Getting to Know the Luminance Speakers: Amy Dresser

Getting to Know the Luminance Speakers: Amy Dresser

Luminance 2012 – PhotoShelter’s conference on September 12-13 in NYC – is hosting over 2 dozen speakers in TED-style talks.

This week we introduce Amy Dresser, who for the past ten years has been amassing an array of commercial and editorial work as a photo retoucher and illustrator. Amy’s retouching skills are coveted by her peers and admirers, and fortunately for us she doesn’t find the need to hide her techniques.

Amy’s talk topic is, cheekily, “”No, I’m not mentally retouching your face while I speak to you.” But first, a few questions with Amy:


Where do you find inspiration?

The nature of my profession is parasitic.  The photo I am retouching is essentially the base for my inspiration. Ideally I’d like to be collaborating with a photographer’s vision and not trying to hi-jack it. That aside, I do have my personal tastes.

When people interact with your brand or your product, what do you hope they take away from it?

There was a time that good retouching was supposed to go completely unnoticed. That time has died. Since everyone is aware of Photoshop, we are allowed to really abuse the boundaries previously set. Instead of photographers using a retoucher for insurance, they are now using retouchers as steroids.

I have a pretty simple goals. I like my client being happy at the same time that I am proud. I have had a few clients who compare opening up an image that I have sent to them to opening a present on Christmas. So I guess I like working with people who like surprises instead of dreading them.

Where do you see your business in 5-10 years?

I have no control over this crazy boat.

In a world where new businesses are starting up every day, what’s helped your business stand out?

I was very lucky to have started working in-house for a prominent photographer. When I switched to freelancing, I had a very solid portfolio to show for myself. Because I was shy about self-promotion. I did this passive venue of self-promotion “back in the day” and made a website featuring before and afters. Very quickly my website started to get a lot of traffic.

My website and the quality of my work has done all the work for me. I did a lot of never saying “no,” too. Even when I really didn’t think it was possible to do something, I’d try to prove myself wrong. That has created a regular flow of “can we fix this in post?” type of work.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I’ve always been the type to like to hole up and work fastidiously on my own. I was always a big fan of the work getting the attention instead of myself. And being a retoucher is like being the person behind the person behind the camera. I also have a strong nature to edit and improve things, and less of an urge to build things from scratch. Like remodeling a home vs. designing one.


Interested in learning more about Luminance? Get all our ticket and pricing information here.


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