Over here at the Paper Boat Creative, we get plenty of requests from driven artists with a desire to join the team and to become photo retouchers. Long-time members of the photography field would know that photo retouching is a unique skill because of its combination of knowledge on traditional drawing as well as digital drawing.
We asked Paper Boat Creative’s Executive Creative Director Rebecca van Ommen for some tips on what she looks out for in finding the right candidates for high-end photo retouching. If you have ever been interested in professional photo retouching to level up your photos or to put your own special touch to your own photoshoot gigs, then feel free to go over this list to pick up a thing or two to see if you have what it takes!
1. Get to Know Traditional Illustration
Knowledge of basic 3D shapes such as spheres, cubes, pyramids, and perspective drawing is a great start foundation for your photo retouching skills. The ability to recognize dimensions in your photos also a good addition to your repertoire. This skillset is a must for correct photo retouching because it allows you to have a good eye for the right shading and color corrections that a photo needs to reach its best potential.
When we edit images, the core of each shape is how it is a composition of simpler shapes. If the artist doesn’t know which way the light should hit, how the shadow should fall, and how to enhance a shape that looks flat, then they won’t be able to properly manipulate the item to look more “stand out” and vibrant.
How Can I Learn All of This?
Practice makes perfect. Draw, practice and more practice until you get it right. Observe basic shapes around your environment like your home and office and redraw them. Some people practice in this manner for years before they go on to sketch more advanced shapes.
2. Know How Lighting Works
Photo retouching is all about enhancing a photograph. To master the art of photo retouching, you need to understand how lighting and composition work. Natural light falling on an object is very different from how studio light falls on an object. When working in a studio, there are multiple lights from different directions. A good photo retoucher will know how to use that light to enhance or tone down specific sections of your subject to you advantage.
Most of our artists in the Paper Boat team come from strong photography backgrounds. Some were hobbyists in capturing photos ranging from landscape scenes, portraits, to still life objects in the studio – particularly toys, for no other reason than it being fun. By understanding lighting in photography, you get a feel for its limitations and potential. Play around with how to enhance the lighting without overpowering the original intention of the photo.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Different Retouching Programs
Know your way around the different photo retouching programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Retouch Pro, Delicious Skin, Alien Skin, and more. You need to have an innate technophile and be able to draw with your Wacom tablet as smoothly as you could draw in real life with a tangible pencil and paper. You also need to be familiar with the shortcut commands on Photoshop. This makes your work feel faster and more efficient. You’ll know how to work the program so well, it will feel like you’re playing a piano with your eyes closed.
The importance of knowing all the power as well as limitation of the computer software will be able for you to do accurate drawing of just about any kind of digital artwork. Those who are not fast enough on the computer may not necessarily leap to the final stage of securing a coveted position at Paper Boat.
4. Master Your Colors
Knowing about colors isn’t only about knowing the names inside the rainbow, but it’s about knowing deeper color science, such as how much white or black value will exist inside a particular color. This is important because some objects that are photographed will inherently be leaning towards more blacks or whites. Then when the customer asks us to completely change the colors around, we will know how to do it, without destroying pixels.
Knowing about color balance is also important in creating harmony in the photo. Many times, photographers will send us RAW files that have all kinds of mixed colors going on, and it’s hard to find a focus on where to look in the photo. Proper color grading will enhance and mute other parts of a layout, so that the artist helps the viewer narrow in and look exactly where they should be looking in a layout.
This is a skill that’s normally innate to an artist. If you don’t have it in built, just keep reviewing photos, keep drawing and coloring. Remember all those coloring books you had a as a kid? Well, time to pull them and warm up your skills. All these exercises will slowly but surely add up.
5. Build Your Artist’s Endurance
The final and most important criteria that Rebecca looks for when hiring artists is Artist’s Endurance. Drawing must become second nature for the artists. During photo retouching, there will be hours on end of drawing, so a love for your work and for problem solving through illustration is necessary to safeguard against artist’s burnout. If don’t learn to love what you’re doing, then the cracks will start to appear within days.
Like an athlete honing a particular skill like batting for baseball, similarly, an artist needs to have the patience to try the same drawing with repetition. It can take weeks or months to get it right, and so it becomes a case of mental strength. Can you handle drawing the same item again, over and over until it’s perfect? By trusting the process and learning to love photo retouching, you can build your mental strength.
As a final word…
The most important part of photo retouching lies in collaboration. Every artist has their own background for how they got into photo retouching. Some are strong at digital illustration, while others are strong at painting or photography. The combined knowledge allows them to be effective in photo editing. When collaboration is at play, the level of knowledge jumps up exponentially.
At Paper Boat, we don’t keep our tricks to ourselves. We constantly teach each other how to get better and have workshops where we take turns teaching our colleagues what we learned. As technology keeps changing, so should our skill set. In doing so, we can provide the best possible method, in the most efficient manner, for our customers.
With a true spirit of collaboration, each artist will understand that their skill set is unique, but it’s also shareable with colleagues. Together, we get better and better.
Are you interested in joining our team? Send an email application with your portfolio of work to [email protected] and our Creative Team will get back in touch with you.