State of the Retouching Industry
If you are a digital retoucher, you’re likely aware of the myriad of problems facing our profession today.
One such issue facing predominantly the lower end of the retouching business, is undercutting. Other digital retouchers in emerging markets overseas as well as young college graduates living at home, who expect to earn less money, are two of our culprits. This competition does nothing but devalue our craft and lessen our profits.
While technology is making photography and retouching easier, especially through the use of programs such as Photoshop, its use does present certain drawbacks. Becoming a retoucher is considerably easier today than in the past. This advance is increasing our competition and therefore tilting the supply and demand ratio against us. Additionally, clients now have higher expectations and are expecting CGI 3D modeling included for similar prices.
Quality standards today are lapsing as print is in decline and digital delivery has a shorter shelf life than ever, and therefore a lower perceived value. Whereas once campaigns would run for years, then months or weeks, they are now running for days or even hours on digital platforms. Having shorter and shorter life spans only acts to devalue the work. In an attempt to cut costs, during these uncertain economic times, clients, photographers and agencies are retouching images themselves in-house.
So what is a retoucher to do? You cannot fight what happens in the marketplace, only adjust to it or change your career. Adapting to the ever changing world of technology will create an environment whereby you constantly improve your services, making you indispensable to your clients. Keep up with the latest technology and possibly learn a 3D software package like Zbrush or Modo to incorporate into your skill set. If you have the inclination and ability, branch out into more illustrative or design work through the use of Photoshop.
In these down times, do all you can to network and market yourself in an effort to increase awareness of your services. Participating in social media platforms, blogs, forums and even in the real world of knocking on doors and picking up the phone, can all deliver welcomed results.
Unless you are highly capitalised, there is never any point aiming at the lower, cheaper, high turnover end of the market. The niche high-quality end is where you should always position yourself. Quality will forever survive and thrive; it’s also the more challenging end of the market and therefore the least competitive. You will work less but get paid more, and the work will be of a far more enjoyable and creative nature. After all is that not why you became a digital retoucher in the first place?