advanced photoshop

Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis

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News, by Anna-lisa Saywell

Marina Dean-Francis reveals the secrets behind her work for some of the most iconic fashion and beauty brands in the world

Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis
Marina Dean-Francis, MDF Retouching, is one of the best photo retouchers and beauty photographers in the business. Specialising in the retouching of hair, Marina has worked for some of the most iconic fashion and beauty brands including Dior, Schwarzkopf and Wella, gaining a strong international reputation. As a result, much of her work can be found in high-end fashion magazines such as Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.

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.

Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis
Eventually, the constant travelling became tiring, which led Marina to consider different career paths. She comments: “While modelling, I was both intrigued by the photographers but also frustrated with how long it would take them to edit my pictures. I therefore started to do some photography and photo retouching myself. I spent lots of time reading books and magazines, as well as watching YouTube tutorials about Photoshop in order to learn different techniques. I was particularly inspired by the likes of Natalia Taffarel and Pratik Naik, however after a while, I began developing my own style. It was also during this time that I wanted to start a family so I was really keen to find a profession that could complement a home life.”


Marina – Top hints and tips for photographers and retouchers

  •  Relish the criticism  – Always take on board both negative and positive comments made by established art directors and photographers. This will undoubtedly make your work better in the future.
  • Keep your techniques simple – You will never stop learning new techniques on Photoshop and it is important that you use those that work best for you.  My favourites include:
    • Dodge and burn – helps to create perfect-looking skin and hair.
    • Use healing brush to correct blemishes of the skin instead of high frequency separation.
    • To sharpen eyes, start editing in-camera RAW to balance the colour of the eyes.
  • Practice, practice, practice – There are no short cuts to becoming a good retoucher. This will only come with time and experience.
  • Forget Photoshop exists – Try to ensure that your model’s hair and make-up is as perfect as possible during a photoshoot. This will help you out when editing and ensure your photos look more natural.

 Scroll down to read more about Marina’s work behind the lens
Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis
Marina – the photographer and retoucher

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.”

Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis
Retouching for the changing tastes of the fashion industry

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.

Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis
Marina then works on the lip area, ensuring all the cracks are removed using the Healing Brush. A crisp lipstick line is achieved in Lighten mode with a Clone tool as this ensures that any lipstick that has smudged onto the face is automatically removed, as it is darker than the skin.

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.

Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis
Marina – the mother and business woman 

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.”

Life behind the lens with Marina Dean-Francis
Marina is currently working on the latest L’oreal Matrix advertising campaign as well as editorial features for Grazia, French fashion magazine L’Officiel and GQ.

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