfect continuation in the series with Krunoslav leading the way.

However, does it translate into a great DVD and is it worth your time and money? Also, how useful is it to you? After all, the price is $249, so you want to be sure you are really getting your money’s worth. I also want to be sure this review not only goes over the DVD, but really allows you to have your questions answered on how valuable it is as a consumer based on varying experience levels.

Often DVD’s are great in the trailer but sometimes don’t really showcase or teach very much. They just show without explaining on what is going on. It takes someone who is both knowledgeable and a great teacher to make a DVD like this work. There is so much misinformation out there that it is very important I recommend the right set of materials as I am putting my name behind it.

With that in mind, this will strictly be a review of the DVD, rather than an explanation of each section. This will allow me to emphasize the sheer quality and value of this DVD.

So who am I? My name is Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch. I am a full time high-end photo retoucher who specializes in editorial and commercial work. I previously did the official review for the second DVD in the series, “Beauty & Hair Retouching High End Techniques by Natalia Taffarel.”

The first thing that really caught my interest in the DVD was the trailer and table of contents, which are both shown above this review. Although the title is referring to the Art of Dodge and Burn, it seems that there is much more information presented! The DVD itself is 10 hours long and includes all the working files with the layers in tact for you to follow along with.

If you look under the ‘Sample Clips’ section above, you will see the video for the trailer. It shows an overview of what he goes over in the DVD. You can also see the table of contents above which gives you an detailed look about what to expect.

After getting a chance to see the entire DVD, I was pleasantly surprised. I had high expectations going into it. Not only did it meet them but it surprisingly exceeded them. It is quite hard to have that happen after all these years of looking at material. In the end, I also picked up a few things of my own that I was not aware of prior. It’s amazing how Photoshop can keep on surprising you after years of working with it. Since the second part of the series, I haven’t seen a DVD as good as this one.

The way Krunoslav presents his information is very clever. He designed it in a way where it’s not hard to follow along if you’re a novice, yet still very exciting even if you’re a seasoned professional. He always provides examples of what he goes over so it’s not a foreign concept when you hear it for the first time.

Another great aspect about the DVD is that he doesn’t only go over the techniques but also explains the range of use each technique can be put toward. Learning a technique on its own is useless if you don’t know exactly when and where to apply it. Krunoslav doesn’t just teach the techniques, but also expresses the principles about when and why to use each of them. The end result is that the information isn’t just applicable to just beauty or fashion but to anything at all!

Vocabulary and terminology is also very important to understand. He takes some time to go over these specific terms so you aren’t lost. Essentially, he makes sure you understand the basics before actually getting into retouching to help you follow along easily.

You can tell he doesn’t hold back in his knowledge. I am surprised it was simply called, The Art of Dodge and Burn. In reality, it should have been called, the Principles of Retouching, because he divulges so much information that you come out it with much more than you bargained for.

I’m sure you’ve sat through tutorials where it all goes over your head. As you keep watching, all you see is a cursor fly across the screen without understanding what is going on or what the presenter is pressing to be able to achieve the end result. This is not the case here. I’ve always said, that the magic of retouching goes beyond just understanding these tools but knowing when and how to apply them. He really delves into an important element, which are the preferences, setup, and keyboard shortcuts that really allow for optimal efficiency. Often, the reason why people have a hard time putting new techniques into motion is a lack of understanding what preferences to apply before going forward with them. With this DVD, he goes over all of it so you can follow along very easily.

What I appreciate, above all else, is the time he took to organize all the information presented, which makes it completely clear and very visually engaging. He doesn’t leave you guessing anywhere. For example, there was a section in the DVD that talks about keyboard shortcuts. He took into consideration what keyboard you have based on what part of the world you live in. Usually, when people talk about shortcuts, they will talk about mac or pc shortcuts options, but not the type of keyboard you have based on where you live. That’s just a small example of the level of detail that he goes into.

As you can tell by now, this DVD is strictly not just about dodging and burning, I would call this essential learning material for Photoshop in general. As you can see by the table of contents, it really does cover all your bases. Believe it or not, even the table of contents is like a teaser. For example, the sectioned titled, Brush Settings, is almost 30 minutes long with each second being squeezed with pertinent and comprehensive material.

