Stacking Order


The Business of Professional Photo Retouching


Lesson Info

Stacking Order

So let's talk about what we mean by this. So we talked about solar curve during estimating and when you're spotting. This is a different thing. It's the same curve. It's a different thing. This is putting a solar curve on the top of the job at the end of the job, and what you do, you turn every single layer off, every single layer off, you turn the bottom layer on, you turn the next layer on, you turn the next layer on and you look. Okay, this is where it gets really bad. You know what you do? You turn the second to the last one on, the third one to the last one on. You have to turn the layers off and on with different layers turned on because there might be a cut line. Just because you go in stacking order doesn't mean you're gonna see all the lines. And he's not kidding, when he says, "All the files," any file that goes out of the shop gets checked with a solar curve and this is a pain in the butt. And why this is a pain in the butt is many times you have a lot of layers, right? And ...

it's a pain. Two, you're already trying to get that file out. And Lori Bloom, who taught us to do this at Blue Moon, she literally was Monk. We had to draw a grid on the file. A grid, with guides. Square one, square two, square three. Two of us on the file, and there's a reason we had to do that. And the reason is, jobs went out with mistakes. So, I'm gonna illustrate a mistake that a job went out on. I did a poster back in the LVT days, so it was a time that we would give you a piece of film, an eight by ten piece of film with the job printed on it, and it was for Blade, the first Blade poster. And it had a black gradient coming up from the bottom. That black was a, I'm gonna guess it was a 97 or 98% black transparency. On the monitor, that's black. On LVT, that is not black. And what happened was, his half legs, that were cut off from the frame and not retouched, fully showed on the LVT. That LVT cost 350 bucks. And not only did that LVT cost $300, it took the writing time, the machine had to print it on the piece of film, the film had to go to the lab to be processed, and then come back, and then the delivery guy's waiting there and that's when we see that I've made a mistake. Oh, you mean we have to rewrite the film, which, back in those days, that took a lot-- It's like running a big, huge print. Oh, and then send it to the lab? So that job is now four hours late. Four hours late because I did not put a solar curve on it. And four hours in our business doesn't sound like much, but people sure think it is. Mine wasn't as expensive, but it was twice as embarrassing in that, the kid that I was training, we're now great buddies after 20 years, but he came up and he asked, he was like, "Hey, I wanna learn what doing, can I learn from you?" and I said, "Yeah, of course, man. Pull up a chair "I'll teach you." We did this for two years and then I left and went to Emerald. He left and went to another spot that did design, and he did some finishing, some comping. They sent it to me as a finisher at a finish house. In this shot, it was an orange bullet, target looking thing in a very saturated, orangey background and, in there, they wanted bullet holes. And what they do is they take a piece of paper and they punch a pencil through and then they finesse all these bullet pulls pulling out and then that goes on on a screening mode. Sou you'll see screening and then you gotta darken in the bullet hole so it looks like it goes all the way through and it's on this super saturated background. So I'm looking at it and here's my peels, petals coming up and my dark black is all that great and it's this orange just cranking right in your eyeballs. That's great. And now I go on to all the stars and everything's warped just right. Got the noise just perfect. All the target, everything's pathed out and clean. I'm like, I'm done. I send off and LT, I go home. They get it the next morning and this kid who I trained now is looking at the LVT. And this bullet hole, all the masking done was great, but outside, you could still see cut lines of the outside of the scan. And he was like, "Dude, you feelin' alright?" He was like, "This is not stuff you normally miss." Normally I don't, but I did that time, and if I had run a solar curve on the thing, I wouldn't have got caught. Yeah. And you just said something really telling that's important for your notes. Especially on super saturated colors, on an RBG monitor, when it's super saturated, you won't see a cut line. So if you're doing a really high, orange, vivid, green, you certainly wanna run a solar curve at the end, okay? We call it running a curve. You're not running a curve. You're hitting an action and there's a curve on top or you're making a curve, so don't get confused by my linguistics here. Running a curve is just and expression. Another time I got caught, there was, I usually just go through in folders, so you have an actor or an actress, and they're each in their folders with all their masking and all their adjustment layers. And I went through and I turned on each folder and I checked the masking and everything looked good. Turned on this guy, turned on them both, turned them on, everything was looking good. And I got a call back from the shop and they're like, "Dude, there's a cut line "going right down here." And I'm like, "That's impossible. I never touched that. "That was something I never did." However, in the comp, the artist that designed it, they had just grabbed another adjustment layer and brought it in and, in that mask, was just a little baby-- so there was two big airbrushes. One came in like this and the other came in like this, but it was off to the side of the crop. Now, when they copy in that adjustment layer, that mask has this little crop-y thing, and it's only off by 10 percent, but I kinda disregarded it because I never touched straight down the face on any of those adjustment layers. So this happened three generations off me, happened outside of cropped two other artists ago and I still got caught. So I got caught for something that I didn't even do. It's good insurance. Yeah, and I have a philosophy, and I'm not sure if you agree with this, but if I've touched it, the file's mine. It doesn't matter what someone did before, if it's in my hands, it's now mine. So I'm gonna tell you two things about that. One, that means I never send a file out, I should never send a file out with the layers not named properly. What will happen is I'll get a file and there's no name on it. It's layer 175. So I'll rename all those. I will get elements, like shots of humans, people, and there's no frame number. I will write, "No frame number," because it's in my hands so I don't have it, but I'm just telling you I know I don't have it. So I think that's an important point. You just brought up something we don't have on the list and I think you guys should do this. Option click on your layer mask, every single layer mask, and look at them 'cause that's how you would've seen that. I don't have that on my checklist. Nope. I don't even have this on my checklist and it just occurred to me this should be added. If you option click on your mask, you can see it in black and white and you will see those line like that. Whereas, you won't-- 'cause it's just black and white. So that's a really good point. Check each and every thing. Yeah, everything.

