While it is true that an aspiring retoucher will have no trouble finding multiple software programs capable of teaching them the fundamentals of the art, the indisputable gold standard among industry professionals comes from Adobe. No other program has a reputation to rival Photoshop’s. However, acquiring a copy of this program is often prohibitively expensive, particularly for newcomers to the retouching field. Adobe offers a free 30-day trial period of a complete version, but that simply does not provide sufficient time for a novice digital retoucher to master the program. Therefore, in order to become a true expert, it is necessary to purchase a copy of your own. Fortunately, prior versions of the program and used copies are far more affordable, and are abundantly available through numerous online sources. It may also be worthwhile to visit www.adobe.com to see if you qualify for an 80% discount provided to those purchasing the program for educational purposes.

You may initially feel that the process of mastering the program is extremely overwhelming, but it is important to remember that by participating in the countless video tutorials and beginner classes offered both online and at local educational institutions, learning the art of retouching can actually be lots of fun.

No-Cost Options
To my mind, every aspiring digital retoucher can benefit greatly by taking advantage of the voluminous free video tutorials for the program that can be found online. Those just beginning a career as a retoucher are likely to be short on funds, and are therefore prime candidates for free, online educational opportunities. The only real caveat is that students who choose this path must possess sufficient discipline to make significant strides without the benefit of a traditional classroom setting or the presence of a demanding instructor routinely imposing deadlines. Another potential downside to online learning is the fact that it will likely be necessary to sift through several potentially irrelevant video sessions in order to get to those most important for the type of work you intend to do. While you will surely save on tuition, the time requirements of such programs may be quite substantial. If online learning is a great fit for your needs and lifestyle, some sites you should consider include:

  • www.wikihow.com
  • www.ehow.com
  •  www.about.com

Some of the most useful video sites offering free program tutorials include:

  • www.vimeo.com
  • www.youtube.com
  • www.adobe.com

Paid Educational Programs and Resources
Tuition-based educational opportunities also remain a terrific option, as they generally conform to specific, formalized educational standards and provide the type of structured learning that many students need. Many find that participating in more traditional programs helps expedite the learning process and encourages greater academic intensity on the part of students who are spending their own money to enroll. If sufficient funds are available, you may also explore the possibility of seeking a personal tutor able to provide either in-person or online training. Such one-on-one attention is sure to make the best use of your time and bring you to the desired level of expertise much faster than might otherwise be possible.

I have found some of the most useful books on the topic to include:

  •  Scott Kelby’s “Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers Using Photoshop”
  • Barbara Obermeier’s “Photoshop CS5 All-in-One for Dummies”
  • Martin Evening’s “Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers”

Valuable online course offerings are available through:

  • www.kelbytraining.com
  • www.lynda.com
  • www.webqem.com

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