Editors and Post Production
Finally for your team is this person. Now this person may be you. You should certainly be editing your own work to a certain degree. But the difference between editing and retouching is apples and oranges. Editing is figuring out which picture and frame you want, and retouching is the art of taking a digital file and making that a final. And there was, in the early days of Photoshop, it was sort of like dirty work right. Because it was sort of not, people didn't view it as being honest in how this is being done. But the reality is is retouching goes back as long as photography has existed. And it's just in a different mode now. It's like the difference between the printing press and a PC. It's just a progression. So the way you shoot your files originally influences how you can retouch them at the end. Now I only shoot digital files. I'm sure most of you only shoot digital files, oh digital files, raw files. I only shoot raw files now. And that has been the case since raw files even be...
came available in digital cameras. And I intentionally shoot my raw file a little flatter, and a little underexposed so that I have a richness to that when I pull it out in post. And that is my style. And I want whoever's retouching my pictures to understand that and look at my style. So I've only really had maybe three people in my entire career retouch any of my editorial pictures. And two of them still work with me. So that is a really important person in your workflow. And if it's you, and you're really good in Photoshop, and you like doing that work, great because then there's always a consistency. Advertising, again whole different thing. They have retouching companies that basically work with it and that's different. But majority of what you're gonna do when you're working in editorial and publishing work and particularly in things like branded content, you're gonna be doing your own retouching, you're gonna have to trust somebody to do it for you. So when you have somebody who's really good at it, and understands your style and it doesn't look too processed, that's a really tough one, right, is to not push the files too hard. So it does look really really worked. Once you've gotten to that point, and you're really comfortable, hold onto that person. And if it's you, just kind of consistently do the work. And you'll get faster at it, and be better at it, but it is an essential point in this. It's like being a good printer as a film photographer, or having a good printer as a film photographer because all the great ones, the real great ones, either retouched their own or had a great retoucher that they worked with. So it's the same here. And obviously Adobe changed the nature of how we kind of handle files. I don't know many people who are not using Photoshop, or raw or Lightroom or whatever. All of those products to retouch their pictures so. I mean as far as that's concerned once you've kind of gotten your whole team kind of assembled now, and all these people and places, and these people what they get paid is usually by if you're paying an outside retoucher you have to negotiate per image. So they usually have a scale like we do based on the project, and the volume of the project, and how often you use them, and all of that stuff. And they will give you a per image price, and it ranges wildly. There is not as much consistency in that market as their is in ours because they do so many different things. So if you're asking to do really heavy heavy retouching that's gonna cost more. And if you're just talking about basic color correction, and you know spot reductions and all these other things, that's probably a little bit less. So that's a more of a negotiation that you would have with a retoucher that would educate you as to what they do. So we have to be willing to learn the same way other people have to learn about what our pay scales are.
How hard do you work to get it right in camera?
Oh wow, well I mean I think my experience is a little unique in that my survival as a photographer who had a longterm contract with the New York Times relied on that getting it right in camera. Because I couldn't do a whole of. Retouching wasn't even, we don't even use the word retouching when we talk about what's happening with New York Times pictures. We talk about color correction, or whatever. We basically process the image. That's basically the way we discuss that. Because we don't talk about retouching because from a journalistic perspective even in food photography, there is no retouching a picture for the New York Times. So it's more like processing a raw image. So I worked, always worked very very hard to get it right in camera. And it served me, it served me very well because now whenever we do retouching for other projects it's very light because I try to get my color right, I try to get my contrast right, my white balance is always right on point. And all of those things, the more you work a file, the more it's like dough right. The more you work it, the less it's gonna be. So short answer, very hard.
This is from Atlanta Terry. If you are creating raw files that are we know inherently are flat and underexposed, do you setup an external display to have more contrast and have them be brighter?
Yeah that's what we talked about with the digitech right?
Yeah yeah exactly.
And that's exactly what the tech is doing, is kind of making those adjustments on the fly. They're very light adjustments, but they're basically just making it look more like what it should look like to an untrained eye. So if you have a client standing there and they're looking at a flat image and like, oh that's not nice. You know so you just kind of yes.
