Overview Acheivements of Natalia Fadejeva of NATLYF RETOUCHING
But Speaking of retouching, it’s nice to have a friend on the podcast who’s actually working in the industry, doing her thing, and being kind of a rock star even though you’re not posting much on social media these days.
I really want to though.
But then again, you’re doing great work and let’s just go over some of the work that you’re doing because I know you’ve been doing a lot of stuff in the commercial field and in fashion.
And you have work published in Glamour, Cosmopolitan? What else? One magazine, Schön Magazine, L’Officiel. I don’t know how this list goes on and on and on; and doing work for Anastasia Beverly Hills and other makeup companies.
You have such an extensive long list of clients; how does someone get there?
How did it all start? Let’s go to the beginning. What people don’t know about you is that you have a formal education in photography. So how was that? How did Retouching become of interest to you?
How Natalia’s retouching career began
Early interest in technology
So, I’m gonna go slightly earlier.
My interest in photography and retouching started around when I was actually 12, so I was really young. My parents had a friend that we used to sometimes visit. You know, adults would just be in a kitchen or living room chatting and the dude was really into the computers and he had a point-and-shoot camera that he let us borrow sometimes.
So, I would take pictures by myself at home or with my friends.
You know, just taking pictures like pulling a bed sheet over your head or dressing up with music and creating like little photo shoots. The images were cringey as hell, but you know, they are still fun to look at.
So, he gave us the camera to borrow, so I used to play with it, and I remember once my parents took me to his place. While the adults were cooking and just socializing, I was sitting on his computer and he had an editing software open, which was Corel Draw.
You know when you start up the program and they have similar stuff in games they show you how to navigate through the program and show the tools. And there was one for like skin tone to make someone more tanned and one was like a neon brush and it was so mesmerized.
But it was like Oh my God.
I can paint this new stuff and end up importing some of my images while I was there and because it was near the end, drawing myself like Little devil horns and trying to make myself look cool.
And I thought that was so amazing.
First flush of using Photoshop
But we didn’t have a computer at home, so I couldn’t do anything. But then we could say my dad’s parents made the biggest mistake. They bought him a computer on his birthday. It was told it was a Windows XP and I tried to find a software again. Of course, you need a license and must pay for it, and I’m a child and I don’t have any money. That’s when I stumbled across something called Pirate Bay.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that’s how the majority got it first flush of Photoshop.
So back then I could not afford it. I didn’t even think about purchasing it. You know, as a child without any money. When I was like 12, you just tell yourself “for me, it is free”. Why would I pay if it’s available for free on the internet? So I had downloaded my first Version of Photoshop CS2?
I also found many tutorials on the internet but unfortunately, I couldn’t understand them because they were all English, so I could not really follow them. Some really kind people on the forum who could speak English would translate those tutorials and put them back into the forum, translated into Russian.
So that’s how I started experimenting with Photoshop by following tutorials and it used to be mostly photo manipulation and you know, graphics design, adding elements, and such.
I think we all start this way; we just try to do all this funky stuff and portion which feels so amazing.
I eventually managed to figure out how to change backgrounds because it was cool getting a sparkly background behind me and my friend. I was so excited trying to show my friend and she couldn’t get why I’m so excited about it, but I remember Windows paint, back when you had only one history state of three to go back to.
How many history steps are you using these days?
I have about 10, no more because I work nondestructively.
So how did it go from there?
Getting to know Photoshop for compositing
So yeah, I kept following those tutorials to try learning the program and I kept doing compositing and joined more forums where people would do editing and there were competitions.
Everything looked really crappy, but back then it was the best thing ever. Back then, being from Estonia, we had our own social media platforms; It was kind of like a Myspace, but base for that country and they had in social media currency and I actually used to advertise my retouching.
I was also asked to put like a frame around the picture and do the color grading because I didn’t know the skin retouching or anything like that just yet.
Yeah, so, I used to do that and then when we moved to England in 2007. Living there, eventually, my parents gave me a secondhand Nikon camera with a crop sensor they bought somewhere.
Then, I started taking self-portraits.
It was really interesting to me to put makeup on and just transform into a different character. I think I even have some of those images still up, maybe on Facebook and it was just interesting to edit and composite that stuff.
Making something different like it was a different persona was a different outlet I could indulge in. You could be whoever you want it to be. It was an RPG.
But you kind of had a vision, and then you thought “oh OK, I already know stuff about Photoshop and then I have this camera”. So, let’s figure out how to mess around and make it closer to what you envisioned.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
And then it came to decide what to do next.
