Who Should Be a Retoucher?
This is a question Simon and I get asked a lot when we're instructing: Who should be a retoucher? Who? Should I do it? Should I become a retoucher? Should I go down this path? We'd like to just discuss a little bit about the types of folks that choose this path, and Simon brought this up. The craftsman.
Folks who can, yeah. If you're looking at an end result and you know how to take the parts and pieces and mix and match them and put it together, there are a number of craftsmen who are very good retouchers, not especially artistic, either, but they know how to build stuff.
That's a really good point.
I kind of put this with a race car driver and a race car mechanic. One guy can perform, but the other guy builds it, and you'll see that mirrored in our industry quite a bit. Folks have the vision. They know what they want to see. They have no idea how to do it, and then, conversely, someone knows how to build it but doesn't necessarily have to have the vision to do it. So craftsmen.
Yeah, and can I add to that? Imagine, for retouching, this is a really important point throughout this course. We're guns for hire, often, and what do I mean by that? I mean, it's not my vision. I am not producing my vision. I'm producing your vision, whoever's hiring me, and in that, I could be a craftsman, where I'm not necessarily an idea person, let's say. You're the idea person, but I have some mean skills, and I can get you there. I'm just not gonna come up with the idea, and that's what we mean by craftsman, as opposed to an artist, and we have some really good retouchers out there.
Also, part of the craft is not to get your ego in the way, a lot of times, and that is a skillset in and of itself. Yeah, you're supposed to make the entree. Don't start getting creative now, man, just put the food on the table.
Maybe like a line chef. Yeah, anyway, we're gonna talk more about that, and then of course, an artist, photographers. I will argue, perhaps to my detriment, that oftentimes, photographers do not make good retouchers. They've got great decision-making process, great lighting ideas, but it's their hands. They don't have the hand skills in Photoshop, so I really like to say with photographers, "Do you have the time to invest to be as good at Photoshop as you've invested in time to be good at photography?" Do you understand what I'm saying? If you're an A client shooter, you are the rockin'-est product shooter in the world, and you've got your lighting down, you understand your equipment, composition, and then you're gonna retouch your job, but you're a first-grader in Photoshop level. Don't do it. You're gonna ruin your job. Anyway, we're gonna talk a little bit about that. Illustrators, of course, and designers. These are for some folks who are considering a world out there, we'd like to suggest these ideas. Now, this is interesting for us because we have--
We're called a bunch of different--
Hopefully nice things.
Bunch of different hats.
Hopefully you call us very nice things, but sometimes, you're not. Anyway, why is this important? Why are we talking about the names of retouchers? There are compositors, retouchers, digital illustrators, finishers, comp artists, and photo retouchers, so I'm gonna talk a little bit about a compositor. A compositor is someone who's gonna be good at masking. They'll be good at putting multiple images together, so if someone's asking on a job sheet for a compositor, you gotta know masking, color correcting, putting things together, grain, adding grain and textures together. Retouchers. What would you say about retouchers?
Retoucher is more take one shot and make it as best as it can be, not so much mixing and matching and compositing, not taking... You don't have to worry about transforming and melding as much. It's just, have the one shot, but really get it glistening, get it clean, adding effects, but one shot mainly, and usually with beauty in mind.
Yes, definitely, usually, beauty.
By the way, as we were reading these out, note that these are not rock solid, locked in stone definitions. This is just kind of how people tend to view these titles. A digital illustrator, like reimagining. You're reimagining an image, so imagine a plain coffee cup, and then you're gonna put smoke in the shape of a heart with dancers. That would be more like a digital illustrator as opposed to a retoucher or a compositor, so illustration gives you a clue there. Finisher.
For the master finisher.
Well, thank you, dearie. A finisher is the end result, the last guy who has his hands on it, or her hands on it, before it gets printed. In our industry, they will come up with a product, oftentimes, entertainment, a movie or television show that they want to advertise, and they will have a lot of different shops with a lot of different people giving a lot of different ideas, and they'll mix and match all those ideas, and they'll take six months and spend a lot of money. Once they have what they want done, and it can get really mish-mashy, then they call Lisa and I in and go, "Here's this mess. You figure it out," and that's when you go, "Okay, this can be done. This can be reused. This needs to work well with the other folks in the piece. More shadows here. More lighting." Then, make it large enough, so you start usually from scratch again. In the old days, we used to scan the original as high as possible, and then start from there. Now, you just expand the whole file and then have as much information in there so that when it blows up, you have the most detail, most interesting piece.
Yeah, that's a really good point. Jumping in here a minute. Finishers, very high-end, minute detail, big machines, you need to have a big machine. That means no small computer. You're gonna need some horsepower behind you.
You're thinking beyond this final piece and where it's also gonna be used, so if they have an idea, it's gonna be used on a magazine cover, and a bus shelter, and on the building behind it, and on the bus side, so a bunch of different aspect ratios, different sizes.
For example, you guys are probably familiar with the standard one sheet that you see in a movie, or for a TV show. Well, there's things called "station domination," and that's when an entertainment agency, for example, will take over a whole train station. Penn Station, Grand Central Station, and there are, oh my goodness, upwards of I'm gonna say 50, but let's just say 32, 37 boards, different board sizes, and a finisher has to come up with all of those, and it's not easy. It definitely takes a different skillset and a different worker. Someone who is a beauty retoucher might not make the best finisher. These are interchangeable. I don't want to pigeonhole anyone, but it's just important to identify, and then after a finisher, comp artist. Comp artist would be like a designer. Now, I think there's something very unfair going on here. A comp artist, their skillset, not very detail-oriented, necessarily. They're idea people. You have to be fast. If you're a comp artist, you are producing stuff very quickly, so you have to have mean Photoshop skills. Quick, down and dirty, but you're not precision, so a comp artist, for example, doesn't have to make the most beautiful, flowing, gorgeous hair. That would be a finisher.
Get the idea across.
Or a retoucher. Yeah, that's great.
Get a lot of ideas across in a limited amount of time.
You wanna know what's unfair? They don't get paid very much. Aww, it really sucks, 'cause you have to have good skills, and then a photo retoucher.
Photo retoucher, yeah.
Yeah, kind of self-explanatory. Retouching photos, maybe school photos, wedding photos, probably not a lot of masking. Not a lot of heavy lifting. Yeah, I should have put a little heavy lifter here. Heavy lifer, maybe not so light. That is not to diminish that role, and that job. It's a great job. It's just, I'd like you guys to know where you are in the complication and money food chain a little bit. All right. Yes, ma'am.
I actually have a very relevant question for you, so I wanted to jump in with it. This is from Phil, who said, "I would like to ask about names such as image technician or photo editor. Both of those require retouching skills. Would they be included in the list? Image technician, photo editor.
Excellent. Do you mind if I take this?
Okay, great. A photo editor in my business is someone who chooses a photo. They are absolutely not retouchers at all, period, paragraph. They are decision-makers about which photo, in my business. There might be a place in the world where a photo editor is actually editing a photo, but it's really photo selection, and I'm sorry, honey. Will you read the first one again?
The other one was image technician.
My understanding... Correct me if you find this to be wrong, Simon. Image technicians are folks who probably work more in a print shop or in a clinical environment where there's not a lot of creativity and it's more about "Oh, we need to take cyan out of the image." I have to tell you, I've never seen image technician on a job call-out, worksheet, anything, but I can imagine, that is what they mean by that.
Yeah, both of those sound like overall big shifts in color, and not so much detailed stuff.
Yeah, and a photo editor is definitely... For the most part, in the professional word, someone choosing the images. But excellent question. Thank you for that.