And what's great is that you're most likely using either Capture One or Lightroom and those are non-destructive adjustments too. So that's a great thing.
Right they're not permanent adjustments. You're making quick adjustments just for viewing, and then when the raw files are stored, there's no touch you know. You can't actually make adjustments to a raw file that are permanent. It's more like a digital negative.
So you said when you do the advertising work, always that's gonna get sent out to a retoucher. And so do you shoot your images slightly differently with that knowledge? Like do you make it less flat, less underexposed with that in mind?
Probably not, but I would consult if I, if they will tell me who the retoucher is gonna be they may have particular specs that they like that help them as far as file format or whatever. You know certain settings within the camera. They may communicate that, they may not. But it's a valid question because sometimes there are particular retouchers who like things a certain way. But I would probably shoot it the same way anyway because I still want the amount of information that I know I capture on a raw file to be consistent. Because eventually I may need that file. So I may want to have to retouch it myself.
If you could tell us what the wild range for retouching is, like on the lowest end to the--
I mean I've had people charge me, I've had people charge me as little as $10 an image, and I've seen it go up as high as 100 or 200 an image. Yeah I mean it all depends on the scope of the project. Nobody's gonna take a job to retouch five pictures at 10 bucks each. Well maybe not nobody, there probably is somebody who will take that job. But you know when you're talking about professional retouching it is like I said, the sale can be depending on just how, it's like 75 layers on an image. It's gonna take 'em three days to work on it. You know he's not gonna give you a per rate. He might give you an hourly rate on that picture. Yeah so.
I live in a smaller city, I've tried to focus on food photography, but finding it hard to make a living. It is my dream to continue. But I am forced to do other sorts of photography. Can you give us a little bit of advice as to approaches to succeed. And I'm gonna preface this with thinking about the size of city that Kate McDermott lives in.
Which is very small.
Well it was interesting we have in conversation yesterday during a break. And it was about the combination of doing wedding photography and food. Because a lot of times wedding photographers get asked to shoot food because food is such a big part of the wedding. And having kind of separate tabs on your website that kind of delineate the kinds of things that you can do. I think as long as you are able to separate those, and that whoever's looking at your website is aware that you are aware that these are different genres of work. I think once you start to grow into that career and one of those things becomes more primary and you start to get work that takes you out of your small town then you can kind of pare back those things on your website. But while you're exclusively working in smaller places then being more able to show different types of work should help alleviate that problem. Because if there's not enough food work, but there might be some wedding work, or there might be some landscape work, or you might have to do some product photography. You can actually build your website around that.
Yeah and don't you think part of that conversation also and that key to success is marketing? That you don't necessarily need to live in New York to do great, you know to do cookbooks and do that king of thing.
Absolutely right, and yeah. Once you've established a portfolio you can send your portfolio and reach out to companies that hopefully will hire you to do the work you do best. So you send the link to that part of your portfolio that shows the food work, and to smaller publishers, regional publishers who are doing regional cookbooks. Maybe people who are doing ebooks. So it's about doing that kind of research as well, and not feeling landlocked by the small town.
What do you say to publishers that want to do all their own post production and just take your raws?
That's fine, I mean it's it depends on what the project is. I mean I get it, I've been very hesitant to do that in the past because I didn't trust that the, we were gonna get the final product we wanted. But you have to start to let go of that in a way because as the projects get bigger, and they're willing to pay you more, and they want to inherit that part of the job, which is really hard, then it's okay. I mean it's just that's the nature of the business. There's certain times you have to let go. And I might not have given that answer five years ago. But I've learned through time that if that's the way they want to work, and it's gonna take the burden off of me to do that much work where it's not, I'm not being compensated nearly enough for it because it's part of the package I'm offering them. Then go ahead. I mean and if it looks terrible at the end of the day that's on you. You know, I know if it's an editorial project, no one wants that. I've never run into an editorial project who just wants my raw. Because they don't want to edit it. You don't want to look through 1,000 pictures to find five. Right but if it's an advertising project, and they got resources, then you have to trust that they're gonna do the right thing with the files.