Tips + Techniques

What Does Your Creative Team Really Think of You?

January 12, 2018

By Greg Scoblete

Photo © Dixie Dixon

We asked nine retouchers, hair and makeup artists, and photographers for their tips on working better with creative partners.


“Be specific. Knowing all of the details for the shoot and the look they are going for really helps me know exactly what I’m doing so I can work efficiently and make everyone happy. I work mostly weddings. If weddng photographers can give a final getting- ready time for the bride and bridal party so I can plan my schedule accordingly, that will make the wedding day go much smoother. When doing production shoots, knowing the style and feel of the shoot the photographer wants is important. It generally takes one or two hours for hair and makeup, and many times I will get a schedule where I have 15 to 30 minutes to get someone ready for a shoot, so figuring out timing and expectations is important for everyone to be happy.”
Elizabeth Hickman, Hair and Makeup Artist

“Photographers need to more aware and better communicate the effects they want applied to their images. A good retoucher does not have a ‘style’—their job is to recreate different styles of retouching to fit within the style of the photographer who hired them. If all else fails, send an example and say, ‘I want my image to look like this.’ That way, there’s no miscommunication about the effect, style or treatment you want. I get quite a few emails from people requesting same-day or next-day turnaround. At the moment here at Shark Pixel, we are booking about a week out. It’s a shame when we can’t help a photographer because they need the image to be retouched and delivered back ‘like yesterday.’ Set a realistic time frame in mind when outsourcing your retouching.”
Kristina Sherk, Retoucher

“Make sure we have a very comfortable area to create with good lighting, a mirror and a table. You should also be prepared for a shoot with a complete mood board, storyboard and references. I also really love when photographers are able to see and fix anything on set. Any new photographer needs to have set ethics, pay attention to details and be less heavy with the retouching. Try to build your creative partnerships from the very beginning and grow big with them!”
Griselle Rosario, Hair and Makeup Artist 

“The best thing a photographer can do when working with a makeup artist is to clearly communicate all aspects of the shoot. Mood boards are the best for visual clarity. Having a short list of things you absolutely don’t want to be a part of the look can be helpful too. Also, having a clear description of the location of the shoot is very valuable to a makeup artist so we know what kind of lighting and environment to expect when packing our kits.”
­Sara Hayton, Makeup Artist

“Be clear in your directions. The retoucher’s job is to help bring your vision to life. There are so many different directions a retoucher can go in so it helps tremendously to have as clear an idea of what you are looking for as possible. Make sure your shots are properly exposed and focused. Retouchers can only do so much to fake detail or balance improperly exposed shots. Make sure you have enough ‘coverage.’ For instance, having a shot of the background without the subject in front makes it so much easier to clean up stray hairs or remove objects that need to be removed. And if you’re on location and know something, like a sign or bush will need to be removed, shooting a plate that gives the retoucher an idea of what’s behind it helps save a lot of time.”
Dennis Dunbar, Digital Artist

“It would make our collaboration a million times more successful if photographers (especially those on set or location) shot background plates of every shot, even if everyone on set feels confident that plates aren’t necessary. In my experience, this comes up more than anything else. Retouchers are responsible for meeting the final deadlines before print, and 99 percent of the time, experienced retouchers know exactly how long they need to get the job done. That being said, in order to best manage our time, retouchers need to have detailed notes from everyone (photographer and client) as early in the process as possible.”
Meryl Slay, Retoucher

“I always appreciate photographers who check and clean up the set. If we are compositing, spend the time to think out the position of the parts we will composite in so I don’t have to stretch pixels into a pretzel to get them to fit. Shoot the background without the models present in case I need [to work in extra background]. Give your retoucher high-res JPEGs with a brief description of what needs to be done for a quote on the job. Your retoucher needs to assess how much time the job will take to give a clear quote. Give clear markups on the JPEG when you deliver the high-resolution files to the retoucher as that can save you time.”
­­Carrie Beene, Retoucher

The Photographer’s Perspective

Photo © Dixie Dixon

“I think the best way to get the most out of collaborations with makeup artists is to provide go-by’s before the shoot, which are image examples of what you are looking for. These can come from magazines, Google images or even Pinterest. This is a visual industry, so communicating with imagery works much better. [As for retouchers], always look at their portfolios beforehand to be sure that the style you’re looking for matches some of what they’ve done before. If you are a lifestyle photographer, you might want more natural retouching and vice versa. The most important part is communication, so tell them what you want done—from liquefy to color-toning or just basic skin retouching. It all depends on your vision!”

Dixie Dixon

Photo © Lindsay Adler

“I think it is really important to have a clear vision of the concept of the shoot while also being open to the input and ideas of your creative team. I need to be able to communicate the mood, the overall feeling and often even the lighting to my creative team. For this reason, I typically bring inspiration shots or mood boards. I also want to inspire my team, not dictate their every move. I try not to be too rigid on instructions. I feel it’s always important to give a little wiggle room for creativity so that they feel invested, inspired by and proud of the work we do together. When I work with retouchers, I try to communicate the level of retouching required for a specific job. Retouching is not the same on all images—a portrait, beauty image or men’s fashion image may all have different levels or expectations for the retouching.”

Lindsay Adler

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