Marina Dean-Francis reveals the secrets behind her work for some of the most iconic fashion and beauty brands in the world
After graduating from university with a degree in marketing and merchandising, Marina fell into modelling while looking for a job. She spent her early 20s gaining invaluable experience of the fashion and beauty industry through a successful career in front of the camera that enabled her to see the world.
Marina now loves being on the other side of the camera. She uses a Nikon D800, Apple MacBook, Wacom Intuos Pro tablet and Wacom Cintiq Companion tablet: “I choose my equipment very carefully. Along with my trusty camera, graphics tablets play an important role in my workflow. My productivity and most importantly the quality of my work has significantly improved with this combination of devices.”
On shoot, Marina has recently replaced her MacBook for the Cintiq Companion to get instant access to the images. “Each photo I take pops up instantly on the screen, giving me a clear view of the shot. I can then see whether anything needs to be changed or altered on set. It also helps when giving direction to models and stylists. I can easily pick it up and turn it around. Its flexibility means I can even make initial alterations directly on screen.”
According to Marina, a successful photo retoucher requires plenty of patience, a strong eye for detail and a keen commitment to achieving the perfect picture. The work requires a lot of precision and accuracy in order to achieve natural looking results. Marina explains why she introduces the Intuos Pro into her workflow “Once I started using a tablet for retouching, there was no going back. The tablet makes my work faster and more enjoyable. For me, it’s the tool to use when transforming a photo into the picture I have in my head.”
In recent years, the work of a photo retoucher has had to adapt to changing tastes and requirements in the beauty industry. Within the UK and Australia in particular, the excessively skinny and over-airbrushed model is now viewed as unattractive. These days, Marina is expected to make models look perfect, but much more natural looking.
To achieve this look, Marina uses a combination of software applications including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw. A basic retouch takes her approximately four hours to complete. She starts with Camera Raw for colour correction on the skin and eyes, which makes both areas look more natural. Any light corrections are also made at this time. Next, she addresses the cleansing of the skin, for which she uses the Healing Brush primarily. However, if the model has particularly bad skin, she uses high-frequency separation as it allows skin texture to be amended without affecting the colour and tone.
To make the eyebrows and eyelashes appear fuller, Marina paints individual hairs using a normal brush. She comments: “I find that numerous hand-drawn eyelashes can look unnatural, so I blur them to ensure the texture and colour is similar to the natural hairs. When editing head hair, I remove all strays using the Clone Stamp tool in Darken mode. Some retouchers choose to make the hair look fuller by once again drawing hair strands, however on a large area, I find that this looks unnatural. I instead remove imperfections by cropping photos that I do like and incorporating into the photo I’m working on.”
The Dodge and Burn feature is then used on both the skin and hair. Although the most time consuming aspect of photo editing, Marina believes it significantly improves the overall finish of a picture. It’s important however not to overdo this by removing too many of the natural lines of a model’s face, as this can end up looking too plastic.
Marina is dedicated to building her career as a photo retoucher and photographer, but also manages to incorporate motherhood into her busy schedule: “I love my job now. I have learnt so much over the last few years in order to develop my own style and roster of clients. My progression from being in front of the camera to behind it has felt very natural.
“It has also enabled me to work more from home and spend quality time with my husband and nine-month old son. In fact, I worked right up to the birth of my son and returned a couple of months later. This ensured my portfolio never became out of date. I love the work, but it also provides me with the perfect work, life balance.”