With so much talk about “retouching” in the media we decided to resurrect this great interview we did with retoucher Tia Jai in the July 2010 issue of PLUS Model Magazine.
Tia Jai had high hopes of becoming a model in the early 90s, trekking to NYC only to be told she was not skinny enough or tall enough or basically just did not have the look for the industry at that time. My, how times have changed! Tia says ” I hung up the stilettos and found my way around the comedy circuit in sneakers just fine!”
Now a reformed comic, she began her retouching career easily enough, by designing my own fliers. After a few years she began to cross over into the actual retouching aspect of photo shop.
Maddy: How did you get involved in the photography business?
Tia: I was introduced to the photography world by my best friend of 20 plus years turned photographer.
Maddy: We met when PLUS first started to work with photographer Inez Lewis. Was this your first entry into the plus size industry?
Tia: That it was! Speak of Inez, she’s the best friend turned photographer I was referring to. Being a plus woman herself, she’s always strived to get images of plus women that were edgy and high fashion; less commercial, if you will.
Maddy: Most photographers prefer to retouch their own work; “retouchers” have a lot of pressure in working for their clients. How did you get into the re-touching industry?
Tia: I began retouching full time about the same year you had first started working with Inez. I had since given up corporate life and wanted to do something more creative. When she offered me to work as her assistant, setting up lights, assisting new models with posing and the like… I jumped at the opportunity.
Maddy: Coming from the photography and modeling industry, how important is it for models and photographers to tweak their pictures before using?
Tia: I like the work you used… tweak. Most images that come across my desk are in need of just that. Blemish removal, dark circles, ridding images of stray hairs and smoothing out the skin is pretty standard for even actor’s head shots these days. The trick however is to make them look as if nothing has been done.
Maddy: Generally speaking, what can models expect when they approach you for retouching?
Tia: QUALITY would be first…. I was trained by one of the best retouchers around (Inez) and she taught me everything I needed to know about keeping a picture as close to the original as possible. I pride myself on doing the best job imaginable, often times going above and beyond to ensure the client is happy with the final outcome. RATES would be a close second…. Taking into consideration all the $ that can go into a shoot; I pride myself on being affordable, charging anywhere from $10-20 per image based on the complexity of the retouch. PROMPT would be third…. Depending on my current workload, I typically have a 48-72 hour turnaround.