You get to go inside his mind and go along with him as he goes through every step of the process. The DVD’s title undersells the entire curriculum of what it offers. Even though it goes over dodging and burning in complete detail, it also goes over his entire retouching workflow as a whole.

A fantastic aspect is that he includes optimal ways to assess perfect working conditions to get the best results from your image. Being able to express how to get great results is a very difficult thing to do as it encompasses all these unique elements that most people never explain.

For example:
How often should you step away from the screen?
How often should you be taking a break?
Are you setting up a plan of attack before actually retouching?
What is your posture like to gain optimal comfort when retouching?
How do you prevent eye strain during retouching?

Seeing first hand, these tips being put into words, is just an added bonus on why I really feel strongly about recommending this DVD to anyone. Because retouching is more physically strenuous than most people think, and they need a plan on how to become efficient and equally comfortable. You can’t put a price on these tips from someone who spends hours a day working in front of a computer. That is the other dimension I am referring to and there are a lot more things to be taken into consideration that he goes over.

In my opinion, you could use this DVD and have it replace one class entirely.

So regardless of how experienced you are, put down your ego and grab this DVD! You’ll be impressed and will learn something new. As I mentioned earlier, even I picked up a few new things that I was surprised I didn’t know.

Here are a few questions I received from others as I was reviewing the DVD:

Is he easy to follow?
I tried to follow the DVD in the eyes of both a professional and a beginner. I felt that with the information provided, it was relatively easy to follow regardless of your level of experience. If you ever do get stuck anywhere, remember that this is a DVD and you can always go back to it over and over again.

Is he clear?
The way Krunoslav teaches, clarity was the biggest strong point about the DVD. Although English is not his first language, he slows down and takes his time explaining every topic with examples.

Is it comprehensive?
It was more than comprehensive regarding the dodge and burn portion because it goes into more than that, which is reflected by the the topics in the table of contents. It’s safe to say, that if you’ve been stuck anywhere with dodging and burning effectively, it will answer every question you’ve had. Consider this an essential part of your training library.

What does the DVD include?
It includes over 10 hours worth tutorials and every single working file that the tutorials go over. This allows you to follow along perfectly.

How valuable is it (cost vs benefit ratio)?
With the cost being so low in relativity with the information being provided, it’s highly valuable. If you’re also a beginner, it could take place of an entire semester’s worth of knowledge.

Do professionals learn anything?
Yes, especially if you’re very artistic based. I find that in the realm of Photoshop and retouching in specific, we’re either very visual and artistically based or technically based. It’s rare you get both sides converging. It was very technical yet applicable to both sides. I learned a lot more than I bargained for. I can see that a majority of people will walk away with something useful that they can apply right away.

Does it clear up misinformation found on the internet?
Youtube and online tutorials have plenty of bad information. If you’ve been frustrated with dodging and burning, this will make sense of it all.

In Conclusion
I could go on forever writing about the details of this DVD but I do not want to spoil it. At the end of this DVD you will have a better understanding of Photoshop, the tools provided, as well as the techniques and process of dodging and burning as a whole. It really demystifies all the bad information out there, and also accumulates all the good information into one source that you can revisit at any time. The information surpasses just dodging and burning and is an invaluable asset to your collection of knowledge. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t benefit from this DVD. Krunoslav is a wealth of information and he will surprise you with what he has to offer. To say this is comprehensive is a little bit of an understatement, as grand as that claim seems.


Pratik Naik 

I’ve gone 3D

This morning I woke up to this fantastic surprise, all thanks to the talented, Zubair Parkar ( 

This could not have come at a better time. The logo is a representation of a new level that I’ve reached in these past few months. I’ve taken Solstice to another dimension, not by just the quality of work, but also the opportunities I have found. Being agency represented is one of those new opportunities.

I’m excited to see where I will take my brand going forward over the next few months and the coming years, perhaps to even greater dimensions. 

So thank you for this, Zubair, this is incredible!  

Public Question: How to (and Not to) Contact a Retoucher

“Pratik, I wanted to know if there is any particular way you would recommend contacting a retoucher that I want to work with for the first time?” 

Our public question comes in today from a beauty photographer from NY. She has requested to remain anonymous.

This is a fantastic question, because there actually is a right and wrong way of going about it!