Enlisting into university to study photography
School was finishing and it was time to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I actually was not prepared; I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
So, I had no clue what I wanted, and there was a friend who was choosing University. That was Coventry University and he showed me pictures of what people would do there. They had a photography course, and I was trying to decide doing photography or graphic design.
Photography was still something I was really interested in if you know what I mean.
So, the photography course at Coventry University was considered one of the best in the country.
But yeah, I applied to and Luckily got accepted and since then my journey had started.
So how did that go?
You just gave another hint that you probably had some expectations about what to get out of your college education.
I was super excited.
I remember just thinking I’m going to go there, and it is going to be full of such talented people who are so incredibly good and that could do what I could not.
I was thinking of going there and learning all this kind of stuff and it’s going to be amazing.
I don’t want to say that it wasn’t, but it was definitely not as expected.
They have increased the University fees, so it was £9000 pay it just for the course including like living expenses and everything else. So, I just don’t think it was worth the money!
The commercial field of photo retouching is “candy floss”
The reason is, it was difficult because English was not my native language, and I just didn’t know what to expect. But at the same time, I felt it wasn’t challenging enough because I was still so much into retouching and a lot of our professors’ backgrounds were more into contemporary or documentary photography. They didn’t see the commercial field as something viable.
Downsides of a formal Retouching/Photography education
I just remember, once one of Professor saying the commercial field was just candy floss.
Which is true, I’m not trying to pretend fashion photography has more deeper meaning that documentary photography, but putting it down, it is still something that could pull you down.
Someone finds inspiration to go and travel somewhere to document something., others in Fashion or Beauty
Yeah, I must jump in there, so obviously as a retoucher you must take the time to observe reality; how light behaves, how an object behaves under different light conditions, how texture is working, … So, you must make excessive observations to eventually be good, simply different observations as someone who is (let’s call it) “just documenting”. Reason being: You as a retoucher, are kind of re-crafting reality and in some ways.
Yeah, it’s just I find it a bit discouraging sometimes. I don’t think they meant any harm, it’s justfrustrating at times.
When we were in University, I remember editing an image and I was editing in common space where everyone is and remember a professor making remarks like “I don’t understand why you are spending so long on an image” while I was retouching it.
I mean, I don’t question. It’s good like I’m all about constructive criticism, but it felt criticism without any being helpful. It’s just a remark “why are you spending so long” as if it’s not important.
Well, but then I’m thinking about something else.
So, let’s consider Ansel Adams. When he was in Fine Arts and he spent hours and hours and hours just to get one single print, how he imagined it to be.
I therefore don’t know if the question “why are you spending so much time” is a valid question to ask. And it does not even matter if it’s the commercial field or the arts field, right? It’s hardly the right feedback to give to students (in my opinion).
Ansel Adams and image retouching
Interesting enough, Ansel Adams was one of our photographers. We looked into by failure.
We were looking more into how photography affects us currently. Its history, our relationship to photography. There wasn’t as much technical approach to it. Which is fine. It was mostly theory based on theory, not in terms of theory behind photography, like how lighting behaves – We had that in small modules – But it was mostly speculating photography and talking about it, which is fine, but it felt not enough.
I didn’t feel prepared when I came out of University.
Because, you know, this field of photography and retouching, it’s a very self-employed business. Usually, people go out and you can work for someone, but a lot of people become self-employed, and I felt we didn’t do that kind of stuff. We didn’t have someone coming, it would have been really useful if someone from HMSC, which are tax people, would have come in and talked about taxes and business practices.
What universities should really teach
So, you basically lacked everything that’s targeting how to be self-employed, how to be freelance, or how to get clients and.
Exactly, it would have been really helpful if someone came in and said this is how you do your accounting. That’s how you do grow as being self-employed.
But instead, we had examples of modernism, like how to build a website from scratch. Back then, when WordPress and Squarespace already existed. So, what happened? We ended up coding in Dreamweaver for three weeks every night with coding websites that didn’t work to today’s standards.
After they made that remarks about me retiring from an ASK liking commercial photography, we had a course on how to write letters to ask for funding.
So, someone would sponsor your project, which is fine. Again, I’m all for it. It’s very valuable.
But what about? Knowing how to be successful, earn money yourself, …
Yeah, I think that comes back to you if you’re in the arts world, you are trying to get an exhibition going and make money from that and selling prints eventually.
