Perspective, lighting and color. Shadows, midtones, highlights and contrast. You can dodge and burn. You can heal or clone. You could paint or even isolate frequencies. Photoshop is there for everyone. The tools are there for everyone, but if everyone uses the same tools, why do some images stand out among others? Well, because tools don’t make the difference, the retoucher does. Photographers and directors aren’t just clients, they’re people.

I work with people. Photographers put their heart into a photograph. When a photographer gives you an image, they’re entrusting you with something precious to them. I think, the most important tool that a retoucher should have in the box, that no software gives you, and that you only learn how to use over time…is caution. It sounds simple, but subtlety, nuance and finesse are all key qualities that take time to develop.


receiptVAT# 03601830833 is owned by Alex Harris. I am an independent retoucher and provide invoices to both domestic and international clients.

An Objective Truth

Hello retouchers! So, today’s tip is a reminder to keep our ego in check. Let’s take a look at how we’re making things difficult for ourselves and others, simply because we’re genuinely proud of our work.

Let me begin by saying, “Yes, you did indeed do a magnificent job on that last image, and you should get some well earned recognition for it!” Now, come with me to that brutal place we call reality. Here’s a very inconvenient truth we need to make peace with sooner or later, nobody who’s paying you cares about how you did it, they just care about what you did. If you hadn’t already realized this, before depression sets in, let me clarify by saying most people don’t care, not actually zero people. So there you go, someone does care.

Again, we just finished this image. There are traces of flawless technique, mind-blowing attention to detail, and we spent countless hours working on it. The bad news is that unless you create a before/after video of the process on YouTube, or use the project file for educational purposes…or become a rock star in the retouching world, almost no one except your mom is going to care about how you did it.

Here’s the scenario, you worked on 2 versions of an image, and you have to choose one to send to a client or even directly to print. Now, the tip isn’t to be annoyingly humble, because that doesn’t help you choose. Instead, the tip is to get better at leaving your emotional connection to an image at the door in order to select the right one for the job. It may sound inconsequential, but I’ve suffered from this and anyone I’ve met has suffered from this at some point.

Blur – Song 2 and Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek among many others. So, I don’t know how they went about producing these two tracks, but what I do know is that they hit the spot. I’m not in any way criticizing the production quality, nor am I belittling the art, in fact I think both songs are great! What I am saying as a music producer and writer is that I could easily recreate those songs in a few hours…in a home studio. Like I said, I don’t know exactly how they went about producing the tracks, but I want to imagine that they didn’t waste time over producing the music, screwing around with expensive boards only to realize days later that the music sounded great with minimal processing. Seriously, those songs are really simple to do. The difference between those producers is that they were able to put their egos in their pockets and let the music play out gloriously. Someone else may have wet the tracks with loads of ambience, thus losing the edge, or even written lyrics that made sense but weren’t catchy.

I don’t want to promote less as being more because I don’t think it’s always the case, otherwise Tool and Dave Matthews Band wouldn’t be as popular as they are. Instead, I’m promoting the fact that sometimes all of our layers and masks, might be less appealing than for example the Stock Film LUT in Photoshop.

Sure, we get to the end and have to choose one image. In the back of our heads we’re thinking, “Image 1 is complex and took hours. Image 2 just has a filter or two on it.” We are probably going to gravitate towards Image 1 because we’re more prouder of the work. However, I guarantee you that if you show the images to a friend that has no idea of the work that went in to either of them, he/she is going to be much more objective and half the time choose Image 2…simply because that’s the image that did it for him/her. Remember, pride has nothing to do with quality and complex isn’t a synonym of great.

Believe it or not, ego posses a big threat even throughout our workflow, but I’ll save that for another day. You get the point here, and that is to always remember that the amount of work we put in to an image doesn’t determine whether it is the right image for the job or not. By all means, do your best on an image, but if you want to showcase how you do your best…there are platforms for that. The right image isn’t personal, it’s objective.

As always, remember, if you’re reading this, you’re asking the right questions!