The video above, or anything close to it, is what you should never ever do. I made this video a while ago, and even though it’s a little out there, there is some truth to it.

If you find yourself saying, “That sounds a lot like me,” then we have a problem.

I thought it would be a nice write up to make, based primarily on humor, and a bit on fact.

What I Look For

Let me make this clear, I love all of my clients (aw moment), because of their amazing understanding and chemistry with the working relationship that we have.

Communication. Communication. Communication – When a photographer has fantastic communication, that is the most important thing to me.

Good Example:

Date: Anytime he pleases

Hi Pratik,

I recently saw your portfolio and think your work is fantastic. I wanted to know if you have any availability coming up. If so, I have a set of 8 files that I will need a quote for and would like to potentially work with you.

They are going to be published in (entermagazinenamehere). I would like the files in 1 week if possible, as the deadline for submission is is about a week and a half out. I can either provide you a link to download the images, or if you have server space or a dropbox, I can upload them to you. Based on your hourly rate, I’d like to know what the quote would be. Also, I will be providing you with a few items to make it easier for you. These items include:

1) A list of details on what we would like done for each shot aside from skin work. I can provide these notes written, or marked up on a separate copy of the images.

2) A few references based on the color treatment I would like for the overall files.

3) A couple of before/after images of my own work for you to see in regards to the level of detail I like. That way there is no confusion.

Finally, I prefer my files returned to me in 8 bit, AdobeRGB(1998), flattened PSD please.

I look forward to your reply and I hope to continue working with you in the future should this work out well for us.

Kind regards,
Mr. Awesomeunderstandingphotographer


As you saw by the example, communication is imperative. I would immediately reach through the screen, buy him a drink, and explore the possibilities of getting him knighted, while high fiveing him and his future unborn son. This is a dream response, and my clients that I have today, understand these things.

You think this sounds elaborate, I’m guessing, but believe it or not this was an actual initial e-mail from a client of mine today! (sans the name, and silly details).

In general, most of the professionals I work with deliver on getting me the right information, and it really makes things much easier, not to mention a much lower rate! We spend half as much time working with someone who knows what they are talking about and knows what they want.

I would say that this is an epitome of a perfect first inquiry. However, even asking for a rate and showcasing the files you need as well as specific details on the job will be more than good enough.

And once the first job is done, we get a sense of what the photographer wants. And often, even details aren’t needed as we understand the photographer’s demands unless it’s something very specific. So it becomes fast, efficient, and very cheap for something high in quality. That trickle down effect through the rest of the client relationship because of one initial e-mail is powerful.

These days, the amount of competent professional retouchers vs the amount of working photographers who are looking for retouchers are not balanced. There are not enough of us. What that means is that we are usually in high demand. If there is a retoucher you want to work with, chances are there at least 100 other photographers who are feeling the same way and act on it. So, the initial approach is very important.

Limitation of Retouching

If you’re respectful to us, we will love you. If I feel like I am about to be undervalued based on lack of appreciation you have for retouching, then that’s a different story.

One thing to keep in mind with retouching, is that even though most retouchers are fantastic, there is a limitation to retouching, for God’s sakes (talk about putting it lightly).

Before contacting a retoucher, I implore you to understand how far you can go with retouching. We’re here primarily to work with you to perfect your images, not rescue them from the mouth of Satan.

Date: Usually the day before it’s due


Yo, how’s it going? I have these 5 shots I am attaching. Also, the last shot is a Dior shot that we referenced for the shoot. Can you make my shots look like there’s? As you can see, mine came out similar, it just needs a bit of retouching magic to really set it off! Like, mostly color work and some dodge and burn. I have a budget of $10 a file, I don’t think it takes that long so I need them all tomorrow if possible. THX.


THX again,


Usually, when the entire team is off including the hair, makeup, lighting, clothing, and photography, don’t put it all on the retoucher to fix, there is a limit to retouching, and you have to understand that even we believe that it’s imperative to get it right in the camera as close as you can so we can build off a beautiful image and make it truly fantastic. Digital doesn’t give you an excuse to suck at photography. That is why so many film photographers who have transitioned into digital produce such fantastic imagery even without retouching.