Not rely on luck to find your projects.
Maybe then, you might probably need some funding, but then you still need tons of connections.
It’s something that is very useful, but then I think there’s so much more that could have been added to it because we were mostly concentrating on how to get someone to sponsor me to do what I want to do.
But how about not being that stereotype of a hungry artist, and instead, knowing how to run a business?
How to actually do what you love and earn money from it.
How Natalia decided to go with retouching over photography
How did you figure retouching was the thing you actually wanted to do?
I just spent more time doing it.
Was it ever an option for you to, oh, I’m just taking photographs and not editing them?
No, because the reason I was more for ship Heavy is because even initially if you want when I said when I was twelve, we I managed to part the Photoshop, but we didn’t own a camera back then, so I didn’t have a chance to take any new pictures. I only had a chance to either create from a blank canvas or whatever.
So, I always more is more retouching heavy, and I don’t have that much confidence. I find it really stressful to be around people and take pictures.
I still would like to get back into photography, maybe just for myself, but we’re touching always felt really right.
And we had to then set up self-employed business. We started spending time on Facebook groups.
By the way, that’s actually where I met you.
Which is well has been already quite some time ago, oh.
That’s been such a long time ago.
How long has it been like 5-6 years or something more?
Probably more, I would say 7.
Yeah, Jesus, so it was in the groups that we met, and you would find photographers and then you would practice with images. That’s how I started building up my portfolio and further interest in skin retouching.
How did it come?
So, first you told us about doing more compositing work. Having done these self-portraits that were more like fantasy style oriented?
How did that shift into that commercial field? Was it during the time at University when you figured that out or was it more influenced by the groups?
It is difficult to say.
I can’t really pinpoint, but I think yeah, it did start probably in the groups because you know, before you just like come in and smudge the skin and then.
It looks somewhat good, but then you start seeing other people in retouching you can see the skin is lost.
How does it feel if you recognize like I kind of know Photoshop for quite some years now and I like beauty and that stuff, but then there are people that create work that somehow looks still so much different from what you or I were doing back then?
Oh, I see something in it. It’s amazing, so I just go again deep dive into this town to figure out what the hell is this like.
How do they make it and what goes into it? And it’s been years of years of figuring out an.
What could be the answer?
Well, the answer is there’s just one filter in one button to click, and boom, there’s your polished image.
No, I remember I have discovered dodge burn and I found some courses online and I think back then they like preview videos of it or maybe they’re like somewhere in YouTube. I found a small snippet and again I didn’t like I understood English. Sometimes it was difficult to difficult and remember her doing like this virtual learning and she zoomed in between eyebrows and she goes to the Bush and she does whatever and it just looked right.
And then I went into my own image and drew over the same area, and it just looked terrible.
I did not understand you had to lighten the dark patches and darken the light patches with the dodge and burn tools.
And then I realized where it was to be done. Next, I went and zoomed in crazy 200%. You think, let’s touch everything. And I was like Jesus of why do people do this? It’s just taking so long I mean and then like you zoom out and it’s just flat because every pixel is the same. There’s no dimension to face because you can’t see when being zoomed in that far.
That’s an issue I like to explain to a lot of people as big ’cause some people at some point coined the phrase of micro dodging and burning. And people have expectations that you zoom into at least 100 or 200% and you Dodge and burn every pixel that is on there. But what they forget is.
You don’t have a reference of shape anymore when you step far zoomed.
Then you and you need the the reference of the whole facial shape and how the light hits that, because when you zoomed in that much you only see as a texture pattern.
Exactly, and I found that either in retouching tutorials, people who are experienced, they just forget to mention it because you know it comes so second nature that they don’t even mention it and the person just doesn’t understand and.
Or they just explain the technique and you interpret it the way you interpret it and you just go in and start editing.
It’s only later on I just figure out that when now I explain if I hope someone is.
Within zoom levels you target different areas with urgent burning.
In a different texture.
Sizes and different?
Yeah, that’s also when I when I teach there.
A lot of people that say, oh, I already know about that and then I know how it works.
But then there is.
I know how to lighten and darken the image.
But then how they apply it is so much different from what we would be doing as professionals.
Exactly, that’s why when I I don’t teach right now, but when I used to do one on one sessions, I would always ask them for the PSD file so I could go through the file.
I could see they brushed.
Folks, how they set up their files?
Because he, I mean doesn’t binary search, but pretty much everyone uses it with how they apply and how they work with this setup.
