Linda Ehrke is an award winning Print Producer/Art Buyer at the Pitch Agency in Los Angeles. Their clients include: Burger King, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Bonefish Grill.
1) How have you been involved in using or buying retouching? And what kinds of projects have you worked on that involved retouching?
I’ve been in this field for the last, I would say, 15 years. And I’ve always worked for smaller companies, so therefore I do wear many hats, and one of them is buying retouching because I’m on the film production side. So that does tend to fall in my realm.
2) Does your agency hire retouchers for projects or do they prefer to leave that to the photographers they hire?
It really depends on the project. We’ve done both. So if we’re shooting with a photographer, yes, I always want them to include their retouching. But their retouching is mostly just clean ups, it’s nothing too intricate. And then we also have some projects that require only retouching, that’s not from the photo shoot. For example, a lot of our projects could be based on lifting assets from our TV spots, or our CGI composed videos. From there we would talk to the CGI department, and we would work with them to generate print assets. And then I would hire the re-toucher to compose everything together for print.
3) What do you look for when working with a retoucher?
I feel like retouching is very subjective. So I look at their capabilities from a more technical standpoint. And I always ask for a before and an after before we hire someone, just to see where their skills are, because that will prove to me if they’re capable of doing the work I’m hiring them to do. Especially if there is very intricate compositing or retouching that is involved, I need to make sure their styles and their skills are compatible with what we need. So we always look for samples, we talk to them first, brief them and get a creative direction.
And it is a collaborative thing. We don’t want someone just to take our direction. We want someone to take our direction and also have their own ideas too, to bring something more to the table.
4) What separates a high-end retoucher from average retouchers?
I feel like if you have the skills that you have the skill set. If you can do it, you can do it. I really look at what they’ve done, their work and their skills.
5) What do you feel is the most challenging part of retouching?
I think the most challenging part is that it is subjective. So I might think it’s great, but the client might not think it’s great, or my creative director might not think it’s great. It’s subjective. Let’s say we’re retouching someone’s face. I may say, “Her face still looks too dark, we want to lighten it up.” But the other person says, “No, I think it looks great.” I just think it’s so subjective; it’s really hard to get everyone on the same page.
To me, that’s the most challenging part is that retouching, like any form of creative work, it’s a form of art, where people have their opinions and the challenge is to get everybody on the same page.
6) Do you look for high-end retouchers to have a “style”?
I feel like retouching is part of the creative. And so I feel there are people with different styles and it’s subjective. For example I there are re-touchers that work specifically in the fashion world or in the tech world or in wherever their expertise is. There are a few that can do it all, but it’s very rare that someone can do that. So it depends on the complexity of our job
And especially when you’re also retouching products, the finish of the product, for instance with chrome, which is hard to achieve. And so even when you’re shooting product, there’s just technicality of these things that goes back to their skills and we want to hire someone that has done retouching on that kind of product before. Because usually our schedules are very tight, so we want to make sure somebody knows what we want and can just nail it the first time around.
7) Of quality, speed, price which are most important to you and your clients?
That’s a tough question. I would say overall it’s got to be quality. I think if you’re a little late, we’ll accept it because the quality is there. If you’re a little overpriced, we’ll accept it because the quality is there. I would say, if overall you are providing quality work, I think the other two could be overshadowed.
8) Is there a recent project that involved retouching you’d like to talk about?
The most recent one is just from a photo shoot that we basically have our first round and then we would send it to the client and the client just disagrees with our retouching edits. So that’s another challenge with this, we have our opinion and then the client has their opinion. So overall we just have to come to a happy medium because we want the best creative possible, and we also want to meet the client’s needs. So there are times that we said, okay we’ll – let’s say there’s 10 edits that we disagree with, we’ll make five and then leave the other five. So it’s just a compromise that we need to make.
9) Do you have any “Pet Peeves” regarding retouching? (Over done reshaping of bodies, plastic skin, or problematic techniques?)
My pet peeves goes back to the quality work, if you feel like it’s not your best work, do not send it to us.
And communicate with us about your progress, especially with deadlines. If I give you 10 things to retouch and you only delivered five or you only delivered six, I need to know that you’re not going to be able to meet the deadline prior to the deadline, give me a heads up so that way we can alert our clients.
And not following directions is also one of my pet peeves. If I’m telling you to retouch this part green and I get something blue we’re going to have a problem.
10) Are there any trends in retouching you’ve been seeing?
I feel like the trend is moving towards the CG look. Not necessarily computer generated but more of that almost looks like a 3D look, photo realistic kind of look.
I think it’s more the eye-catching stuff our clients want to see on a billboard or in a magazine. When someone is flipping through the pages you want something that will grab their attention.