And of course, we do understand fixing issues with makeup, hair, and such, that’s our job. But do not expect us to be there in replacement of an entire team! The cost you try and save up front, will then be paid in post production without a similar result. (Read that article here: Link)

Having great communication goes a long way, and also understanding the limitations of what digital can do. When I work with someone who gets it, I give them a steep discount because it’s a blessing working with great photographers who know what they want, and know what can be expected.

Other Bad Scenarios

I could end this here, but for the sake of humor, I asked a few of my colleagues to send some scenarios in which they felt occurred from time to time that killed their relationship, and here is what they said. I left them as anonymous, as requested.

Scenario: I will be asked a set of questions, in general. I will then write up a response in detail. As a follow up down the line, I get asked the same questions again because there was no time taken to read the entire response showing a lack of concern or attention. So like a BF who doesn’t ever listen to me, I ended it.

Scenario: Getting one line inquiries, like, “Hey, wut your rate??” Clearly, it’s not going to work out. Next.

Scenario: I ask a set of questions for clarification on my end, and in response I get something that doesn’t only ignore the question, but goes on another tangent all together, multiple times over and over again. Take some Adderall, will you, Ms. A.D.D.?

Scenario: Expressing a certain level of expectation of what is possible and what is isn’t (very clearly), only to have them come back later and demand that something has to be done when it was clearly defined that it cannot be done.

Scenario: I clearly tell them what my rate is, only to be asked if the job can be done 50% less than quoted. How about no? Oh, right, and I will let everyone know as well of how cheap you are. Don’t waste my time.

Scenario: I love it when I quote on a job and everything sounds fine. Then after everything is completed (or so I think!) they start throwing things in there that wasn’t agreed upon initially, like color work, and manipulation. Lol! Always be sure and add a clause for modifications in your quote!

Scenario: This is a kicker, sometimes they ask me for the most ridiculous things. “Please remove the wall.” And I want to reply with, and replace it with what? Do you know how Photoshop works? It would be nice to ask for things that actually make sense. Then I realized half my time was spent explaining that it wasn’t possible. And their reply, “You must not be a good retoucher then!”

In short

We really take notice of great communication and appreciation, and although most of this was primarily out of humor, I hope the takeaway is a reflection on mostly what not to do when contacting a retoucher for the first time, and down the line in a client relationship in general. A healthy client relationship is very important.

Sometimes these things occur on accident, so this can serve as what you can do to better your chances on maintaining great ties, and possibly fantastic rates!

If you’re difficult, chances are you’ll be searching for a while. If you’re great at communicating, we love you.

Pratik Naik

Adobe Photoshop Upgrades (Part 1): Liquify Precision Tools

As I work through Photoshop, there are always problems that come up that make me think, “I wish they had this!”

But often I feel like I may be alone. Either way, I’m going to verbally start writing out what I would like to see added on to Photoshop in the coming years in upcoming version. 

Liquify Precision

The first thing that I would to see implemented has to do with precision liquifying. Liquifying is usually done by hand.

So the flaw in that is that you have to have steady hands, and a great eye, in order to get precise lines. For example, if you are shrinking in a model , you still want to be sure by the end of the procedure that her body lines are straight. And believe me, I have seen some terrible body lines and it becomes obvious when a lot of people do it.

Or say if you want to have perfectly lined lip work, you would have to eye it as far as how close you get it.

Now, there are obviously workarounds to it to get perfect lip lines (Want to know it? ;) ), but one ‘easy’ feature I would love to see implemented is an option in the pen tool that would be called “Liquify to line”

So essentially, you draw out the pen tool path, say on top of a crooked lip line, and you and you simply hit ‘liquify to line’ and the high area of contrast that the pen tool line is on gets matched up appropriately. Because for the most part, the area that you are trying to fix would be a line where there is high contrast (lip, eyes, makeup, body lines, clothing, etc). 

Another Alternative

A simpler alternative, even, would be to simply allow guidelines (which works like a pen tool) to place over the image in the liquify area. Much like the ruler tool and how it doesn’t interfere with the layers, but with the flexibility of the pen tool. So you know you’re lines are precise. 


These are of course, random suggestions to get the liquify tool more precise, and we obviously have manual workarounds for absolute precision, but for people who don’t know, this would be great. 

