I've had a teeny bit of fame and only momentary recognition garnered by touching the faces of some pretty famous people and some famously pretty people, like Faith Hill, Mel Karmazin, David Beckham (and Victoria, too), Kate Moss and Shania Twain. By touching, I don't mean that I disturbed their expensive Hamptons spray-on tans, but as a retoucher plus d'extraordinaire, on a pixel level. Kate Moss' pores are quite tiny, I assure you.
Of course, you probably know someone who knows someone who has an illicit copy of Photoshop on their laptop and who fancies himself l'artiste plus grande. Heck: two french phrases in two paragraphs - I'll come back and fix that when I can think of something better. Anyway, while it's true that any fourth-grader can remove diabolous red-eye or that giant zit from Aunt Livia's right cheek - on her face, mind you, as for those other pictures, well, you get the idea - it takes a lot more education and experience and, yes, talent, to correctly render the human form or to render it in such a way as to achieve a desired look.
Most of the top-of-the-pile retouchers are painters by vocation and most have advanced fine-art educations. Those who study fine art learn about form and light, texture and colour, and it takes years to find the core of one's talent in such a way as to have it accessible at will. This elite, of whom I am sad to say I am not a member, bill several thousand bucks per head or scene, with follow-ups (for client changes, not errors, that is, if the client would prefer this or that for whatever whimsy needs fulfillment that day) billing at half that again. And their stuff looks like art. It is art. You can see it in Glamour, Elle, Cosmo and WWD and on a bus shelter near you. Even the New Yorker profiled Pascal Dangin in 2008, who worked on the now-famous "real women" Dove campaign and is considered by many as probably the best of the best.
But the end may be near for Dangin and his priestly minion. Panasonic has come out with a camera that can retouch in-camera, going so far as to add "makeup" to the image so that you, too, can look your best when posting to your mySpace profile. This video from New York's New Tang Dynasty Television breaks it down: