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  • Writer's pictureJason

Portraits and Practice

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Last night I did my first online workshop demonstrating portrait retouching techniques in Photoshop for the Atlanta School of Photography. I've been anxiously learning and re-learning all the skills I've built since 1993 (Photoshop 2!) over the last few weeks. This work used to be MUCH more complicated and time consuming!

Before and after animation of portrait retouching techniques demonstrated by Jason Parker in an online workshop, Nov. 16, 2023.
Before/After 2-hour workshop. Click to view larger.

First thing, I love frequency separation. It's the best method I've seen so far for skin smoothing without losing texture. Channel selection for curly and complicated hair is another great process.

I was good at this to start, and after a month of focused practice, I am very good :D.

In my face-to-face classes, I've been comparing art, photography, design, all to sports and music. How do we get better at anything? Practice.

Photographers photograph, musicians make music, actors rehearse, athletes drill. It's all practice. In photography, we are learning the language of light. If we don't try to speak it, we won't be able to communicate. Encouraging practice and telling students that "photographers photograph" has been a revelation.

It's a shame that art and sport are so often seen as adversarial. I know plenty of artists that are or were athletes (hey, like me!). Or we talk about "gifted" artists and athletes, as if greatness comes from nowhere. It's not "athleticism" or "talent" that makes someone great. It's the personal discipline and dedication that it takes to practice and improve over time. Learning how to do something right is a process of running out of ways to do it wrong.

Or, sport is another language that we practice, along with speech, text, photography, music, cinema, math, science, etc. etc. It's all in how we communicate with others.

And who we are, or want to be. This scene from Serpico has always stuck with me. "How come all your friends are on their way to being somebody else?"

Keep practicing, and playing. Be who you are. Everything is talking to you, and learning is everything. I'm glad to be who I am and hope you are too. I'm still working on it. Practice is critical for performance. Never stop.

And with all this practice, I am getting even better at portrait retouching. Be prepared to notice how much worse I look in person!

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