The tool needs an upgrade, and so do others, but I’ll write about them as they come up as problems in my workflow. 

DVD: The Art of Dodge and Burn

Good friend of mine, Krunoslav Stifter, is taking healm of the third series in the High End Retouching series. This will focus, in great detail, on the elegant dodge and burn process which has eluded many for so long. I will be providing an official pre-release review before it launches, so stay tuned. This is merely a heads up to sign up for updates. 

Go to their site and check out the DVD Trailer on the top left of the 4 presented to see how much he has packed into this DVD.

Vitaliy Druchin does a great job of showcasing real fantastic material that even I can get behind. 

Be sure to keep posted for future updates, the release will be coming up at the end of this month in download format, and in October for a physical copy. 

Original: Making It As a Professional Retoucher

"People don’t to want to die, but everyone wants to go to Heaven."

A quote uttered in college Algebra years ago by my professor. It was hot inside the class and no one was really paying attention. We all, of course just laughed it off as random garble. I could still remember looking around the room seeing everyone laugh, assuming he was joking like he always does. He was trying to invigorate us to study for our final. He was insisting that we had to pay our dues before we reached where we wanted. That moment I realized he wasn’t joking anymore. 

For some reason, what he said that day in class stuck in my mind. In fact, I could argue that, that was the most memorable line that I remember any of my professors say. The fact that it was probably dismissed and forgotten by everyone else, makes me wonder who else may have remembered that. 

When I first began in my career, I would learn first hand what it took to make it. I knew it was sacrifice and dedication, but after a while, those cliche statements tend to become watered down in their true potency of how much effort they require. 

The main question people still ask me is how I became a retoucher, and what does it entail? People don’t realize that it’s more than sheer skill. 

Although I have not made it to my ultimate goal, I can say that I have gone through enough to realize what it takes to become a successful retoucher. I wanted to briefly share with you regarding some traits I feel are absolutely necessary. This is not only to educate, but also shed a light on what you need to posses to make it. 

Keep in mind, all of this is based on personal reflections and opinions. All everything is, is opinion, really. Everyone has a different viewpoint of the truth and what is accurate. Take it for what you will.


Business and Marketing

Business and Marketing

This is the most important aspect about being a retoucher, it trumps skillset and everything that follows. In the beginning, there is only you. You without help, just an idea of where you want to go in your mind. You won’t have an agent or business partner, at least for the most of us. Being able to understand that you will play many roles, primarily that of a salesman and a marketer. You will have go out there and make sales and market yourself.

The one major advantage I have found from people who do not make it to the ones that do, is that the ones that make it are agressive with their business and know how to market themselves. This is why these two go hand in hand. If you cannot maintain a presence, and book jobs, you will be cut out by people who do. Now, with the internet, remember that anyone can pick up retouching - it costs nothing. You have to not only get jobs, but market yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Having a business plan, and executing it step by step is the vitality in your business. 

As Joel Grimes said, if you cannot pick up the phone, and make cold calls, you just won’t make it. Now, in this day, cold calls are probably equivalent to cold e-mails.


I consider this a subset of marketing. In this day, it’s absolutely vital to establish an online presence. The most succesful up and coming people are engaged in networking to a degree that made me realize how serious it was. Blogging and social networking has given people a way to be found. You can’t expect people to know you exist unless you let them know you’re here! Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, Tumblr, Google+, and these other sites are here so we can take full advantage of them. Having and making connections is the key. It’s often who you know that can really get you to new heights. 


Think of everyone you admire, look up to, or is succesful. They are all characters. They have something about them that really makes them stand out. My friend, Natalia Taffarel for example, has a unique and distinct personality about her. If you know her and see what she posts or writes about, you can clearly make out how she differs from the rest. She is not just a person, she has become a brand. And part of a brand, is personality. Yes, even though you’re behind a screen, part of your personality seeps into the the online realm as they get to know you. 

The other aspect of personality, is in regards to how well you get along with your clients and maintain relationships. When you work with your clients, it helps to have a great personality when working with them, one that reflects commitment, enthusiasm, and professionalism. No one wants to work with someone who is always negative and possesses terrible traits. You have to be approachable and personable. 


