The Business of Professional Photo Retouching


Lesson Info

Website Portfolio Samples

Let's talk about some web stuff here. Now, I would say we're gonna have some chalk and cheese stuff here. It's a little crowded looking here for a second, but this is Simon's website, and this is mine. It doesn't, well, it kinda suits him, doesn't it? The organization of it, to me, is kinda moot. He does not use his website for work at all. I mean, does anyone look at this, really? Not really. He's got such a reputation that he is not web heavy. Do you know what I mean? People are not looking at his work. I tend to actually have to send people to my website. Now, why do I send people to my website? I do not have a portfolio. I do not have a hard copy portfolio, I do not have a PDF portfolio. I can make one if I need to, but I don't. I can get away with that because I've been doing this a really long time, and if you start clicking into that work, there's a lot of stuff in there. So, I usually get away with it by volume. Do you understand what I'm saying? I have so much volume that ...

people look at it that they're not looking at it up close. When you all are starting out, if you're coming to me and you want a job, I need to see something up close, 'cause I don't trust that, and chances are, you have not worked on something that is gonna be big enough for me to look at the quality of work. So, while I'm gonna tell you that I don't have a print book, if you're just starting out, you need to figure out how to get high res work to the person hiring you. And how you can do that is do a high res PDF, for example. Offer to come in. We mentioned no before and afters, right? No before and afters. If you're gonna come to me for a job, I need to see a before and after. How you gonna do that? You walk it in, you walk it in. Now, where it gets sticky is, what if the job's in New York and you're in LA? I actually can't tell you how to answer that question. I will not send it that far out, period, paragraph. If it's, oh, no, I won't do it, I won't do it. Let's wear that striped sweater, and go make yourself a before that's not gonna get you in trouble. Fair enough, that's really good. That's a really good suggestion. So, portfolio web. Now, I wanna talk about someone who does it differently, a little differently and done really well. We were gonna show you a whole bunch of samples of different reotouchers' websites, but I kinda don't think it's really necessary at this point. But I do wanna talk about what you put on your website. So, frankly, in my opinion, all you need is your book, your about, and your contact. That's all you need. Anything else you have, that's awesome, that's great, but you don't really need much. Now, this is a fellow retoucher friend of ours. He's been doing this for eons, Dennis Dunbar & Associates. And in fact, do you remember those lousy video boxes I was doing at the beginning? When we had a good finish, the client, the job, the company that I worked for, they'd hire him. So, I used to go watch him work on these way back when I first started out. He's awesome. Now, he has separated out, he's got automotive, beauty, commercial, entertainment, food, lifestyle, people, and product. What that means is he does everything. He absolutely does everything. But once again, you're not opening up a page and seeing a cascade of everything. Pick the book, one book. So, he has an individual book for each section, and what happens often in our industry is folks will print out the one page and shop it around and say, "Look, "we wanna hire this person." And if you put your book in one singular section, they can do that easily. They don't have to contact you, they can get it. He does do blogs, which is great, which keeps you in front of people without having to feel like a heel and say, "Hi, can I have some work?" He's actually putting himself out there in addition. Contact, before and afters, my goodness, what is that? Did I say no before and afters? I did. You did say that. But he does 'em really well. So what he's got, he's only got a few of them, and he's got a sliding screen thingamajigie. It's like after the tsunami and you wanna see the before and after, but it's a file. And they're beautiful. She is beautiful, she's lit beautiful, it's an architectural issue, it's a scene. So, I'm sorry I don't have both, but they basically put her in the plane. So, the photographer, it actually looks, it's a success story, it's not a "I fixed someone bad" story. And you can see it. It shows his talent, it shows that he understand the job, atmosphere, depth, but no one looks bad. So he's the only one. I've seen some before and after that are actually, like, I cringe, so hopefully this is a-- Do you have any thoughts about before and afters, or are you kinda down with them? The whole new idea about getting the whole striped sweater, I'm already thinking, man. I would get a stock shot of a middle aged person, retouch the ever living snot out of the thing, and just show 'em how far you can go. Now, not that this would be realistic, but this is how far I can push it. I might do that. Just get someone who's like and make 'em look six years old. Really interesting, de-age an old person rather than a supermodel, 'cause if you wanna do beauty work, you might not have access to photography that is beauty work oriented. Also, 'cause here's a dilemma about stock and building a book, and hopefully folks at home can understand this too, if you wanna show your beauty retouching and you're getting stock work, someone already retouched it, right? Who's selling stock of high end looking images? They're not, they're retouched, so that's a good idea. Another good idea, if you get, start building extensions. Grab a piece of artwork, something, and extend it. Make it twice as wide and twice as tall and then just start, whatever it takes, figure it out. That's be a good exercise, and it'll bring your chops up. If someone brought you in a book and said, "Here's the shot and I extended it this far," that'd get your attention, wouldn't it? Okay, 100%, this is the best idea I've heard. Extensions are a huge part of our job, a huge part. Again, no one knows this. It's that back, 'cause who cares? It's out in the bleed. Huge part of our job is very difficult to do, and that's genius, that's a great idea. So, what he's saying, you'll get a stock shot of a forest scene, for example, and then extend it out to a horizontal. You show me that, woo, you have got a job, absolutely. That's genius, excellent. All right, now I'm gonna deflate you a little, are you ready? Yeah, I just had tears, man. See, it doesn't get much better than that. Simon has very graciously allowed me to talk about an opinion I have about his website, and I wanna talk to you