5 posts tagged Advice
What are the pitfalls? What’s the best way to get your name out? Do you have to go above and beyond? A senior retoucher with more than 15 years’ experience under her belt, Dominique Fraser answers questions about the world of PHOTO RETOUCHING. Sublim students were invited to take part in this live chat, and here’s a summary of what took place:
Tell us about the common pitfalls retouchers face. – Karine Lévesque
The challenges are many and varied. Most good freelancers have to turn down contracts because they haven’t got the time. To get to that point, though, you have to build a name for yourself. Some studios also hire on a contract basis a few times a year. Ad agencies are often looking for graphic designers/retouchers. I could go on and on… I’ll write an article about it. Great question!
At what point in the program should I expect to be able to start offering my services as a professional? Will you give us some guidelines as to how much we can charge for a project? – Nadia Nadeau
Another very good question! I think as soon as you’ve mastered the Dodge & Burn technique you can start taking on small contracts. You should start slowly so you can pace yourself and, more importantly, so you don’t ruin your reputation if you haven’t had enough practice. A lot of students in the second session are already working.
As you know, I’m a photographer. I don’t just shoot models or other subjects requiring pro retouching skills, I also photograph families, kids, etc. As a professional photographer and retoucher, I do want to maintain some sort of quality standard even with a tighter budget. Is there a technique that takes less time but still allows you to distinguish yourself from a non‑professional? – Audrey Martin
Yes, there are all kinds of time-savers which, combined with what you’re learning here, can still produce impressive results. To me what matters is that you had the chance to hone your professional eye and that I showed you high-end techniques. Now that that’s done, I can show you my shortcuts!
Profits are very important. As a retoucher, you will be asked to work on creative (unpaid), editorial (poorly paid) and commercial (potentially very lucrative) content. That means you have to carefully spread out your contracts throughout the year. Set goals for yourself, like “I’ll do a creative every three months, since it builds my portfolio of original work, and I’ll do no more than three editorial pieces a month.” What counts are your net profits at year-end. Ideally, you should aim for about 25% gross profits, and 10 to 15% net: that’s when you start making money!
To make a career of this, what’s the best way to get your name out? – Nadia Nadeau
I’d say social media are a good start. Have you seen my long list of Facebook friends? I don’t know all of them, but they know I’m out there. They’re a select group of contacts from the community. When I started up Sublim, I knew no one in the fashion industry and no one knew who I was. I started with one photographer and expanded my network from there. I did the same with LinkedIn and Twitter. BUT, I also went door-to-door saying “Hi! I retouch photos, would you like to give me a try?” Never underestimate the power of a sample retouch. This may be the best thing for you if your portfolio is not quite complete. Don’t wait to have a perfect portfolio!
I imagine that when someone’s just starting out, they may be inclined to do more for the same price, in order to make a name for themselves? – Mireille Gravel
Even after years in the profession you always do more, when you love what you do! Also, one of biggest qualities of any retoucher is being a perfectionist. That’s one of our strengths, but you have to know WHEN to stop. I’ve been a retoucher for years, and I still sometimes go too far. In moments like that, I take a step back and give myself a slap on the wrist.
Is it far-fetched to think that one day there might be a fee schedule for retouchers like the CAPIC’s for photographers? At least this way there would be a community of retouchers who would not charge absurd prices just to build their portfolio or attract new clients. Obviously, it’s tempting when you’re starting out and trying to promote yourself, but without realizing it, aren’t you actually shooting yourself in the foot and splitting the market? – Marjorie Choinière
Excellent point. We have an opportunity to do that now. The next generation of qualified retouchers will come from OUR school, and no other program even comes close to the one you’re doing here. I want to continue to challenge you so we keep up with the market and trends. It is time to make a difference by joining forces and sticking together. I hope to build an association of retouchers all of you will join. We are currently putting together courses on sales, promotion and starting a business to help you break onto the market. You will have first dibs on contracts and job opportunities that open up in the industry. As usual I’m thinking big, but basically that’s my goal for the coming year.
When you notice that a certain photographer’s work is in serious need of retouching, what’s the best way to offer your services without offending him or her? – Mireille Gravel
Start by asking if it is him who does the retouching: Eight times out of ten, the answer is yes. Get him talking about the retouching process and what he likes, talk about your passion and finish by mentioning that it would be fun to work together sometime.
All students take note: Courses 30, 31 and 32 will cover the following topics: your rate schedule, when to charge for extras, negotiating and renegotiating budgets and deadlines, and building a portfolio, with a brief look at self-promotion. Leila Staali has put together a list of a bunch of sites that can help you get some visibility.
From now on, we will hold a live chat with students once a month. Follow us for the monthly wrap up!
Trick for self-employed retouchers
Be noticed, stand out from the crowd! You MUST find a way to be better, and that could mean several things… for example, you could develop your artistic vision to offer a special touch on your clients image as the well known retoucher, Pascal Dangin; “his clients are paying for his eyes, and his mind, as much as for his hand!” (The New Yorker) Find what makes you special, or develop it and offer it to your clients. Answer this simple question : why are you a better choice than all the other people that do what you do?
DO NOT! : That does not mean being cheaper! Don’t let the value you bring be the fact you are cheap, that just passes your profits to your clients.
Thanks to Tyler Grundvig for those precious advices!
Colors and printing
We all know that colors you see on the screen will be different once printed. Adobe, by default, set its colors in order to give you the deeper black and the whitest white your screen can display and if you work on images that will be printed, then here is a good tip to see the real colors in Photoshop. In the menu, click on view, proof setup and click custom. Then choose simulate paper color and simulate black ink, and if you know where your image will be printed, then choose the right device in device to simulate. You’ll see that the colors will be less punchy, but at least you have a closer look to what will your image look like once printed!
People do business with people they like!
As retoucher, we tend to forgive that human relations are an important part of the business! You can be the most talented person, if your client doesn’t like you, he will probably work with someone else. Next time you speak to your clients, be friendly, show your wonderful personality and you have an assurance that he will stick with you (besides providing a great work!)
Here is a good example why you should always verify that ALL your layers are visible before saving the final version of an image that will be publish on the web!