Class Description

Create your own retouching business from the ground up. In this class, one of Hollywood¹s hottest retouchers reveals the secrets to designing your own business. Lisa Carney walks through the steps needed to start and run a smooth business while keeping your clients engaged and happy. Whether you’re looking to work with photographers, agencies or even bill for post production - you’re bound to find valuable insight into the world of photo retouching.

This class covers:

  • Defining the type of retoucher you want to be
  • Solutions for the problems you’ll encounter on shoots and in post production
  • Communication techniques for clients
  • Secrets for setting realistic expectations from markups through revisions
  • Pricing your services and handling billing issues
  • Emergency tips for when jobs go off the rails

Get the inside scoop from a true insider. You’ll finish this class knowing how to construct a profitable photo retouching business model AND develop the tools to sustain it.


Bill Buckley

I'm a photographer who wants to be as good at Photoshop as possible. In my field few retouchers get hired, so it's all on me. Plus my creative vision cannot be accomplished by photography alone. Not to mention that in the field, as a photographer I can't always be perfect. Photoshop to the rescue. This is possibly THE best class I've purchased on Creative Live, and they've all been good. Great insight, entertaining, well taught Lisa and Simon were awesome. Bought more LC tutorials based on this course.

Kari A. Youkey

This course just opened my world. I started ( back in the Jurassic era) as an illustrator/drafter ( pen and ink), then CAD programmer, then GIS analyst with photoshop just coming onto the scene pregnant and unplugged focusing on parenting and my inner artist. I was gifted an IPad 6 years ago in the mist of my Taxi Mom years. My favorite ‘hobby’ became manipulating images and an addiction to Adobe apps. Now, In my new empty nest status, I have been trying to figure out my next direction in life....and CreativeLive has been a wonderful resource to explore different creative opportunities, feeling somewhere between photography and graphic design, I wanted to ‘paint’ photos with my tool of choice the tablet, not the camera. ...but it wasn’t until this course that I clicked with an Aha! I don’t have to become an photographer? I could get paid to retouch? Other people’s photos?.....and, I have a work history skill set that backs it up! Thank you so much for this course! Loved the instructors and how they shared their experiences and knowledge. You two have just provided a wonderful map and whole new path to explore and inspired a much needed creative spark to get back to work❤️. Thank You!

a Creativelive Student

Lisa knocked it out of the ball park again! Amazing work Lisa and Simon! I just can't find the many words that express how much I gain with each and every course she teaches. Once again, a wealth of information that was given in a down to earth manner. I absolutely love her teaching style! Amazing course Lisa and Simon, awesome job!