Photo Retoucher

By TACP Staff on July 08, 2021

Photo retouching is the process of editing a photograph (or other image) for purposes such as correction of flaws or alterations to create an effect, and is usually used to change a photo into something that appears more appealing. These changes can be done manually or automatically, with methods ranging from traditional photo retouching techniques using selections and masks to digital image processing. Modern cell phone cameras have even made it possible for anyone with basic skills in Photoshop to do some photo retouching. An image is said to have been “retouched” if it has been modified with the intention of producing a more appealing result. Professional portrait photographers retouch portraits of clients before they are published online or in print media. 

What Is a Photo Retoucher?

A photo retoucher is a professional who specializes in altering or editing photographs. They are primarily concerned with making alterations to the image so that it meets customer specifications or can be more aesthetically pleasing. Photo retouchers have been described as artists since their main goal is to create a beautiful final product from images. But these professionals also have very precise skills and in-depth knowledge of high-end imaging techniques that enable them to create perfect images.

While retouching is generally used in photography, it is not limited to photo retouching. Retouching is also prevalent in other industries, such as fashion design, advertising, and marketing. The goal of all these industries is to create pictures that portray an image that the customer wants to see. A professional retoucher can help them accomplish their goals.

What Does a Photo Retoucher Do?

A professional photo retoucher works on a daily basis in digital programs to change the subject, composition, and appearance of images. Some jobs can involve editing an image so that it looks like it’s from a different time or place; others may involve physically altering parts of an image, such as the background or a person’s skin. It is common for a photo retoucher to address defects in a photo such as uneven tones, color variations, and distortion in straight and curved lines. Other job responsiblities include:

  • Cleaning an Image

    This is the most common task on a photo retoucher’s plate. The photo is usually scanned from a digital file and then cleaned up to remove dust, scratches, and any other poor-quality issues.
  • Color Correction

    A photo retoucher may enhance an image through a combination of tools to adjust the brightness, contrast, and colors of an image. An image can be made to look more presentable by adjusting the contrast, exposure, or saturation.
  • Photo Manipulation

    Here the photo retoucher can intentionally add or remove elements from a photo. This includes changing the background, cropping the image or taking out body parts or foreground. Photo manipulators usually work on images that are used for promotions and advertisements.
  • Image Restoration

    A photo retoucher may work with faded pictures or ones that have become worn over time. If the original is not practical to restore, then a copy of it can be made and restored digitally.

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Photo Retoucher Salary

According to recent data published by, people employed as photo retouchers earned an average annual salary of $47,199 in the United States, as of June 2021. This the equivalent of $22.69 per hour. The range of salaries for people in this profession was between $37,994 and $60,386. However, salaries varied widely depending on several key factors, such as industry, education, experience, location, and additional skills. There were several closely related job titles, especially at senior levels, that reported hourly wages as high as $44.95. An hourly wage of $44.95 is the equivalent of $93,496 per year. 

The salary estimates provided by are reinforced by similar data published by the online marketplace, ZipRecruiter. Salary estimates derived from local employer job postings on the ZipRecruiter network and third-party sources suggest that the average annual wage for Photo Retouchers is $42,817 per year or $20.59 per hour. 

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