2019: Growing Beyond Retouching In The Photography Industry
In 2019, my career and position in the photography industry has officially evolved from merely being a retoucher. As retouching is still at more daily core, there has more that has happened to share the space. For a year now, I’ve stopped taking on new clients while working with my long term clients, so I wanted people to know why and what exactly I’m doing these days! It’s all been very exciting and an update is in order.
Before 2018: Solstice Retouch - From Solo Retoucher To Retouching Agency
I was primarily retouching with a side focus on education and workshops. I was doing that up till I got so busy with being a solo retoucher. In 2015 I got to the tipping point of maxing out my time and expanded.
I evolved and operated as a retouching agency with retouchers working under the “Solstice Retouch” brand, so I could always cater to a wide range of clients. I was able to find and hire retouchers that met my standards which took a while. My position became two fold. I was the face and initial contact of Solstice Retouch and so I still retouched work from start to finish on my oldest clients. On newer clients, and those that didn’t mind a team being involved, I would delegate to my retouchers and oversee quality and deliver the final images. It was the right decision for not only quality, but being able to work with clients that wanted the quality and service I always provide.
Why I Decided To Change Pace: Sustaining Creativity
This continued for a good 3 to 4 years. Eventually I was way busier than just working as a solo retoucher and found myself being maxed out yet again. I was stuck just managing work and it took the creativity out of me. Eventually I was managing an innumerable amount of jobs a day and realized that wasn’t for me. It became more business than art. I couldn’t travel as much anymore and happiness was in decline. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I had to sit down and figure out what made me happiest.
Eventually I realized that what I loved most about retouching was helping people (aside from just retouching of course). That is why I also teach too, and it’s why I spend hours a day answering messages from people. It’s also why I created my Photoshop group (www.facebook.com/groups/photoshopwithpratik). I loved playing a creative part in the lives of photographers and being able to lift them to a higher place! On reflection, I realized that jobs where I would get the cover of Vogue wouldn’t make me happier than working with photographer who truly appreciated working together even if it ended up as a personal project.
2018 And Beyond: How My Time Is Spent
Coincidentally, this is the year other opportunities presented itself to explore this general passion for helping others.
I thought that only retouching would be the final end goal in the industry but realized I had so many ideas I wanted to do. I decided to change things up and see where it would lead me. In the first quarter of the year, I launched a couple of ventures through the help of my associates and through opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
1. Infinite Color Panel - www.infinitecolorpanel.com / www.facebook.com/groups/infinitecolorpanel
A color grading Photoshop extension expanded into a community of thousands of creatives around the world. Color grading was always my weakness and wanted to create a tool that would allow anyone to bridge the gap between imagination and execution with as much fun as possible and as fast as possible.
Upon launch, it grew fast and it was completely unforeseen and I wasn’t prepared for it. We now have thousands of people in the community and I’ve focused my effort towards it. The FB group is very active and I now have a team of 4 to 5 that helps with the operations from marketing, social media, tech support, development, and community interactions. I stay focused on being a part of the community and using that platform to feature people on a regular basis. I use my platform to continually engage with others, help, and promote the work of others via features and interviews. It’s become more than a group of photographers, but a family of creatives that have grown to know each other in the last year. I enjoy seeking out the talented people within and helping them.
2. The Retouching Series - www.theretouchingseries.com
My continually expanding education platform for retouching education! I was given this opportunity by the Portrait Masters team and now produce content regularly. I was really bored of producing extended tutorials because by nature, people don’t have time. I made it so people can watch modules on problem areas if they only have a few minutes and walk away with information that can be applied immediately. It builds logically and I can add to it in blocks based on the community’s response and interest.
With my education platform, The Retouching Series, I have taken a vested interest in helping as many people as possible. When this launched around the same time as Infinite Color, it also expanded fast and I wasn’t prepared for that growth. I spend a great deal of time helping people within the Portrait Masters/Sue Bryce community and my own community at Photoshop with Pratik (www.facebook.com/groups/photoshopwithpratik). We also have classes I continually record, and ideas for the future. I also spend time continually researching and learning more to offer the community more in return.
3. Retouching Retreats, Workshops, and Networking Opportunities.
I also spend a few months out of the year on workshops, events, retreats, conferences, and other meetings to continue connecting with people and educating those that seek it.
One thing I love about the community is connecting with colleagues and helping them in their business, not just teaching them retouching! Actually seeing where they could do better and elevating them to a higher place. I decided to host retreats in different parts of the world, whether by myself or in conjunction with other creatives, and spend time with people who want to get away, still stay focused on work, and create experiences together. In the process, I get to form bonds with people who deserve growth in their career and in their personal lives. These are posted and hosted across my social network on FB and IG.
4. Personal Development
Stemming from growing the community, I’ve taken a small amount of time and invested that into helping a few key people grow their brand, including my wife Bella Kotak among a few others. This happened organically and I wanted to take my experiences in the industry and apply it to people wherever they’re struggling.
I now spend an appropriate amount of time retouching when time allows in between my schedule. I only work with some of my oldest clients who I enjoy working with, and am unable to take on any more work to be able to manage the other ventures. This balance has kept me from from burning out as well.
People who inquire about seeking a retoucher, I now refer to a few trusted people. I am not looking for additional references at this time (as I get daily e-mails about this too).
6. Other Developments:
With Infinite Color Panel, I’ve figured out other tools that I would like to create to evolve Photoshop and am focusing my time on doing that. Development and communication takes a large amount of time to execute. From marketing, talent coordination, web development, and promotion. Utilizing the time to continue forming and realizing ideas is really exciting.
7. Photography and Other Ideas:
I got into retouching because I started as a photographer and wanted to also learn about photography from another angle. Somehow ten years went by and I became engrossed with retouching. This recent shift in schedule has given me the chance to shoot more as I am meeting more people.
I also have other ideas I’d like to accomplish that I spend the rest of my time thinking about. So I like to leave breathing room for growth and the flexibility to go after those ideas when I want to.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!
As you can see I have been up to a lot but I wanted to make this post because many of you have followed my career and it’s only fair to keep everyone updated.
In the end for me I wanted more than just retouching. It is now about:
1. Retouching for those that I love working with
2. Creating creative tools to make a difference
3. Creating a resource for learning retouching
4. Spending time helping others grow
5. Creating experiences to foster community
6. Keeping my creative drive alive
If you support me in any way, learned from me, created with the products I’ve made, or simply been my friend, I wanted to say… thank you! I am now here for you in all of these ways. It’s time to give back.