Who doesn’t love beautiful photos? But not all pictures appear beautiful to the subjective eye. As a photo retoucher, you can intervene and transform dull photographs to Vogue-worthy pieces.
What career is this and what are its job functions?
The layperson often associates photo retouchers with airbrushed celebrities in glossy magazines. But there’s more dignity to the job than that. A photo retoucher’s main job is to maintain or improve quality of the images. You may have to enhance them without misleading or misrepresenting the message of the photos.
The client may ask you to maintain consistency in all the images and to meet the general guidelines of the company. Besides retouching, the client may also want you to “mask” and “trap” photos (to protect specific areas of a photo from being manipulated) and convert photos to different file formats.
What are the specific benefits of pursuing this career?
Clients offer you the freedom to improve the quality of their photos and images. It’s fun to manipulate photos, and this is quite an easy job to do, especially for photographers and creative individuals who want to telecommute locally or via the Internet. You can find an abundant supply of photo retouching tools that make photo editing more convenient and extremely fast.
Why is this type of career in demand right now?
E-commerce websites, for example, are worthless if they don’t have high-quality, visually-appealing photos that showcase products. Pictures may also be useless if they are not clear or up to par with the expectations of potential customers. Almost all types of media (print, digital, mobile, etc.) recognize the many ways in which photos can convey persuasive messages to sell products, services and brand/loyalty to their customers and clients.
What type of person would love this career?
This job is intended for those who love to see great photos. You should have the passion to make any image appear vivid, excellent, and pleasing.
What are some disadvantages/obstacles in this career?
These days not everyone is going to understand your job. Many believe that it’s unethical for someone to edit photos. Doing so gets rid of their rawness or deceives the public. You also need constantly to challenge yourself in using a variety of editing tools. If you’re working as a freelancer, you will need to buy editing and photo manipulation software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Additionally, if you’re working with many photos, you may run the risk of being inaccurate.
What skills do you need?
Photo editing doesn’t require any formal education, though you’ll find it a much easier job if you have a creative background. You also need to have an excellent eye for details and shouldn’t succumb to standards much lower than those set by your clients. You must be fast but efficient, editing several photos in a short time.
Since you will be working with some programs, you need to have excellent computer skills. If you’re collaborating with a team, you should possess interpersonal skills. Many employers will want you to have strong color theory skills so you can expertly mix, match and improve colors.
How do you break into this career?
You can begin this career as a photographer, graphic designer or website designer and move on to photo retouching. You can also practice photo manipulation and start building your own portfolio, which you can showcase to potential clients.
Who usually hires in this field?
• Advertising agencies
• Photo studios
• Website owners
• Blog owners
What is the average pay rate / salary?
A digital photo retoucher can earn between $75,000 and $85,000 a year. If you’re working as a desktop publishing artist with occasional photo retouching, your bank account can increase to as much as $50,000.
How and where to find jobs / clients?
The majority of magazine publications, both online and offline, always hire photo retouchers. This job is also in high demand among advertising agencies. The best site to find telecommute jobs is CraigsList.org—here you can find jobs to retouch wedding photos. Job sites like Freelancer.com, Elance.com, and oDesk.com list gigs to retouch and improve photos and images. If you cannot find jobs via the Internet, you can contact ad agencies and publishers within your local area.
Photo Retouching for Wedding Photographers
Not all wedding photographers do their own photo retouching. Because of time constraints, they often outsource photo retouching gigs to professional photo retouchers. A wedding photographer usually snaps between 300-800 + digital photos during a 6-hour wedding (this includes the matrimony and reception and in-between shots). Here is how it works:
1. After the photographer has finished the wedding event, he uploads the raw photo files to a secure website or hosting service.
2. You download the raw photos to your computer. You can browse through the photos
from your desktop or import them into your photo retouching software, such as Photoshop.
3. Unless the wedding photographer has specific instructions to follow, your job is to browse through the photos and identify any photo which lacks clearness, color, and quality.
4. Once you have identified and tagged low-quality photos, your next step is to enhance them to remove any deficiencies and improve color, contrast, light and darkness, and sharpness.
5. When you have completed your job, you upload the improved photos to the photographer’s secure website or hosting service.
The average pay rate for retouching wedding photos is between $200-$300 per job, depending on the amount of photos and the overall complexity.
Photo Retouching Software
If you are just beginning a career as a photo retoucher, you can use any of the (free) open source or lower priced photo editing applications. But you will hit a point in your career where you will be working with professional photographers, ad agencies, media companies, and magazines. These high-demand gigs require you to use more powerful software applications.
The undisputed leader of photo retouching software is Adobe. Most photo retouchers use Adobe Photoshop to edit, manipulate, and improve photos. Photoshop gives you many powerful tools to improve photos with a few clicks of the mouse, and also to bulk edit photos according to custom settings.
You can download a 30-day trial version from Adobe’s homepage. Nearly any ad agency or large media company that hires you will expect you to know and use Adobe Photoshop. Employers might also expect you to have a working knowledge of Adobe Acrobat, Quark, Adobe InDesign, and Illustrator.
A cheaper but recommended alternative is Corel PaintShop Pro, available at http://www.corel.com. It, too, has powerful features to edit and improve photos and images.
High End Photo Retouching Jobs
To get photo retouching jobs at large ad agencies or national newsstand magazines, you need a Bachelor of Arts degree, 3-5 years of experience as a digital photo retoucher, and have experience in a specific area, such as product/packaging/cosmetics work. You must be skilled at comp work and be able to create seamless images. Most employers want to see an online portfolio with before and after samples.
Different employers use different job titles for “photo retouchers.” You may also find job titles for “Photo Comp Artist,” “Retoucher/Compositor” or “Color Correction / Retouching Specialist.”
A typical photo retouching gig requires you to:
- Retouch, composit, and manipulate photos;
- Assist with pre- and post production of print materials;
- Evaluate and improve color levels;
- Provide photo retouching and image manipulation on print projects;
- Check proofs before final printing; and
- Provide graphic design support as needed, such as image placement and color proofing.