That will help me to determine if they’re going wrong or they’re doing something right.
And so yeah, I was to think about it when you’re working really close zoomed in, you working on a texture.
The more you zoomed out, so you then you know there’s two stages you have complete the micro digit body you work in the texture and then you have zoomed out so global it’s.
It is the countering, but then this in between that’s where you see your medium sized patches.
That’s where the magic lies in between that, in between conspiring, and that’s what what people don’t understand.
I think also with using frequency separation is that they save very, very small detail.
And plug the rest and what is not targeted is the issues.
In the mid frequencies because they just filtering them away.
And the image and the skin texture doesn’t make sense anymore somehow.
Yeah, it’s just I think the reason frequency separation maybe became popular is because Japan is time consuming and it feels like a shortcut to get quicker.
Yeah, I think it’s it’s hard to say like Dungeon running is time consuming.
What I find is it’s time consuming to learn properly.
Oh, of course.
’cause obviously you can retouch and you can probably send me saying this is when applied.
You can decide how much you apply, how much you go into detail.
You can very effectively in a few minutes, retouch an image towards.
At least getting it to 80% publishing ready and then you spend a lot of time maybe cleaning things up if it’s necessary, right? So the the argument of frequency separation is so much easier and faster is only maybe correct when you’re starting from zero.
Basically, so that’s where people are seeing results versus when someone knows how to Dodge and burn.
Right then, frequency separation isn’t the option anymore because it doesn’t even come close to delivering the same results and the time aspect isn’t there anymore.
Definitely by the same time, it’s not like this terrible technique.
It can be super useful.
I use a constantly to remove difficult areas of hair.
I mean, just in a current project I need to remove all of the bra straps and seems from the dress because like a mesh dress, an easement perfect.
It helps me to do with much much.
Easier, much quicker without smudging everything.
I had to fix crappy makeup and so for that it can be really good, so I still love it.
It’s just it’s not.
Something to use instead of.
What many people are using it for, right?
Because it’s then also a matter of how they are thought, so they’re just.
I don’t know why people decided to go for skin for it.
I don’t know, maybe because the difference is so big.
Because the shortcut, because it’s, it’s easier because it’s time investment.
I had multiple students who I will teach them everything.
They come back, we do not essentially all border tutorial.
I don’t know this this and I don’t know what’s what’s.
And I say you need to practice and I know people hate it.
And I was the same.
I was like I need to find a new tutorial.
There’s something that I’m missing.
I’m something that I’m sure there’s something this special technique that they’re not telling me.
But it’s not, it’s.
Like with many order.
Professions fields is actually putting time and effort, which is the most difficult one.
And that’s when I actually started putting time and effort when I saw the difference.
Fans when I started more projects coming through an an taking more on free work just to get this experience.
When I started editing enormous amount of images.
Then you almost like re calibrate your eye and you see differently and when you apply the general defending becomes quicker because you just.
It’s an automated process I mean.
Right, because the more experienced you are then you make the decision what is now the most effective thing to do to the image.
Because I have so much work then I have only that much time.
So what am I doing too?
The most all of it.
Yeah, also another thing talking about time that you just mentioned is.
Bond set up.
How you recharge, I’ve seen quite a bit of funds and.
Maturity working setups are really unorganized.
And I’m not being there just so it looks pretty, but it’s important my workflow is very strong like it’s the same.
Pretty much on every image I come in.
I do the same stuff.
This way I can push out much because you know, I think sometimes can’t do a little images per day, but there’s so much to do in an image.
They need to finish at this couple of them in a day because they’re in pain work, so I have to have this streamlined process so they look similar.
They look the same, they work together.
And I don’t have to think about it.
That’s also important as a professional right.
We’re working in series most of the times and the images have to look the same.
I also have to jump in here saying some people they have seen my files and they were wondering how do you retouch an image with just five layers or something?
Or 6 maybe and.
Yeah, you can probably create a agree when we look at other people’s files. Sometimes they’re using. I don’t know 50 layers, just for a portrait without doing compositing work of here or anything. So for every area they’re working on, they use the new layer even though they are.
Going over the same task, for example, healing, cloning and doing that on like 6 different layers an as long as you’re not touching all the layers again, that might be fine, but as soon as you are trying to problem solve and going back in our stock.
’cause I don’t know 610 layers that you have to figure out where did I?
Do what on so it’s no, it’s it’s really important to think about how you structure your workflow and how how to streamline it and to make it easy for you to go back in.
