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Balancing Retouching & Photography
by Pratik Naik
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Pratik Naik is a retoucher, photographer, and educator with over 15 years of experience in the industry and a huge passion for creating and helping others.
Besides being one of the industry’s leading retouchers, Pratik has also curated many online photography communities and created photoshop panels and toolkits for photographers. He still makes time to follow his passion for creating truly stunning portraits.
The basics of photography
I got my first camera back in 2005 – a point-and-shoot from Sony (P200.) It had a manual mode, and I learned all about the basics of photography on it!
The following year, I ended up getting a Canon Rebel Xti and began taking portraits from then on. That ended up being around the time I found about Model Mayhem. I started reaching out to locals to work with on all kinds of photography projects.
This was pivotal in helping me find what my true passion is.
Eventually, I found my place in the portrait/beauty side of things and immediately loved capturing emotion and pairing light to match. It’s an art in itself to find the right lighting for each person!
Photography and retouching are a love affair that has gone hand in hand since the beginning.
Creating art with Photoshop
Before I began my photography journey in high school, I created art with Photoshop. While in college, when photography made an appearance in my life, I ultimately had a full grasp of the program already. It made the transition into editing photos a bit easier than most! It’s been 20 years since I started with Photoshop.
Ultimately, I fell in love with retouching in the photography industry because I found out just how critical taking a photo to the next level was. I got addicted to the process of bringing an image to the final point. Retouching snowballed, and it became my life for the following 10+ years. It allowed me to travel the world, teach others, meet other creatives, and be on set with top photographers. Seeing the raw files of thousands of photographers over my career made me understand lighting from a deeper perspective than most others have the luxury of seeing.
While this was happening, I was still shooting but not as often as I wanted to with everything else going on.
However, I recently launched a few digital apps for Photoshop (Infinite Color Panel). It allowed me to clear more free time to pursue other creative interests. I limited my retouching clients and started planning for what else I wanted to engage in.
Photography immediately filled that gap as one of those interests, and I jumped straight in. I really have a desire to realise my full potential. Now I shoot regularly and still enjoy doing so after all these years.
My history in retouching has been a massive blessing. It truly feels like seeing the future before it happens. You pay attention to all the little things, like the way clothes fold on a subject or being able to inspect makeup, knowing just how much work it will take for anything that isn’t perfect.
Having all of my past client’s work in my subconscious, I can reflect on setups that I want to emulate and apply them right away. With the results I get, I can tell if I need to change up modifiers to match what I see in my mind as well. It becomes an organic process that feels like second nature before setting up the day’s first light stand.
My favorite part of the creative process
Being able to find a subject that excites me to pick up the camera. I love photographing people that strike me as unique. This makes my mind go into overdrive thinking of all the ways I want to light them!
That is my favorite part, the previsualisation before a shoot.
I am constantly in the studio, expanding my boundaries, and seeing how I can push myself. Each shoot allows me to evolve and experiment with different lighting styles. It’s leading me to really be creative.
Each shoot allows me to evolve and experiment. It’s leading me to really be creative
Play with your gear
I’ve started to also play with mixing constant lights and flash together or simply using the modeling light with ambient light at a shallow depth of field to create some unique looks. I love the uncontrolled look of ambient supplemented with strategic lighting placements to complement the scene.
I currently own two Elinchrom ELC TTL strobes with a series of Rotalux Go modifiers (the Octa, Strip, and Recta softboxes) along with two deep white 105 cm umbrellas and a couple of 21cm reflectors. I also have a gel set, the variety of these allows me to do everything I primarily want to while giving me the freedom to experiment and create unique looks.
My best advice
Don’t get discouraged with photography. It’s a lifelong process, and it isn’t a race. It’s something we all have to keep in mind when working on our craft.
Keep experimenting and keep shooting; you’ll constantly look back and see your progress, getting closer to your overall vision.