When you’re working with photographers, it helps to know photography and lighting. Why? Let’s say you receive a set of files for a shoot, and you want to reshape lighting slightly in post. It helps to understand how it would look in real life before you guess at it. Another exmaple, you’re retouching a set for a submission and your client tells you that the file is not as sharp as you intended. You can look at the exif and see that one of the reasons is that they were not on the sweet spot of the lens they were using, or perhaps that their SS was too low. These are very negligable examples, of course, and it can go on forever. A lot of the times, when you can communicate in lingo and understand exactly what the photographer is saying, and actually tell him how to save money in post production just based on lighting suggestions or what to do on set physically, it really puts an added advantage to you. Also, many retoucher (I know I do) help on set, I can now double as an assistant and setup and tear down as needed. I can also help on set showing the photographer a few things on how to cut down time in post. You instantely become more valuable. There are countless examples, really. You should be able to think of many more. 


This is basic. Have you seen those terrible Ralph Lauren ads?

If you understand anatomy, things like this do not happen. You can see lots more on

It really helps to understand how a body should look based on the way it bends, because you will know exactly what is going too far. 

Drawing and Art

The principles of art and drawing become a staple of talented retouchers. Their awareness of how light should be shaped, and how to execute the retouching process becomes vital. Studying art, allows you to get a grasp of studying the execution of retouching. In art, you’re forced to draw shadow and light around complex forms, and learn color values and how color and light differ and relate to each other. You study more than that, of course, but this is primarily a mere example. Many of us have a background in fine art or some form of education on the basic principles of drawing and form. Shifting color and light is essentially what retouching is. 


Now, more than ever, retouchers are not only expected to perfect skin and hair, but also manipulate images to an entirely new level which requires an advanced range of Photoshop skills. If you do not posess at least a basic understanding of Photoshop manipulation, you will lose jobs especially when they request for you to do basic things like adjust clothing or remove items all the way to compositing faces and new expressions from other files. It can get pretty intense, and more involved than described. 


The word in itself is so abstract, defining the ability of aptitute or skill. 

Of course, learning everything means nothing, without the ability to execute your knowledge in the real world. Everything I have described till now has been just characteristics of knowledge, primarily. in the end you have to have talent. I consider talent to be the level of detail in which you execute the knowledge given (by studying or by nature) to the task at hand. You must have some talent to make it. Even if it is a little. I say this, because I have seen people who are talent-less with a great business and marketing sense make it. On tht other side, I have seem people with all the talent in the world and no business sense make it. But usually those that make it are people with more business skills coupled with at least a little bit of talent. 

Education and Innovation

Aside from knowing how to retouch, you need to constantly set aside time to educate what new tools and techniques are available on the market to help you stay ahead of the compeition. You also need to be innovative and use these tools to come up with your own unique solutions that no one else knows. Setting yourself ahead of the competition in one way or another is key.


There is also a lot more included that are subsets of these items, such as accounting, time management, organization, cost of equipment, customer service, and so forth. You are essentially an entire office in one. There is a lot that meets the eye, spend time in doing more than honing your skills, but honing your business. 

And finally, keep in mind that this is all based on personal opinion and what I felt was important. You may agree, disagree, or feel there is even more, and that is completely fine. As long as you’re prepared, that is the most important part of all. 

Pratik Naik 

Identifying color or colour, based on whether you live on the right or the wrong side of the planet, (just kidding), is based primarily on fact. Have you heard the phrase, “It’s clear as night or day”. Often, even that statement is flawed. 

Here’s an image. What do you see? Two spiraling lines merging in the center right? One blue, and one green? 

What if I told you that you were absolutely wrong. It would be your ‘fact’ against my ‘opinion’. It is your fact because you have a valid image that showcases both an apparent green and blue line spiralling down into the center against my random statement. 

What if I told you that they are both actually the same color?

Want proof? Open up photoshop and take a point sample of both lines - they are both the same color. 

This is why fact, is sometimes a matter of opinion.

There is no definite. 

Original: The Importance of Talented Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists For Post Production

What role do makeup artists and hair stylists come in for the benefit of the retoucher? Or to be more specific, how important are talented makeup artists and hair stylists to have on set over an amateur? To carry on forward, I will label them in one term, ‘artists’, for the sake of brevity. 

