I am not one of those photographers who think that a great photo can be taken without any post-capture photo enhancement. I like to think of the photos from the camera as a draft, canvas, on which you can allow yourself to create a world of fantasy. Of course it is very important to capture good photos with the camera, especially because there are some aspects you simply cannot change afterwards. A good example of that could be a face expression. Coming back to basis, we can not forget that working in photo editing programs is about enhancing photographs and not making them from scratch.
I like to compare photo enhancement to the taste of watermelon. It might sound colloquial, but usually, products which are supposed to have a watermelon taste differs quite a lot from the actual watermelon taste. We accept it because throughout our lives we were used to diversity in watermelon taste. Similar things happen in magazines. We know that photos of people in magazines are often improved, but this is what we get used to and it would be surprising to see them without any kind of enhancement.
I have lately had the pleasure to ask some questions to one of my favourite retouchers, Pratik Naik. What I like the most about the photos he retouches is that you can see the smallest details and soft changes in textures. Another thing is that the colour combinations create an amazing mood and atmosphere.
All of the photos presented below were retouched by Pratik. You can find more of Pratik’s work at Solstice Retouch.
1. What was the most challenging and inspiring job you worked on so far?

I wouldn’t be able to able to pinpoint it to just one job. Each day seems to bring new challenges and inspiring jobs that rival any previous jobs. The beauty is being able to tackle each challenge and find solutions for them. Sometimes it could be issues where I would have to find new ways to composite an object where previous methods fell short, or it could be technical issues that arise that face deadlines. I’m blessed to be able to work on inspiring images regularly!

2. How does the collaboration with photographers look like? Are you often present during the shooting or do you get ready images for postproduction with guidelines of what the photographer wants to achieve?
I am never there when the photographer is shooting, since they live away from where I am based. Usually I get the images after they are done. It comes with directions on what they want done and deadlines. They will give me notes and references and we will talk back and forth till they are happy with the results.
3. Do photographers consult with you their vision and ask about the way of enhancing images or is it mostly executing their ideas?
It’s definitely a bit of both. Some people really like me to use my own vision and others tell me what they want specifically. It’s all about the person and what they want. The good news is that I am versatile so I can accommodate any request they want. But there’s definitely no one way about getting images retouched.
Photographer: Lara Jade
4. When you send files back to the client, do you send a few propositions of the retouch or is it usually just one image?
Typically I send back one retouched image. The variations will come if they want color work done. The retouching part is actually very straightforward. Clean the image while keeping the integrity in-tact, such as the skin work. The color is where it gets tricky, it has to match their vision and you almost have to read their mind at times. References help a lot!
5. In your opinion, how is it different to retouch portrait photographs compared to fashion photographs?
In portraits, you have to keep more realism. In fashion, you have to push the limit a little more. For instance, if you work on a portrait of a celebrity, you won’t even out all the transitions so it looks smooth, you’ll keep it more natural and realistic. It can be harder because you have to be more aware of every step you take and it has to be purposeful. With fashion, you can get away with being a little more aggressive.
6. What are the most important factors to consider when retouching commercial or fashion photographs?
You have to remember that the client’s vision stays imperative. You also have to remember to keep the details in check. For instance, remember all your client notes and deadline details. Be sure you have everything in place and agreed upon before working. There is nothing worse than a dispute once the job is over because you didn’t clarify something before starting the job.
Photography: Bill Jones Photography Studios
Model: Angelina Starr Bordeaux @ CW Management, MUSE NYC
7. What do you consider to not overdo images (ex. Blurry skin)?
I make sure not to use techniques that can give the potential for blurring the skin. Sticking to healing, cloning, dodging, burning, and other techniques that preserve texture is the best way to go at it. Don’t take shortcuts, they aren’t worth it. Retouching is an art and art takes time.
8. What is one thing you would advise to emerging retouchers?

Retouching is not about retouching, it’s about business and marketing. In this industry, it’s critical to stand out as a businessman and being seen. Good work is not enough and you will need more to sustain yourself. You are more than an artist in this day and age. Never give up because the best keep on pushing.

9. What is the next goal of Pratik Naik? What should I wish you?
I am hoping to keep on expanding my business and push toward bigger clients and boundaries! Making connections and having fun in this field, being happy from day to day is the best goal to reach.
Photographer: Anushka Menon

See a video, in which Pratik explains basic ideas of retouching portraits and how to create stunning black and white photos.