Job Description of a Photograph Retoucher: Duties and Requirements

Sep 27, 2019

Photograph retouchers require little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

A postsecondary certificate or associate's degree must be completed to become a photograph retoucher. Programs in photography or studies to become a photographic artist will help prepare photograph retouchers for their work using digital editing to modify photographs.

Essential Information

Photograph retouchers work with photographers to edit and enhance digital photographs. They may work for photographers of all types, including portrait, commercial, news and fine arts photographers. The combination of an artistic eye and technical training in photograph editing is necessary to succeed in the field.

Required Education Associate's degree or technical certificate
Other Requirements Ability to use photo editing software
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% decline for photographers
Median Salary (2019)** $50,406 for photo retouchers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **


Photographic retouchers work primarily with digital photography. They use photograph editing software to enhance images by correcting resolution and composition, cropping images and adjusting tone, color, saturation and brightness. The retouching process can also consist of adding or removing objects from an image or inserting text. Photographic retouchers work under the supervision of the presiding photographer.


Photo retouchers need to have an eye for art and composition as they relate to what's typically desirable in a photographic image. It is necessary for photograph retouchers to understand the components of visual art and the elements of photography. Nearly all photograph retouchers complete college-level coursework in photography. Photograph retouchers must possess a thorough understanding of the digital editing process and should choose a program of study with an emphasis in photo digital imaging and photographic retouching. There are opportunities for prospective photograph retouchers to study at both the community college and university level.

Community and junior colleges provide students with a variety of photography programs. Aspiring photograph retouchers can choose to follow a specialized course of study resulting in a program certificate, examples of which include the Certificate in Photography or a Photographic Artist Certificate. These programs vary from school to school and range in length from 3-4 semesters. Coursework the fundamentals of photography, digital photo imaging and photo retouching.

A variety of community and junior colleges offer students an Associate of Arts in Photography degree. This degree provides students with an overview of art and an introduction to photography. The associate's degree requires introductory art classes such as design basics and introductions to film and digital photography, as well as general education coursework in English, math, science, humanities and social sciences. An associate's degree in photography prepares students to work as a photograph retoucher, but the degree can also serve as a starting point for students considering further education.

Four-year universities provide students with either a Bachelor of Arts in Photography or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Photography. A Bachelor of Arts degree provides students with a general liberal arts education and requires students to take courses in other disciplines, including English, history, social sciences and foreign language, in addition to in-depth coursework in photography. The BFA is a professional art degree that includes advanced study of photography, as well as related artistic disciplines like drawing, painting and sculpting.

Although no specific course of study is required, it is necessary that prospective photograph retouchers understand the foundations of photography, as well as the techniques and processes of photo editing and retouching. While some companies will prefer their employees to have a bachelor's degree, others will be satisfied with the associate's degree or technical certificate. It is important that aspiring photograph retouchers understand the differences between the many educational options and choose a course of study that aligns with their individual career goals.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that photographers could expect to see employment decline by 6% from 2018-2028. According to the BLS, many people are attracted to the field of photography, and the number of those pursuing careers in photography will be greater than the number of job openings.

May 2018 data from the BLS determined that $34,000 was the median salary for photographers. Photo retouchers had a salary range of $34,000-$75,000, with a median salary of $50,406, per data from 2019.

Photograph retouchers work under the supervision of photographers, and may be employed in commercial studios or by photographers themselves. They need an understanding of art and composition and must be proficient with the digital editing process.

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