Time is invaluable. Every creative struggles with time management, and it always feels like there just isn’t enough. But every creative process takes time, whether writing music or delivering photos to clients. So just how do the professionals deal with it? According to professional high-end retoucher Pratik Naik, it’s all made easier with true passion. There are a lot of pieces that go into the world of photography, and Pratik knows just how important every piece is. I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Pratik and really start to understand where he started, why retouching is important, and just how important passion is.
CL: What got you into photo retouching, and where did it all start?
Pratik: Retouching came about a little bit by accident. As a kid, I was always into drawing art and things like that. In high school, I took a course on animation, and I ended up discovering Photoshop on one of the computers. Basically, from there, I realized it was a progression of art. So naturally, I picked it up right away. I was so curious, cause I’m a really curious person by nature, and from there it just took off. What happened after that, though, was that I took up photography a couple years later and realized that the photos you see in magazines weren’t perfect when you only take the photos. I was under a whole different idea that pictures should be perfect when you take them! So I put two and two together and realized that you definitely need Photoshop. They almost fell in each others laps, and I immediately took off with retouching.
Where you have been published and how did that all fall into place?
Every major magazine, like Elle, Marie Claire, GQ, things like that, along with other avant garde magazines. It all came about because when I started networking with photographers, I kept my eye open for photographers who were very passionate. As time went along, clients that I stuck with started to get better and better opportunities. Once they did, I got the ins for getting published without really having to do anything special.
Sometimes it’s nice to have a little luck on your side, too.
It was definitely a lot of luck! But it was also part knowing which photographers were actually investing in their craft.
On a similar note, how important is the relationship between the photographer and yourself?
I think one of the most overlooked aspects of retouching is the actual relationship. The industry can be very business oriented, and it really paid off making it more personal, with a more personal approach to photographers. It also gets you to understand their style more when you know about them as a person. It brings about a better working atmosphere when you are more personal, and since this is an industry where we’re doing it for our passion, it makes sense to love what you do and love whom you’re working with.
Absolutely. So, again, going on that – all the choices that you make with regard to retouching and what you choose to do, is that your choice? Or do you go based on what the photographer likes, or what the client ultimately wants?
Initially, what I assumed was that with retouching, it was all my preference as an artist. But then I realized that retouching is basically a reflection of a photographer’s personality. So a lot of my vision is lent from the photographer’s vision, and what they like to do with the aesthetics, like skin, hair, etc. So I would say that it’s more their side than my side or the client’s side.
When you first see an image that you get, what’s the first thing that you look for? What mental notes do you make when you’re looking over an image?
That’s actually a really tough question. A lot of people, what they’ll do is when they open an image, they’ll just dive right in do it at 100%. But I think the better idea is to open the image and find the things that stand out right away. It’s pretty independent on who you ask, but what I’d suggest is to always look what stands out by default. There will always be things right away that need to be fixed. Depending on who you ask, one person might say, “I want to get rid of those flowers because they’re a big distraction”, but it changes from person to person.
Looking back on your career in retrospect, do you have any tips for people that are looking to get into retouching?
First and foremost, you shouldn’t be doing this for the money. The second you put money in front of your passion, that’s the moment you fail.
And that isn’t just true for retouching or photography. On CreativeLive, there are plenty of musicians and entrepreneurs, so that advice would definitely hold true for everyone.
Definitely. I realize that it’s definitely a business of passion, photography is. But it’s a very difficult business as well.
Here’s a pretty open-ended question – what’s your favorite tool in Photoshop? Is there one that you go to more often than not?
I’d say the Curve Adjustment layer. That is something that holds a lot of power, and Photoshop is largely based around those color and light adjustments. Essentially, when you look at an image, it’s basically comprised of two things: color and light. That Curve Adjustment Layer controls both things independently, and you can take control of RGB colors and light. You can modify the whole image based on what you want to do with your Curve Adjustment. Sometimes, making it simplified is really great.
Any final pieces of advice for the CreativeLive audience?
Definitely. One of the things I really want everyone to know is that this course isn’t just for retouchers, or just for photographers. We talk a lot about the psychology and the marketing principles that go into it. There are always people that have made it in the past, but those techniques may not necessarily hold up to what we have today. It’s the common core of passion that we all have as creatives, and I think no matter what you do, you’ll be able to take something from this course and apply it to your own craft and your own world.