Artists are the glue that holds the shoot together. They are essential to every shoot that transpires, from inception of an idea to the published print. Most of the photographer’s ideas are based around what makeup and hair the model will showcase, especially if it’s beauty. Now, the question isn’t if they are important, but how important they are, and how important are great ones in relation to mediocre ones. Are they worth the added costs? 

In short, yes, and allow me to explain. 

What makes it hard for the talented artists, especially the makeup artists, is that they are usually undercut by people proclaiming to be good at makeup, because they know how to apply it to themselves. Just because you apply makeup to your own face, doesn’t make you a talented artist, let’s get that out of the way! Same goes for hair. Secondly, most people can start working without the need to go to school for it. So that leaves us flooded with a mix of amateurs and professionals in a market where everything seems up for grabs these days.

The Trickle Down Effect

What this now boils down to is the affect it has on you and your team. 

Let’s say you’re doing a shoot where the artists become necessary. The question becomes, is it worth spending the additional money on talented and reputable artists for your shoot (hair and makeup) over beginners who may do it for TFP? 

The answer is YES

From personal experience, clients approach me and ask me for a quote on a job. Upon looking at the files, one of the worst things I find are that they cheaped out on makeup and hair, and they came to me because they didn’t have the ability to fix tremendous flaws the artists should have spotted on set. Peeling eyelashes, bleeding lip lines, uneven lip lines, improper blending of the eyeshadow, terribly clumped eyelashes, overfilled in eyebrows, face tone not matching neck and body tones due to bad makeup, uneven eyeliner, and the list goes on forever. Let’s not even talk about avant-garde looks. Did I mention that hair is the most expensive thing to fix due to the sheer time invested in digital combing out each strand of hair, one by one? Yes, it’s that brutal.

And in the end, after all that time and money spent in fixing these issues, you’re back to where you would have started out with it you hired someone who got it right in the first place. In effect, you may even scrap some really fantastic shots that the model gave you because it wasn’t fixable. You’ve now wasted your own time, and cost (depreciation, cost of time, space, etc). 

With cameras these days, every flaw will not only be seen, but magnified and showcased. And most of the time and money goes into fixing these flaws just to get back to where you started! So the cost incurred by the team becomes 10 fold of what it would cost to have hired great artists. 

In Conclusion

So yes, spend the extra money, the results will speak for itself, and they are truly worth the cost, it pays off for itself in post production if you have to do it yourself, or hand it off to your retoucher, he or she will love you for it! I know I do. 

Instead of saving $300+ by going TFP, you will save a lot more in time, energy, and money afterwards. And not only will it pay off for itself, you will profit from it. Your portfolio will look fantastic which adds further to interested clients and opens up doors to better talent you can now work with. No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t have a strong team together, it makes everyone look bad. 

I can’t vouch how much I appreciate talented makeup and hair artists as a retoucher, I always take note of their work. I have a list of 10 that I can think of right off the top of my head, but I do not want to start naming them in fear of leaving a couple behind. So if you’re reading this, give yourself a pat on the back, the industry recognizes your talents and appreciates it more than you know. 

Let’s make this simple, here’s one formula to sum up everything I have said:

Do you remember your Algebra? 

Photoshop Fail: Lacoste

Good friend of mine, Benjamin Von Wong sent this in. Check out some of his fantastic work at

On his travels, he found a huge ‘mistake’ from this Lacoste advertisement, to put it lightly. 

I couldn’t help but sharing this because for the past 15 minutes, I’ve been staring the shadow, almost like I’m taking a rorschach test. 

Here’s a rorschach test for those who aren’t familiar. 

In the beginning, I realized something was off, then it immediately became apparent to me that it was pretty major. At first, I mentally began analyzing the angle of the light and what shadow pattern should be cast. I would think of the anatomy pattern of it all and realized it made no sense! The flyaway shadow was a misleading effect, almost as though she has a massive shoulder tumor. 

If you look really close, it almost looks like a lizard sticking out it’s tounge or a T-Rex. 

Now I can’t get it out of my head, the shadow looks like a Muppet baby. 

At least I know one thing, Lacoste did their job of making the image stick in people’s heads! Perhaps that was their entire subliminal mission. 

In short, Benjamin said it best, “8 feet of epic fail.”


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