So for example, I don’t find it very useful to do healing and cloning and put it on.
Six different layers and using them like here did I do something on the eye on here that I do something on the nose, be ’cause obviously on the image I can if there’s no better reasons to separating that, I can see where the eye is.
So if I have to go in and fix something I did, only I, I visually can approve where that is.
Whereas it’s getting complicated if I.
I have 6 layers of healing and growing and go through that and find where did I do something on the I just.
But if it overlaps, do you separate them?
Yeah, that might even be an issue, so then then you’re really looking at like 3 layers where.
I’m just thinking because I do clean up and in some point if I need to do outline of the hair I usually do in a separate layer because.
Yeah, but then you have a reason to do that because you’re using overlaps too.
Add more hair or something so.
Yeah, do you name your first layers?
Because I’m very methodical everything is very grouped and everything has to be named.
So if if there is no reason for it, I I usually don’t name them because it’s so if if there’s a group or something, then I probably name the group.
But then if I if I can get by with just one layer of heating and cloning and then have two curves over it, that’s obviously my dodging and burning.
And then there’s maybe a group of doing the coloring.
So if I don’t make selections or something I I end up with, I don’t know.
Like 5 layers and it’s pretty easy to to identify what was doing.
What if it’s getting more complicated, I use that.
You are definitely way more minimalist than me like.
I try to keep it very organized.
I do a lot of masking in my last during the cleanup.
So example if I need to do nails I would put them in a separate layer because I just want to quickly go with it and do it and I like to Moscow perfectly rather than try to make it perfect.
One local owner here.
That makes sense, but then this is like as as you said.
If I if I have a reason to target a specific area for something, I would put that on.
Different layers and I might put a name on it to define it better, but if my my basic workflow if I don’t need to make like really detailed selections or anything I get by not naming it because maybe because I’m lazy then it’s becoming more of an issue.
If you considering if more people are working on the same file then it becomes very.
Much apparent because I have worked on files coming from from other agencies and sometimes.
Yeah, the file structure is not very logical and then it’s taking a lot of time for me to figure out what have they done where and that obviously adds to unnecessary time and maybe cost to it.
Yeah, definitely isn’t.
Well, if it’s organized an it’s easy to transcendence really doesn’t matter.
How it’s done?
We all have pretty probably similar workflow.
Yeah, I don’t.
I don’t start my layers as well.
It makes us super heavy and then everything starts to lag and I kind of stand when brushes or hitting brushes it.
All of that starts to have a delay.
Oh, that’s something we can mention.
So what I do sometimes is because you just mentioned the more layers you have, and even if you have not merge your layers.
So let’s say you have built a few layers and that’s also why I try to keep us live.
As few layouts as possible, as the more it adds to processing and if you have all the layers active and go underneath to your healing and cloning layer and pick something all the sudden even though you have quite a performance computer, maybe the healing brush and stuff becomes more processing heavy because it has to process all the.
Layers above it so it becomes a little bit laggy, but what people can do to fix this is on top of the healing and cloning layer.
Do a merge pile of everything that you have changed above.
And then deactivate or make the all the layers invisible right?
And then then it doesn’t have to process in the layers and after you have finished your healing and cloning you can discard that Merge layer again you.
Know I’m going to try this because I was doing something similar but not as easy as you did.
So if I need to add something, I would make a duplicate of that image.
I would much less on below and it would work on a duplicate file.
I will just create a new layer into my adjustments.
I need to do and then I will just paste the bug, but that’s your ideas.
I think it would be easier if you just disable layers on the bottom.
I didn’t think it would work.
Yeah, I just.
This is just a temporary duplicate that opens in a new tab.
I just do my little squiggles and then paste it, but yeah, I would definitely give your technique.
It’s even easier.
I only want to make the picture then.
I mean, there’s just so much we can do to increase the performance in Photoshop and of CDs limits, and we also talked about history stage states which can affect our perform.
But your your document is the amount of layers you have in your document that are active, and Photoshop has to calculate all of that.
And as you said, a streamlined workflow helps with that.
For example, that’s why everyone of us is starting with heating and cloning, ’cause if you haven’t done anything, it’s the most performant.
And then you can add more non destructive changes on top of that whereas we have.
Already done a few changes in terms of color and contrast, and then put a healing and cloning layer on top of that and use all of that.
Then your workflow isn’t as non destructive anymore because you can hardly go back and make changes and it becomes more complicated.