Confessions of a Retouch Artist
Pick up the latest fashion magazine. Flip through page after page, image after image—editorial or advertisement. Looks good, right? Now imagine if all those images of all those lovely, beautiful people were printed without retouching. As shot. Every blemish and flaw out there for the world to see. What you will definitely not see are sales figures.
A good retouch artist can make anyone look flawless. We eliminate skin defects, open closed eyes, fix dental abnormalities, remove tattoos, remove unwanted pounds from cheeks, neck, and jowls, make corrections to asymmetrical facial and body structures. We flatten stomachs, make the skin radiant, the breasts fuller, the navels just so, the legs skinny, clinch the waistlines and shave the hips.
So we play a crucial role between the photographer and the printing press. We make it possible for a model to have a bad hair day or a photographer to have a bad light day.
It wasn’t always like this. Earlier you worked with slides and transparencies, and the photographer was careful with his angles and lights. Models were told days in advance that they had a photo shoot and had to look their best. When those pictures reached us, it was a joy to simply add finishing touches.
Today, photographers work on the assumption that there is a retouch artist to cover for them. The model knows that even though her eye shadow was hideous, we will take care of it.
It’s really important to have an art background. No amount of technology or on-the-job training is enough if you don’t have an eye for detail, an artists’ sense of form and proportion, of colour and light. These are what make a professional stand out from a software amateur who picked up a few tips from an online tutorial.
At the end of burning the midnight oil, you come out into sunlight, well, enlightened. You know that famous actress the rest of the world swoons over, is well, just as human with some very common manufacturing defects. They don’t make her any less beautiful. They just make her more ‘normal’. But that doesn’t sell as much as the ‘beauty’ you just created with a few clicks of the mouse.
(The retouch artist has been in this profession for over 30 years now and is associated with a renowned pre-press house)
As told to Aliefya Vahanavaty.