In business, it pays to hire a professional, and the value of a retoucher canot be underestimated. Yes, many of us do it ourselves, but that's often like asking uncle Joe to take photos at your wedding. Hire a professional retoucher when you need retouching. Below are a few folks who do an amazing job.
Consider this -- check out Rocket Studio, which did the retouching for the Apple iPod print ads. They show an amazing before and after of the images they did the retouching on, and I would submit that their retouching actually reaches a level that what they have produced is a new derivative work of the original. They further show a variety of different types of retouching.
Amy Dresser also illustrates the critical value of a talented retoucher, doing work ranging from Las Vegas casinos to Time Magazine covers.
Glenn Feron does a service to the retouching community, in that he lists his retouching rate, at $125/hr, with a two hour minimum. For many, who just list their own services, and then don't go into their hourly rate, the figure seems to come out of some secretive formula. By being open about his rates, he is also giving insight into those who aspire to be a retoucher, just what they should be charging at an hourly rate for their services. Feron spends most of his work (at least as demonstrated from his website) in retouching people (including many celebrities), and showing just what he can do for his clients.
In our office, for editorial clients, retouching is verbotten. However, for corporate or commercial clients, retouching is so integral to the final results of the project, that it is not optional. Currently, we are working our way through retouching 38 portraits from a portrait series we did. From things as simple as the removal of fly-away hair in a portrait, to the insertion of a missing executive (or the removal of a recently fired one) from a group portrait, it is a part of the service we provide. Retouching for corporate portraits is not a line item, it's a part of our fees, however, for many commercial assignments (ads, and so on), we do break out the retouching fees as a line item. Sometimes, it's just a few wrinkles, sometimes it's the removal of a double chin, but always, it makes CEO's, attorneys, and others much more comfortable with the final results from a photo shoot.
Many clients compare the bottom line, and do not realize just what we can do for them, or, what we can recommend to them for outsourcing of retouching needs. Every time I demonstrate simple retouching for a client in front of them, they are amazed, and almost always, they say "so that's how all those celebrities on magazine covers look so good", and I say "without question." Countless clients become long-term clients because we can demonstrate just how we will make their staff look great, right infront of them. We explain, however, that whatever we are doing infront of them is just a demonstration, and that we will do the actual, final, best retouching back at our office.
An absolutely amazing example of the value of the retoucher comes courtesy of Dove, the folks who bring you your daily bar of soap. They have available online a video which shows exactly what goes into an ad campaign on their Campaign for Real Beauty website, where they not only show you the shoot, but also, the retoucher, in action. It's a time-lapse video, spanning less than five minutes, but which gives you an understanding that here-to-fore was unknown. Thank you to Dove for these insights into the value that a retoucher brings to the project.
Next time you are preparing an estimate (or scrutinizing one you've received), be certain you understand all that goes into delivering superior-class service so that you an provide (or expect to receive) it.
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.