Call­ing in the pro­fes­sional re­toucher

Aaron K talks to pro­fes­sional re­toucher Kevin Hyde about his job and how it fits into the image-cre­ation process

The Photographer's Mail - - Column - Aaron K

These days, I ex­pect that most pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers are pretty com­pe­tent Pho­to­shop users, as they would use it reg­u­larly to process, ad­just, and ma­nip­u­late their own pho­tos. How­ever, no mat­ter how good a pho­tog­ra­pher thinks they are with Pho­to­shop, when an im­por­tant as­sign­ment comes up that re­quires com­plex and so­phis­ti­cated post-pro­duc­tion work, it al­ways pays to bring in an ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sional re­toucher — some­one like Kevin Hyde from Image­craft (image­craft.co.nz). With more than 20 years of post-pro­duc­tion ex­pe­ri­ence and a port­fo­lio filled with ad­ver­tis­ing jobs for ma­jor brands, Hyde knows a thing or two about re­touch­ing. So, I de­cided to give him a call to find out what he had to say on the sub­ject. The Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Mail: How did you be­come a free­lance re­toucher?

Kevin Hyde: Back in 1995, I started two ap­pren­tice­ships — one each in pre-press and drum scan­ning — at a com­pany called Tintz in Hamil­ton. That was around the time that pre-press went dig­i­tal, and it pro­vided a great foun­da­tion for me. In 1999, I went over to London and started free­lanc­ing — do­ing art­work, lay­out, and de­sign for ad agencies. At that point, I shifted from the nuts and bolts of pre-press into the cre­ative ad­ver­tis­ing world. I came back to New Zealand in 2004 and fo­cused more on re­touch­ing. I started off free­lanc­ing at Draft FCB, where there was a grow­ing need for spe­cial­ist re­touch­ing ser­vices. I was at Draft for a few years and then free­lanced at Colenso, where I got more into 3D-CGI work, and be­gan com­bin­ing the 3D with the re­touch­ing. What sort of ser­vices do you pro­vide?

Re­touch­ing and 3D-CGI work. Quite of­ten, it might be just a pure re­touch­ing job, work­ing with raw shots pro­vided di­rectly from a pho­tog­ra­pher or via an ad agency. Or it may be a com­bi­na­tion of re­touch­ing with a 3D el­e­ment in­cor­po­rated into the image. In

some cases, it’s just straight CGI-ren­dered il­lus­tra­tions on their own. What’s your pri­mary aim when re­touch­ing?

In terms of re­touch­ing, I like bring­ing re­al­ism and life to a com­po­si­tion. There are all sorts of dif­fer­ent ar­eas of re­touch­ing, but I tend to do a lot in the com­posit­ing cat­e­gory. I en­joy the chal­lenge of bring­ing dif­fer­ent el­e­ments to­gether in a way that looks as real as pos­si­ble. Who are your typ­i­cal clients?

Hav­ing come from an ad agency back­ground, where I’ve built up a lot of con­tacts over the years, the bulk of my work still comes from agencies. But I also work di­rectly with pho­tog­ra­phers I’ve met over the years or who’ve found me via my web­site.

Who do you end up in­ter­act­ing with the most dur­ing the image-cre­ation process?

It tends to be the art di­rec­tor, be­cause, with ad­ver­tis­ing work, it’s their vi­sion that you’re try­ing to re­al­ize. There are nu­mer­ous peo­ple in­volved in the process [who] … I’ll com­mu­ni­cate with — pho­tog­ra­phers, pro­duc­ers, etc. — but, ul­ti­mately, it’s the cre­ative who calls the shots.

At what point in this process are you nor­mally brought in?

It de­pends on how things un­fold. If it’s known from the out­set that my skills will be re­quired, then I’m brought in at the brief­ing stage. But, in some cases, a shoot may have al­ready taken place, and due to un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances there might be a few prob­lems that need to be sorted out, so I’ll be called in af­ter­wards.

What are some of the big­gest tech­ni­cal chal­lenges you face when re­touch­ing?

There are the ob­vi­ous things that you en­counter when com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent el­e­ments into a sin­gle com­pos­ite image. You need a con­sis­tent light source across all the images and also a con­sis­tent angle of view. For ex­am­ple, you don’t want to put a close-up wide shot of a per­son into a long shot of a back­ground (or vice versa), be­cause things end up look­ing forced — and it doesn’t mat­ter how much re­touch­ing you do, you can’t iron those in­con­sis­ten­cies out.

What can pho­tog­ra­phers do to make your job eas­ier and get a bet­ter end re­sult? Ask ques­tions. If there’s a job that they’re look­ing at that’s likely

to in­volve some com­pli­cated re­touch­ing, and they’re a bit wor­ried about how it might come to­gether in post, then they should just get on the phone and talk it through with the re­toucher. It makes life a lot eas­ier for every­one in­volved if you plan the shoot cor­rectly.

How much time should pho­tog­ra­phers al­low for high­end re­touch­ing?

It de­pends on the com­plex­ity of the job, but you typ­i­cally need at least a few days. You also need to al­low time for three stages of proof­ing, where the art di­rec­tor, the pho­tog­ra­pher, and the client can pro­vide feed­back and make changes to the image be­fore the fi­nal file is sup­plied. This process takes time, so you need to fac­tor that in.

Any fi­nal words of wis­dom that you’d like to of­fer pho­tog­ra­phers?

Shoot back­ground plates and cover off left and right and up and down, be­cause there’s al­ways an­other me­dia for­mat that the client may not have ac­counted for ini­tially. If you have those back­ground shots up your sleeve, it’s a lot eas­ier to ex­tend an image.

Photo for NZ Tax Con­sul­tants by Leon Rose, re­touched by Kevin Hyde

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