Spotlight Interview … Retouch Artist Toan Thai

JRP: Toan Thai is the owner of Red Lantern Studio a concern that provides top quality image retouching and enhancement for the photographic community. He has kindly agreed to give us a glimpse of this vital support service.

Toan Thai: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about retouching.

JRP: Where is your home base Toan?

Toan Thai: I live in Maryland just right outside of Washington D.C.

JRP: How did you get your start in retouching and is there any formal training in your background?

Toan Thai: I got my first start at Kodak doing scanning. There I watched over restoration artists’ shoulders and practiced photoshop everyday. Next thing I know, I was doing restoration on photographs that dated back to the beginning of photography.

From there, I went on working for scanning houses and stock photographers. I learned new techniques that propel me towards high-end retouching.

JRP: What equipment would I find in your workroom?

Toan Thai: I use Apple computer, 23″ Apple Cinema Display and Wacom tablet.

JRP: Could you please describe some of the misconceptions associated with your work?

Toan Thai: With easy access of Photoshop, everyone think he/she can become a retoucher. A few weeks in front of the computer, he/she starts charging people. It takes years to master the process of retouching.

JRP: Please break down one of your project images for us and explain any special concerns you had during the transformation to the final image.

Toan Thai: There are so many different approaches but typically, clients outline what they want you to do with the image. I look over and discuss with the clients. Sometimes, I might need extra images that have better expression, hair, poses that I can extract from. My retouching goes in multi-stages. I start with color and contrast. To me, that’s very important because it sets the tone for the rest of the project. From there, I do simple cloning such as blemish removal, lint, fly aways, anything distracting. My most concern is getting skin to look natural. I use mostly dodge and burn technique to get this result.

JRP: With the current economy what are some new directions being taken by you in marketing your service?

Toan Thai: I constantly collaborate with fashion photographers to have my work published. Great opportunity to get exposure and your name out there.

JRP: As a retouch artist what has been some of the best advice given to you by a contemporary?

Toan Thai: Gotta have thick skin. You don’t work for one person; you work for many different people who have different flavors of personality. Do your best to learn about the client before spending hours retouching only not to get paid.

JRP: What advice would you like to share with other retouch artists and photographers?

Toan Thai: For retouchers: Train your eye to see. Study high-end fashion magazines. Take life drawing class. Practice, practice.

For photographers: Shoot a little bit flat so you have more control in post. If you could, collaborate with a retoucher before or during the shoot. It will save you lots of time in post.

JRP: Thank you Toan for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a real pleasure and we wish you continued success.

Toan Thai: It was a pleasure. Thank you, James.

JRP: To view more of Toan Thai’s artistic work please follow this link:


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