Francesca Hughes is a professional Retoucher from the UK who retouches imagery for print and web campaigns for international brands.
DIYP: Tell us a little about how you got into Photoshop, and who your influences are.
FH: I’ve always been artistic and creative but my Photoshop journey started at school where I studied Graphic Design, where I learned how to create graphic artwork and enhance my photography using, back then, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop 7. I continued learning Graphic Design through College and University levels, using all the Adobe suite but it was my love for Photoshop that was the strongest and I got my first retouching job in 2012. Since then, I’ve retouched campaigns for all sorts of photography including portraits, lifestyle, fashion, food, still life to name a few. I currently work full time as Retoucher working on print and web campaigns for international brands. I absolutely love it.
I get inspiration and influence from all manner of things; art, photography, music, film, games. These all give me the motivation to create composites or create my own photography in my spare time. Like most creative people, I also have a long list of people who I’m influenced by; Glyn Dewis, Michael Knight, Mario Olvera, Renee Robyn, Felix Hernandez Rodriguez, Jack Usephot and of course DIY Photography’s own Clinton Lofthouse. Those are just a few of the Creatives that I absolutely love. Their work is always flawless and highly polished.
DIYP: Not so long ago you were the guest blogger on Scott Kelby’s website, how did this happen and how was the experience?
FH: Yes! This was wonderful. I’ve been involved with the KelbyOne community for a long time now. I’ve watched their shows for over 10 years, but I’ve been a member of KelbyOne since 2014. It came about because I asked. The old saying “if you don’t ask, the answer is always no” came to mind. Scott Kelby said yes and before you know it I had questions in my inbox and then the article was published. It was a great experience for me and helped spread my name and work across the community. Since then, I’ve been to Photoshop World and was nominated for a Guru Award, had my work published twice in the Photoshop User Magazine and been interviewed for the said magazine in their “Who’s Who” community feature – all of this happened because I got involved with the KelbyOne community and made connections.
DIYP: You are also planning to release three Photoshop magazines for charity, please tell us more about this.
FH: That’s right, Photoshop Artist Magazine. It all started years ago, actually, I created two music magazines and raised a ton of money for charity during my University years. Since then, it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to do it again. But this time, Photoshop related. Fast forward to 2018 and I’m finally making it happen. It’s all in the early stages at the moment, so everything is a little top secret, but I can tell you that the three magazines will be filled with interviews, features, tutorials, and tips for everything Photoshop. And the best bit, it’s all for charity. All the money raised from every issue will go straight to the charity Mind, who help those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. It’s an incredible charity and I hope we can raise a lot of money for the cause. I’d love it if all the DIY Photography readers could give the Facebook page a like and that will really help spread the word.
DIYP: You have an amazing Youtube channel which has free Photoshop tutorials on, is educating others something you see yourself doing more of in the future?
FH: Oh absolutely, at the moment it’s taken a backseat because of the magazine preparation, but I’ll be up and running with that again this year. When I first started learning Photoshop in 2005, I relied on YouTube and website tutorials to learn the software. Back then, there wasn’t any video training such as RGG EDU or paid subscriptions services such as KelbyOne so those free websites back in the day were all we had to learn. Even now, we’ve got all these incredible services, but not everyone can afford those, so I still feel it’s essential we give back free content to everyone. I also love to teach. I find it therapeutic and rewarding knowing that someone has learned something from me, whether it be a very small tip or a big part of the retouching workflow. I would definitely consider doing more teaching in the future, either video courses or 1-to-1 lessons; it’s on the horizon.
DIYP: How important is Photoshop in your workflow, would you be able to create your images without it?
FH: I learned Photoshop before I learned photography, so anything I capture in camera I always have the mindset of “If this doesn’t turn out, I’ll just Photoshop my vision”. Nowadays I create composites and with the elements I put together, there just isn’t a chance you’d be able to shoot that in camera. I rely on post-processing, I used Photoshop on a daily basis; it’s my career. 100% would not be able to create my images without it.
DIYP: For anyone starting out with the desire to create images like yourself, what advice would you give them about finding inspiration?
FH:Use websites such as Behance and 500px to see what other Photographers and Retouchers are doing. You may find all sorts of inspiration from doing that; camera angle, location, posing, lighting, composition, colour grading, special effects. These all help with your own work and finding out what you like. You may enjoy the rich and dramatic tones of Chris Knight, the 3D elements of Corey Barker or the dark and gritty self-portraiture of Mark Rodriguez. Having a library of inspiration is so important. Use Pinterest and pin pictures that you enjoy, eventually you’ll probably find that you have a board of shots with very similar themes and connections. This may be the style you are influenced by.
I also go by the following advice too, because it’s important to look at a variety of things for inspiration:
Take pictures of anything and everything, read books, look at movie posters and album covers, play video games, listen to new music, go to art galleries, meditate, walk around museums, soak in your city’s culture. Do all that you can because you can find inspiration in anything you do.
DIYP: Out of all your projects, which had the most impact on your life?
FH: My image Dunkirk. It’s probably by far my favourite composite that I’ve created. It was after I saw Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk last year. The film was absolutely incredible and not my usual watch. I enjoyed it that much that I got the bug to create a WWII inspired image.
I selected a few stock images (the beach, the soldier, the sky, and planes) and collated them together adding sand particles and colour grading. It’s one of those images that I look at and think “I did a good job on this”. Not to blow my own trumpet. But sometimes it’s important to enjoy and be proud of your work. This is one of those shots for me. And of course, it has a lot of meaning and importance to something that was both tragic and heroic in history.
DIYP: If you were only allowed to give one essential piece of advice to a beginner, what would it be?
FH: Learn. Soak in every piece of tuition. Learn everything you can about Photoshop because this will help you create realistic pieces of art. Learn from magazines, books, video courses, YouTube tutorials, podcasts, websites and most importantly learn from other Retouchers and Photoshop users.
DIYP: What other cool projects do you have lined up for 2018.
FH: I’m continuing with my composite projects to slowly build up my style, I have a few portrait projects this year as well and of course most of my time will be on Photoshop Artist Magazine. I want to build it up to the best it can be and hopefully raise a ton of money for charity.
DIYP: Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time?
FH: Still enjoying being a Retoucher. If I’m still a full-timer, then I’d like to think I was in a Senior role. I’d love to do film posters one day in the future and continue to create composites. I’d like to think I’d be teaching Photoshop as well, in small groups or 1-to-1 or maybe even at Photoshop World one day. That’s a small dream of mine.