Ask the Pros: Do I have to know how to retouch images?

Ask the Pros: Do I have to know how to retouch images? After a quick holiday break, we're celebrating the end of 2012 with more of our Ask the Pros series  which is here to  answer your most pressing questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication art and photo departments.

Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work. 

Today our terrific group of photo editors give you their take on just what you need to know about Photoshop and retouching...
and wishing you a happy new year!

As an aspiring magazine photo editor, do I have to know how to retouch images?

PRO: Deborah Boardley - Photo Editor, Essence Magazine
Knowledge of retouching helps round your overall photo acumen. In an economy of finding ways to cut cost, having multiple skills is a huge asset. It's not a necessity to know how to do it yourself, but it's very important to have full knowledge of the tools, and you want to be able to articulate your retouching needs to a photographer.

PRO: Ryan Mesina - Associate Photo Editor, Money magazine
Currently, most of it is handled by photographers, in-house staff, or freelancers, so no; but at the very least, you should know how the process works and what the limits of the medium are. It definitely wouldn't be a detriment to be able to do it yourself. Nobody knows what the future holds and with dwindling budgets and staffs, the more you can add to your tool belt, the better.     A photo editor should, however, know how the color-correction process works. You should try to develop a good eye for color and know about contrast, density, and saturation.

PRO: Kathryn Marx - Assistant Photo Editor, Veranda Magazine
In the past year I've learned that every magazine goes about their workflow differently. I would definitely recommend having a strong familiarity with retouching in Photoshop, and being open to learning the specific tasks that will be required at that magazine. The more invaluable you make yourself to a publication through your skills and experience, the more you will stand out from other candidates interviewing for the same job. An overall willingness to learn new programs on the fly and adaptability to new workflows has helped. I would say only about 5% of my job is retouching photos, but we never know when something will need to be retouched, and how quickly it will need to be done, so having those skills at hand has paid off, but was certainly not a requirement.

PRO: Susan Hennessey - Photo Editor, Inked Magazine
No, not at all. You need to know basic Photoshop so you can re-size images, make sure they're high resolution for print, but that's the most I do with Photoshop on a day-to-day basis. At Inked, we actually have an in-house retoucher who retouches all our images, or the photographers retouch them before they send us their final files.

PRO: Rachel Barker - Associate Photo Editor, HGTV Magazine
It's not necessary, but it's definitely a plus. You don't have to be well-versed, but know the basics like cropping, color-correction, clipping paths, and resizing images.

PRO: Kathy Nguyen - Senior Associate Photo Editor, Fast Company Magazine
Ha, no! I do not retouch images, but it helps to have a really good eye for detail. It definitely varies for each publication in how they retouch images, but we work very closely with our production team to oversee the retouching and color-correction to make sure our photos are published perfectly!

PRO: Scott M. Lacey - Photo Editor, Boston Magazine
It's not a requirement. Most publications have someone in the production department to retouch images or they might use a retouching house. With that being said, it is definitely a helpful skill to have and makes you a more attractive candidate for the job. Since we have such quick deadlines, it's faster for me to do it myself instead of going back to the photographer and asking him to extend a background, etc.

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for all their great advice! 
Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question.

  • alvinaddison

    Every person can use photo retouching. Image retouching is a phenomenal technique to manipulate the traits of the images from the pixel, color balance, brightness, appearance, clarity and more.

blog comments powered by Disqus