I find portrait retouching much more sensitive than beauty retouching, because it has to respect the person’s special traits, and make them look great without changing the character. Flattery with great stealth is what we have to achieve. I like retouching men as much as women, and in some cases, even more so, because we tend to keep males retouched more real than females. Don’t get me wrong, for me personally, that ideal should be equal for women! If I can sum up what’s particular to portrait retouching, I try to make people look like they’ve had a really good night’s sleep, find themselves in the perfectly lit spot, with a great expression and mood.
When retouching portraits I start with the obvious distractions, and usually clean up the background first, so I can see the wood for the trees. Then I retouch out blemishes or artifacts that aren’t permanent. This could be zits, flyaway hair, or mobile phone in shirt pocket. Very early in the process I start giving it a colour treatment, ‘grading’ it and showing the client where I’m going with it. This is the stage where I really give it some impact, and I feel that you can change a person from bland and dull to strong, cool and coming across powerfully by doing this right. It often involves a lot of contrast, and the technical challenge then becomes keeping enough detail in the highlights and shadows. When I have the distraction-free overall look, it’s so much more obvious what you need to retouch in the detail. A little skin-cleaning, maybe strengthening the jawline with a bit more shadow, lifting eye bags a little…
I always wanted to shoot or retouch Paul Weller. He has a particular style, an interesting mix of hard and weak, I used to be a great fan of his music (Jam, Syle Council & first 2 solo albums) but I never got to shoot him, and when Dean Chalkley mentioned he had a shoot with him, I jumped at the chance to be the retoucher. I also enjoyed retouching a whole project for BBC6, shot by Dean. On this job there were hundreds of images of young and more vintage DJ’s. I had 25 minutes per image to make every one of these portraits flattering, technically spotless, richer and cleaner, so they could be viewed tiny on a website, or large as a print. I particularly enjoyed the Don Letts portraits, and Adam & Joe.
The rest here is a bit of a jumble of press shots, exhibition images and biography book covers. Most of these people are recognized in the UK. I’ve not included any of my own photography here, and I’m holding off some space for some new work – coming soon!
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