More Sides Of The Retouching Story: Photographer

 In Creative Team, Photography

By now everyone who is even slightly interested in or connected to the beauty industry has heard about the “CVS ban on retouching”. Only there is no ban, and this is not only good for the public, but very good for the health of the industry too.

As a professional directly involved in the industry, I expressed my opinion and explained what I believe is the root of the problem with “bad retouching” in an article on Retouching Academy.

And since, I’ve seen many comments that are similar to this:

And this is exactly how it should always have been!

The problem, in my opinion, is precisely in the fact that those creatives whose skill level is NOT ready for commercial photography, makeup and retouching, have been sneaking into the industry for whatever reasons (“it’s who you know”, or “I have an expensive camera, and my IG bio says I am a professional”), and it’s their work that needs excessive retouching.

Those who have been following me or reading my blog for awhile, and especially those who have worked with me, know that I always strive for a perfect capture, so in post-production I can carefully remove just what wasn’t visible in real life, leaving the authentic beauty and perfectly applied makeup as untouched as possible.

I know for a fact that not every makeup artist is qualified to do makeup for commercial beauty campaigns, but often brands’ marketing specialists don’t know that and hire those whom they know, or those who have a big social media following.

Not every model, despite how beautiful her Instagram pictures are, has the type of skin that will photograph well for a cosmetics campaign. More often that you would think, even professional models don’t take an obsessively good care of their skin as they should be, and it shows in the images.

Production is very expensive, so when the marketing specialists receive previews of the images that were captured during the shoot they organized, and see that the photos are far from being publish-ready, the only option they have in order to justify production expenses is to have them retouched – and heavy retouching might be needed to fix the lighting, skin, hair and makeup problems that were captured.

And there’s another trap: not every individual who calls herself/himself a “beauty retoucher”, or better yet “a high-end beauty retoucher” is in fact up for retouching of that level.

So all-in-all, I think when ONLY creative professionals with a ton of experience in beauty photography specifically, and thick portfolios of excellent beauty work are hired to produce cosmetics campaigns there will be very little need for retouching. And if true retouching professionals with years of experience in beauty are hired to do that, nobody will ever notice that any retouching was applied at all. It just won’t be needed as much when the models, makeup artists, hair stylists and photographers are selected correctly for each job.

With all of this said, I am not saying that beginner creative professionals shouldn’t have a chance (I was a beginner once too, and I continue learning and practicing every day), I am only saying what I have always been saying – shoot, shoot, shoot more! Practice like a maniac, so you are at the right skill level when the opportunity comes along!

Every top professional in any field must have years of experience and continuing education under their belt, why beauty photography, makeup and beauty retouching should be any different?


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  • david

    Hello Julia,

    I am David, a professional photographer from Chicago. Your post from January 2018 is so relevant today. I am not surprised that there are not any/many comments on this message. I believe that many photographers still suffer from this issue. I don’t like the term “high-end retoucher” because 99.9% of these people are not retouchers. It’s one thing to remove pimples, bumps, and dodge and burn skin but to me, that’s not “high-end” work. The best retouchers will produce work that looks untouched. The image looks elevated without the obvious awareness that someone has been digitally enhanced. Too many images are being produced with plastic results. Now that AI has entered the industry, instead of the images looking better, the problem is getting worse. Please repost this blog post across all of your channels so that others are reminded that quality retouching is not just a 5-minute video tutorial. It takes years of practice and refinement into flawless perfection.

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