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Introduction to catalogue, or product image retouching

Ten years ago online shopping was something you'd occasionally do, nowadays it rules the world, bringing you an opportunity to get all kinds of goods for a bargain price. We buy everything online, be it clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry, furniture, tools or food. Thousands of online stores deal in billions of goods. Unlike offline stores, where you can see or touch actual items, online stores sell images. And catalogue, or product image retouchers are responsible for those images. We are the people that deliver good to customers via their screens.

The only way how you can decide whether a particular item is what you need is by looking at the images and reading the respective descriptions. Images, of course, are most important. No matter how detailed description is, I doubt anyone would buy goods without looking at the images that represent them: there are different angles, close-ups, everything to let customers fully understand what exactly is being sold. There are millions of goods online, there are billions of images, but who are the people that produce those images? There must be a lot of them, a whole army of retouchers, all in different countries, working for different companies. How can you become one of the best product image retouchers? What is this job like? Where can you learn all you need to be able to retouch images for the online stores?

The reason why I created this course is that there's definitely not enough information available online, be it free or not. There are tons of tutorials and articles and detailed courses if you want to learn how to retouch portraits or beauty or hi-end fashion shots, but when it gets to catalogue retouching – there's nothing, just fragments of information, often unreliable and controversial. But that's going to change from now on, because here, on this website, you can find all the information about e-commerce product image retouching that you need, all in one place.

For eight years I either worked in online stores or did my own research on the matter, and I know how to organize cost-effective mass production of images for the online stores. Mass production is exactly what makes product image retouching different from all other kinds of retouching. We aim for speed and stable quality while dealing with huge batches of images. After exhausting all possibilities of learning myself, I am now willing to teach others. This is why I'm here. If you're interested in product image retouching, if you find mass production of product images fascinating, this is the right place. You can learn all about it, be it mannequin, object or model retouching. It doesn't matter whether you aim for the best quality possible or deal with hundreds of images every day, because the process doesn't really change, only the time you spend on each image changes.

As there's clearly a lack of information on the matter, catalogue retouching is not usually considered special. Retouchers often treat product images as any other images. If you do so, you'll find out rather quickly, that it's nigh impossible to retouch more than a hundred images in one day. So how exactly can I make other people able to produce a crazy amount of images like 500?

The deal is that product image editing is supposed to be a very strict, well-organized sequence of actions. We do what we do using tools and techniques that let us retouch in a fast and efficient manner. We don't waste time, we don't complicate things more than necessary, we don't make mistakes, we don't dawdle, we work smoothly and precisely. This steady flow is achieved by repetition of the same actions over time. It's not an easy thing to master, but once you become a professional, you won't be able to work any other way.

Specific qualities of a catalogue retoucher

While a lot of people think that retouchers are creative and do things that might be considered art, in catalogue retouching, creativity is not something necessary. A technical mindset might get you a job while a degree in arts will probably not. Even retouchers themselves sometimes think they have to be creative, but in fact, e-commerce retouching requires other qualities. It’s not rocket science, of course, so to be a successful product image retoucher you basically need three things.

The first one is the ability to perform repetitive tasks over and over again, every day, for months and even years. Even if you freelance or work with multiple projects, the images would still be very similar as well as the process of retouching them. If you get bored easily, the job will be quite tedious.

The second thing is the technical mindset. It doesn’t mean you have to be a mathematician or something like that, but product image retouching, no matter how simple the images are, requires a deep understanding of technical processes underneath Photoshop algorithms. Otherwise, you might waste a lot of time doing things intuitively, like moving many different sliders back and forth to achieve a particular effect, or trying different tools with no result. Catalogue retouching is not a trial-and-error based process, so to be efficient you have to be on good terms with Photoshop and its features.

The third thing is attentiveness, and thinking of it now, I think I should have put it first, above all other things. If you get bored easily, it’s a problem, but you can still do well if you’re attentive. If you don’t get it, if you don’t have any idea how Photoshop functions, but you are persistent, you can still achieve results through trial and error if you’re attentive. And if you’re not attentive you can, for example, easily ruin your whole day’s work.

It’s fairly easy actually to mess the whole thing up, like write a save action so that all the images you make have the same name and save on top of each other, and at the end of the day you have one image instead of two hundred. Or you can mess up the image size and make them two times smaller than they should be, thus useless. And don’t forget about quality – if you’re not attentive, you can make a lot of mistakes and never find them until your superior sees them or the customers encounter them while browsing the website.

A piece of metal wire used to keep the bag open should have been removed

If you’re a product image retoucher and you are efficient or at least you think you are, and you are not a techie and not very attentive, don’t get mad at me because of all the things I’ve just said. They are just my own conclusions, and they don’t necessarily have to be 100 percent true at all time. The truth is that if you are an attentive techie and you don’t get bored quickly, things will be much easier for you than otherwise.

Next: How many images you can do in one day


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