Interview with award-winning still life retoucher Dusan Holovej, Kosice, Slovakia

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what did you do before becoming a retoucher?

I did start as a graphic designer in a small advertising agency back in 2000. So before I touched the camera for the first time I became best friends with photoshop. Since then I have been playing with PS almost daily. But my artistic origins has started on a University, I used to draw a lot of graffiti in my notepad during the boring lectures over the day and then over the night I was conquering the city with spray cans

Interview with Dusan Holovej


How did you start with commercial product photography? Can you remember your first client?

Interview with Dusan Holovej


I worked as a graphic designer / retoucher in advertising, and I remember when I reached the point where I needed some photos for my creative work. So I have started thinking about taking my own photos. I bought my first camera and started playing with it as an amateur hobby photographer. It took me some time when I started thinking about photography in a more professional way. My first client was my friend and he is a producer of mini caravans, I am working with him till present time.

Interview with Dusan Holovej


Where did you learn photography? Who was the biggest influence in your beginnings?

Almost everything I know about photography and retouching I learned from workshops, online tutorials and various courses. When I started with photography I did not specialize in still life. My way to go was creating photo manipulations and photo compositing – that is where I mastered my photoshop skills. I always wanted to capture action, like when you are watching an action movie and you press the pause button in some heavy action.

Interview with Dusan Holovej


I have realised that you can capture it in one go straight to a camera, but you need some expensive equipment or you can do it step by step as a photo composite – that’s what I am doing. My biggest influence back there was definitely Erik Almas. He is doing spectacular commercial work and I love every bit of it. His photo composites are like a meditation for my eyes–you can literally feel the calmness coming out of his work. 

Interview with Dusan Holovej


Describe your ideal client.

That is simple – sky is the limit in terms of the budget and I do not have any boundaries and the client fully relies on my creativity.

How do you feel about photographs retouching images on their own?

Interview with Dusan Holovej


I am doing that all the time, I have never tried to outsource retouching to third parties. I would try clipping path services, but definitely not retouching. I think retouching is one of the most important steps in image creation which gives a photo signature look. I rely on my skills all the time 

Let’s talk about software. What tools do you use to manage your projects?

For tethering I am using Capture one pro, for retouching Photoshop. I have never tried Adobe Lightroom for example.

Interview with Dusan Holovej


What’s your opinion about CGI in product photography?

I really think CGI is the future of product photography. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I know that video and CGI is a way to go in the future.

Interview with Dusan Holovej


Your top advice for an aspiring photographer and retouchers?

Get inspired by other photographers, try to find out/figure it how they did the photos you like. Learn a lot, there are plenty of free resources on YouTube and not to mention great courses available out there. 

Interview with Dusan Holovej


Attend workshops, talk to other photographers. If you are passionate about what you are doing then you definitely find great resources to learn from. Remember that you can achieve everything you can imagine 

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Do you straggle with retouching? Do you want to learn retouching here as well? From my experience, I know how dramatically it can transform your portfolio and it's something, you need to seriously consider.
Let me know in comments below.


  1. In my experience, before I got into advanced retouching, I knew Photoshop is a very powerful tool but I was very intimidated to start learning it. I have tried following a lot of Youtubers to do some entry-level retouching in photoshop. It was easy to play around but never a systematic way to improve until I started to take some pro-tutorial classes and doing retouching case by case/ proejct by project. I gained my confidence over time and realized that I do not need to know every single thing in Photoshop, even the PS masters don’t master everything of the software. Right now I am feeling the same way with the Blender or CGI in general, but I know i will get better as well!

      1. IMHO CGI is a great tool for many still life photographers who are intended to create incredible works that are difficult to achieve in the real world. It is very challenging and costly to set up a set inside of a studio in order to produce surreal imagery. If combing good retouching skills with CGI technology, photo composting will become even more effective workhouses than ever before. For example, Shooting complex subjects (jewelry, watches…) in the studio, photographers will be able to produce high-quality 2D images of the subject and then built a 3D background/set using 3d software. Then the outcome of this type of photo manipulation will look much realistic and does not require complicated shadow works in photoshop or other complications. I would be very interested to know how does a pro retoucher could do when working with semi-CGI project (compositing 2d images with 3d model background) and how to utilize retouching skills better or what kind of retouching skill set does a photographer need in order to benefit from 3D software.

  2. I really want to reach the professional level of retouching. I am self-taught and this often complicates things. Because self-study takes years. Do you have retouching courses? I really need it