I’m approximately about half way through my 30 image challenge, and I’ve been having some thoughts about what lies ahead. Waffle, waffle, blah, blah, blah…

Let me preface this post by mentioning how extremely grateful I am that I have had a couple of potential clients reach out to me, asking me to retouch their work. It has been an opportunity to learn new skills, try new styles, and realize… what it is that I want to focus on and learn in the future, as well as highlighting some of my short comings and where I need to improve.

Over the past month or so, during what little free time I have had between my employment commitments, I have been collaborating with a couple of photographers that reached out to me on Model Mayhem. Their styles were both different – one was more macro photography, the other glamour.

There was parts about both of these styles and jobs that I have enjoyed. However, I have come to the realization, that even though one ghosted me when I asked him what he liked to see (big oof), that I am more drawn to doing beauty and portraiture retouching. It’s not that I don’t like the others – I may revisit other styles in the future – but I’m more interested in beauty, makeup, hair, skin. I love retouching skin. It’s like meditation. I also like retouching hair – I just have to get in the groove. And this is where I want to focus on over however long I am doing this for – this is where I want to improve and learn. I’m not uncomfortable with glamour, boudoir, and lingerie editing, but it’s just not my thing. And that’s okay. Everyone has different tastes and styles. That’s what makes things interesting and varied and wonderful.

When I’m not researching things that take my fancy, you can often find me scouring through the beauty sections of the likes of Marie Claire and Vogue Australia. I pay for the US Vogue subscription on my phone that I read when I’m waiting for work to start in the mornings. I’m constantly on Pinterest – and my main board is full of – take a guess – beauty images!

screen shot of pinterest board

As you can see, it’s all faces!

I’m not attractive, and I don’t possess the skills that the rest of my family have (including one cousin who has won multiple Australia-wide awards for her hairdressing expertise). It doesn’t stop me though – I love, love, love makeup, fashion, fragrances, etc. This then naturally lends and blends itself into loving beauty and portrait retouching, and this is what I want to focus on. I want to ultimately have the skills to be an excellent beauty retoucher.

Like I said however, maybe further along in my journey I may find interest in different styles. But for now I just want to focus, and specialize.

As such, I have found a list of the skills, tools, techniques, and methods that I think I need to focus on to obtain my goal. If you can think of any others, please let me know!

For now however, they consist of the following (ripped from Pratik’s retouchist.net ohoh with my thoughts):

  • Layer masks;
  • Clone tool (I could really improve with this. I still sometimes find that I make rather obvious “repairs”);
  • Healing brush tool (as above with the clone stamp tool);
  • Non-destructive editing (I may sometimes do things in the wrong order – I really do try to be non-destructive though);
  • The brush tool and using a soft vs hard brush (situations??? Sometimes I find I’m using the wrong hardness and I have to go back and do it again…);
  • Making selections with the pen tool and creating paths (needs improvement. It feels fairly different to the pen tool in Illustrator, which I’m very comfortable with);
  • Feathering your selection (flash backs here to when I did GD and having to make funeral pamphlets);
  • Adding one selection to another, subtracting one selection from another and inverting a selection (to a degree, yes, I can do this. When it comes to using calculations and adding one channel to another or extracting one from the other I really feel like I’m flubbing around);
  • Curves! (so, so, so much more to learn there);
  • Understanding each of the channels (Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Key – I understand it from a prepress point of view…);
  • Using curves to correct white balance and exposure (could do with lots of practice);
  • Adjustment layers (there’s a few I’m needing to explore and get a better grasp on – selective colour, I’m looking at you);
  • Layer blending modes (I often find myself sticking to a few – darken, multiply, lighten, overlay, soft light, linear light, luminosity, and hue and colour modes);
  • Creating contrast with the black and white adjustment layer (I go overboard??????);
  • Transforming in warp mode (I am not good in a 3D space);
  • Liquify…;
  • Dust and Scratches filter (should play with it more – looks handy for things);
  • How to soften mask edges (I’m assuming there’s more than just the blur filters, the blur tool, max-min, quick mask, feather, and that properties dialog?);
  • History brush (which scares me to be frank);
  • Dodge and Burn, L & D (can always improve!);
  • Using hue and saturation to correct skin tones – specifically the reds (eh, I could be better. I need to see colour better first I think though?);
  • Using the eyedropper and the point sampler tools to match colours across various parts of an image by creating and matching points on the RGB channels in a curve (sounds like a doozy);
  • Channels and making selections using channels (yeah, this makes me trip up a bit);
  • Using colour range to make quick selections (I could be more accurate);
  • Select and Mask (hair refine brush…);
  • Creating custom brushes (I did this a lot when I was younger, but haven’t done this for a few years);
  • Frequency separation (I have discovered that Earth’s Frequency Separation 2.0 is *brilliant* for hair and taking wrinkles out of clothing, and taking away strange reflections on shiny objects);
  • Texture grafting;
  • Fixing colour burn using the channel mixer (I am not sure what this exactly is, but I did find an interesting tutorial on DIY Photography by Jake Hicks last night – Fixing discolouration during the dodge & burn retouch)

I have removed the ones that I feel confident in – however, the full list can be found at Retouchist.net

What are your thoughts? Do you think one should specialise in one particular style of retouching, or should one be a bit of a jack of all trades? Would you add anything to the list above on what I should focus on?

I may possibly be a bit too ambitious?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts (and for The Retouching Series on Portrait Masters to come on sale – hopefully I haven’t missed it)!