about it, because it's a reaction I had looking at it. And I was trying to look at it in a way that if someone sent me a book, 'cause I do higher finishers for our business, how do I feel about it? So thank you for letting us do this, and I'm sorry I'm not gonna say nice things about it. You know, it's a perfectly serviceable website. I think it's Square Space, is that what it's on? Yeah. The thing is, when you open his website, this is, you open that, you get that lovely horror shot, oh, look at his teeth, and then you get this window here. There is a ton of stuff under here. How would you know that? There's zero to indicate there is more there, nothing. Not a box, not a square, not an arrow, not a "Hey, come on down!" There is no buttons up here that say automotive, theatrical. So, again, I'm sorry, it's not very polite. But, so if you're gonna show work, so this is another section. Look, there's tons of, I mean, there's tons of stuff, but you wouldn't know it because there's no header to get you there, there's no link for it. Now, why is his website a little poopy? 'Cause he doesn't need his website to be good. He's got a reputation. I mean, I think you made that website 'cause I asked you to, 'cause you were teaching. I think that's the truth in the matter, 'cause when we're teaching, people wanna know what we do. That is so the truth, isn't it? Yeah, right, well, and then that shot that I got from American Horror Story. I finally got that job and I was like, well now I got a website. I'd been meaning to do a website anyway, and that's what trigger that, and that all just fell together. So again, I'm not trying to be rude to you, I'm just saying, he only did it so you guys, if you're gonna take our class, you can look and see what he did, because when he gives job talks, no one's listening. And all I really need it is when folks are like, "Do you have any samples." I had a PDF with a bunch of samples and I just email it to them, and that's all I really needed from a website was here's samples of my work. You know, I can do beauty, I can do automotive, I can do all this stuff. And I just, I didn't think it through. It didn't even occur to me until last night, Lisa's like, "You know you can see that "there's more to your website than just this first part?" I was like, huh. Yeah, who cares? But, since you guys are out there in TV land, as it were, and you guys are sitting in here-- Don't do this! Don't do this, it's probably not the best idea. The work's fantastic, you just gotta let them get there. Yes, ma'am. So, a question that had come in from Deb, and I know that you kind of outlined, you need a portfolio, you need an about, and you need contact information. Again, if you are that early starting into this industry, she's asking, "Is just having an about page okay "if you don't have that experienced clientele, "or would that be a hindrance "to potential clients just seeing a small bio "or not seeing very much work. "Should you not even have a site?" Yeah, okay, this is really good. I haven't thought about this, but off the cuff, that is a great question. If there's no work, I don't want an about page, because that would raise a red flag for me. So, I say, off the top of my head, start it. Don't give it out, but start the website, 'cause, oh, how much time did it take to do it? Do you remember you struggling trying to do the website? Doing my own website? Yeah, that's why I hired this guy. I'm not a web person, so it took me forever to do the website, so what I'm saying is she should start it, get it going, and populate it. Maybe not announce that she has it, but get it started. That's a good idea. Yeah, 'cause it takes some time, you wanna figure out and you wanna look at other people's sites and figure out what works for you. So yes, start it, but two, you gotta have work. I mean, you wanna be a retoucher, we want me to hire you, if you can't show me you can do it, I cannot hire you, period, paragraph. So, we're gonna talk in a little bit some organizations to join and how you can get some work, and how to get started, but if you don't have work, I can't hire you. And so, you've given us a number of examples of how to go out there and create the work. How important is actually having a client list then? Is that not important? So, very important you'd say? No. Do you have a client list on your site? Not anymore, I don't think. They're all looking, does he have one? It's all got bugs on the images so you know where it's from. Hang on one second. I like to keep it real. As we keep it real, I have a client list on my website, and once again, I have it for educational purposes only. Great question, by the way. I had a question about, you mentioned emailing a PDF directly to whoever's hiring you instead of showing it publicly. How big should the PDF be? Like, what dimensions should the photos be, and how to format that, how many pictures you should include? What file size is appropriate? These are really, really great questions, and I will tell you, for as many questions, you're gonna have 100 different answers for that. In a little while, we're gonna talk about groups to join. I would suggest you consider joining some of these photographic groups. They're great at this, and do a portfolio review, because they'll help you flesh out your portfolio, and here's why it's even better: you do a portfolio review with photographers, who hires retouchers? Photographers, so you wanna speak their language, and they will tell you how photographers do their books. Oh, it's great. And it's this little backdoor entry 'cause you're like, "Hey, I'm one of you guys, I'm in here! "Hey, you hiring?" You know, they already know you, they like you, they've seen your work. So, there is no answer for how many. You have what you have. I've seen your work, so you'd have a book in 30 seconds. Another with that is that once you befriend the photographers, you can ask them for images to work on too, so there's very well shot stuff, just like, you know, give me a yucky one, just to put in my portfolio. Be upfront, and then you'll get a very, very clean shot to work with, and tell 'em what you're gonna do with it. And give it back to 'em. You know, here's a present, here's that shot you gave me, here's what I did with it, and you start there. So, start with the best piece and end with the best piece, and in the middle, have your little pieces. You can't have too many though. You can, you 100% can have too much work. 100%, you can have too much. Edit, edit, edit, edit. Edit down, cool? So, how many, a dozen, no more than a dozen. No more than a dozen.

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.



  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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!