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How to Keep Working without Photoshoots: Become a Retoucher

When you aren’t legally allowed to go out and take photographs with your clients, it’s hard to keep the work coming in. At times like this, we have to think outside the box about how our skillset can help us to earn money in other ways.

While you might still be on lockdown, particularly if you are self-isolating due to an underlying illness, other countries around the world aren’t. Some have loosened the rules, while others never locked down in the first place. This means that somewhere out there, photographers are still working – and they might just be in need of your skills.

Here’s how to turn your Photoshop and Lightroom skills, and our collections, into an extra source of revenue.


Build a Retouching Portfolio

When we say retouching, we often think of the scary, extreme side of the business: makeup ads that have to be retouched so closely the skin is almost completely drawn on, with so much precision required that you have to have decades of experienced as well as a real eye for details that goes above and beyond the normal definition.

However, this isn’t the only kind of photo editing there is. You already edit your own photographs, even though you probably don’t think of it as a standalone skill. If you have the knowhow to take a portrait, check the levels, retouch the model, and add on one of our collections (like giving the model fair wings, for example), then you have something really marketable.

You can start by going through your own collection. Assemble some before and afters: the original raw shot versus the edited version that you sold to the client. These will be the basis of your retouching portfolio.

It’s up to you how you build your portfolio. You might make a new page on your website, or a new site entirely. You might opt just to share shots on Instagram – again, either a new profile or on your existing page. The presentation is your choice, but it’s important to be able to share something that proves your abilities and what you can do.


Set your Prices

This is always the hardest part of starting a new business or adding a new string to your bow. What do you charge? The easiest way is to think of an hourly rate you’d like to achieve, figure out how long it normally takes you to perform a retouching service, and then set that as your price.

You might want to leave prices off your page and give a custom estimate to every customer based on the level of retouching their image requires. This will give you some flexibility in your prices as you grow more confident. At first you might not be great at estimating the time it will take, but you will get better at this after the first few jobs.

If you already have a package on your menu that includes different levels of retouching, your prices are already set! That will make things a lot easier to work out.

After deciding on your price, it’s a good idea to have a look around at what other retouchers are charging. If you’re charging more, then don’t worry about it – your ideal client will pay what you charge, and won’t worry about the price. But if you’re charging significantly less than others do, you might want to re-evaluate. Don’t sell yourself short!


Look for Business

There are a few ways to do this. Consider the following options:

  • If you’re already part of a network of photographers – for example, a Facebook group – then you can reach out and let people know you’re now offering retouching services
  • You can send out messages to your mailing list letting them know. Firstly, because other photographers may have signed up – especially if you share photography advice regularly – and secondly, because your clients might have shots from other photographers they’d like to see edited
  • Make sure that your LinkedIn profile lists retouching as a skill and make posts there (and on all other social media accounts) to let people know you’re offering this service
  • Consider setting up a profile on sites like Fiverr, UpWork, or Freelancer, at least to bring in a few clients while you don’t have other work on the table. You might not get the best rates here, but you can definitely begin to build your portfolio up
  • Look on job boards and creative sites for photographers seeking retouchers


Share your Work

Make sure that, so long as you have permission, you always share all of the work you complete as a retoucher. It’s a good idea to put it on social media and tag all of the people involved in the original photoshoot so that they will see it – the more engagement you get, the wider your post will spread. That means you’re more likely to catch the eye of someone who is looking for the skillset you can provide.

The more you share, the more the people who follow you or see your website will gain in confidence about your abilities and what you can do for them. Marketers say that it takes an average of seven interactions before someone is convinced to purchase from a particular brand, and you as a retoucher may not be an exception to that rule. Keep sharing, stay top of mind, and help convince the potential clients out there on the fence that you are the right one for the job! Consistency and persistence really help.


There are lots of ways to keep money coming in when you can’t shoot – and this is an essential skill to pick up right now. Not only will it keep your business running, but it may be useful in the future – if you’re injured or sick, or otherwise incapacitated, you might still be able to fall back on retouching. It’s so reassuring to have another option when things don’t go as planned!

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