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Just in case you missed it, I just stumbled upon an old interview that ran in Resource Magazine last year…

“Over a drink, Stephan Sagmiller, founder of Cyan Jack, a digital retouching team in New York City, discussed the art of his craft with an exceptional understanding for all concepts involved within the trade. Stephan’s work began after he secured a degree in 3D Modeling and Animation. He eventually made his way to New York City to work as a retoucher and established Cyan Jack nearly two years ago. Stephan has already had the opportunity of working with clients such as Tommy Hilfiger, SONY Records, DKNY, and Apple. With a strapping grasp of the business, Stephan looks forward to continuing to expand his experience.”

You can read the full Article on Mac-On-Campus. HERE

Layer Basics

While each image will necessitate slightly different treatment, you will save a lot of time by creating an action of the most essential adjustment layers for each type of photography so that you’re only one click away from the proper layer structure and have some consistency in your naming.  This will help you start quickly while being organized through the whole retouching session.  Here are the layers broken down in a nutshell.


This should always be your first layer, which should remain untouched so no destructive editing to the original file occurs.

Any changes to the shape / silhouette using the liquify tool should be done first. Why? Should you need to recover original details for any reason, they will have moved or shifted leaving you with no access to the original (just after the liquify). If no liquifying is needed you can skip this layer.

This is your liquified layer, duplicated and renamed. Obvious point to hit home: This is where all of your pixel level retouching takes place, I.E. Cloning, healing or the inconspicuous removal of anything unwanted from the image should occur here.

Curves are your best friend.  You can use them effectively for nearly any image problem.  Shaping and smoothing small blemishes in skin are done best with Curves adjustment layers. Make a group called “L and D” or some variation thereof, and make 2 Curves layers within, named, you guessed it: lighten and darken. For your “light” layer, find a dark point you would like lightened, select it, and move the Curve upward using your arrow keys. For your “dark” layer, find a light point you would like darkened, select, and move the Curve downwards using your arrow keys.  Then fill that adjustment layer mask to black so none of the adjustment is showing.  Paint white to darken or lighten depending on which layer you have selected,  You get the picture.  I could write a whole post on just those two layers so for now.. to be continued.

After you have altered shape and tone, as described, you can move on to your color corrections. A group is also recommended here, containing a Curves layer and a Hue and Saturation layer maybe even a selective color layer as well. Use masks to isolate specific color issues.

The overall curve can be done at any point. It is most advantageous to set it first, so your healing and cloning is evaluated closest to the final image.

That’s all on Layers Basics for now. Stay tuned for more and, as always, feel free to reach out with questions on the CYAN JACK facebook page.

Did you just buy a dud? Hard drives 101

So you are running out of space and you just bought some shiny new hard drives but what do you do now? There are a number of things you can do to ensure the long life of your hard drives and avoid early catastrophes:

Step 1.
Inspect the drive for any physical damages during travel or shipment. If there are any, return it immediately. It will not be worth your time or risk!

Step 2.
Physically label the drive with a sticky label and give it a name that matches the name you give it in the computer. Include the warranty date. This helps when you need to know if you have pulled out the right hard drive. Also if it’s gone bad you will know if it’s still in warranty, lickity split.

Step 3.
Format and zero the hard drive. Most info you’ll find online will tell you that zeroing the hard drive is for security purposes when selling or discarding a drive. What I’m advocating is that you zero all data just after purchasing it. Here’s why:

- When running the full zeroed format the computer will write data to every nook and cranny on that hard drive. If there are any bad sectors on that drive you will likely find out about it when running this full format.
- The drive will run a smidge faster.
- If you have multiples of the same drive, you can record how long each drive takes to format and compare the results. This will also be a sign all of your drives are in good working order and ready to go if they all formated in the same amount of time.


Zeroing all data on your hard drive basically means that you will complete the erasure process fully, as opposed to just initializing it, which only partially empties the directory. For instance, if “available” space is listed instead of “empty” space in the finder references, that points to the fact that files still exist on the hard drive. We want to start with a clean, fully formated drive that we can rely on.

This is standard practice on all of our new drives.   Don’t forget, Zero & label those drives!

The show goes on!

The gods must have heard my call because not more than a week after my Stop Assisting talk, APA sent word about doing a retouching seminar for them.  After speaking to the amazing young talent over at Stop Assisting I was hoping for just such a thing so I could build on the dialogs that were started there.  It doesn’t happen often but it looks like, this time, my wish has come true!

I’m sure you’ve already seen the announcements on the CYAN JACK Facebook page, Twitter and in CYAN JACK News.  If not, the show starts this Monday night June 14th at Calumet.  The Doors will open at 6:30pm and you’ll get a solid 2 hours of pure seminar bliss until we wrap up at 9.  I have a super fun show planned out so I hope see all of you CJ fans there.

And one more thing…   I have 4 free passes to give away on monday, fans only. Post the event to your Facebook wall, Blog, heck if you have some real panache want to send it out to your friends by couriered mail I’ll take that too.  The first four people to contact me with proof that you posted the event info will win a free pass!


How to work with a retoucher

A couple weeks ago I was invited to speak to the “Stop Assisting” group at the beautiful Tribecca Skyline Studios.  The item up for discussion was, “working with a Retoucher.”

At first glance, I thought it was a pretty simple topic,  I mean, how much do you need to know about outsourcing a job? but as it turns out, it’s just not that simple.  It was a short form kind of thing so I think I only had about 30 minutes to talk.  Which I thought was plenty but ended up cutting it drastically too short.  by the end of the talk I could have filled a dictionary sized book with everything I wanted those young photographers to know but we were just out of time.

To my surprise, People are pretty confused about why, how and to what degree they should hire guys like myself to retouch their images.  So I thought I would clear some of that up on my blog.   Since this is a big topic, I’m just going to focus on the how for now.  I think the best place to start is with a typical high-end retouching workflow. Read the rest of this entry »

Apple’s latest game-changer?

Apple held a conference today hosted by his Job-ness.  As everyone expected, the aptly named iPad was announced. There’s been a lot of the usual hype over the release of this glorified plus-size iPhone.  The big question is whether this new device will truly change the way we interact with digital media? but until we get our hands on one the jury is out…  here’s the full run down:

Read the rest of this entry »


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New Before and Afters!

Fresh of the presses. I just put up five sweet new Before and After’s in the CJ portfolio. The Interview magazine images are up as well and the late breaking national ad campaign, “Pierre Again.”  Check em’ out

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Shoot: Interview Magazine August


Another fun interview shoot with photographer Stephen Rose for the August 2009 issue of INTERVIEW mag.  I was on the streets slinging hard drives and laptops (aka. digital capture) and back in the retouching suite before you can say pesto gnocchi.  Stephen stopped by the studio to go over some color idea’s and the rest is history.