After the photographer has wrapped the last shot, the work is done. Or is it? When it comes to editorial shoots, advertising campaigns or even more artistic photography that is definitely not the case. With an eye for detail and love for perfection, retouching companies often decide over the final message of the image. Holger Ward, owner of GLOSS Postproduction in New York City, comes up with concepts in order to create unique images. In the interview with CARMITIVE he offers a more precise look at his work and talks about the role of postproduction today.
CARMITIVE: GLOSS Retouching is one of the internationally leading retouching and CGI studios. Which fields do you mainly concentrate on?
HOLGER WARD: That’s right, we are a company for creative high-end retouching. We especially concentrate on lifestyle and fashion shoots, product photography, as well as cars and celebrities.
How important is it for you to be present at the photo shootings?
It depends on the project. When there is a big editorial planned, like the ones in fashion magazines, it is often times beneficial to be on set. Like that, we are able to start retouching right at the location. Sometimes one shooting can last up to a few days and several people from all over the world may be involved in it. So it definitely makes sense to discuss the final post-production when everyone is still around.
What is your typical process - from the RAW file to the final result?
That really depends on what the image is for. Social Media is fairly simple, with just a few adjustments concerning light, contrast and colors. Usually, that only takes a few hours. Bigger productions may take up to a few days – until every detail is perfect.
Do customers give you any guidelines or are you completely free when retouching a production?
That also varies. Some customers aren’t quite sure as to what exactly they want, so we are here to advise them. Other customers offer us mood boards and some “rules”. However, it always is an artistic process, which means that it is always possible that something changes (last minute). Plus customers know of our style, so they kind of know what they are going to get and hire us because they appreciate our work.
Advertisements – especially those for beauty campaigns – often have to face the accusation of being faked. How much do you think is “real” about these campaigns?
I don’t think it’s fair to say that advertisements are completely faked. Think about that: on average we look at a picture for 23 seconds. That is a pretty long time, considering there are about 60 pictures a second when we watch a video. So if a picture is unedited we would be able to see all imperfections, which of course are quite unwanted because they distract the viewer from the actual message. And think about people like Nicki Minaj: her brand is perfection – she doesn’t care about how real or fake it is. In fact she wants to look unreal, with perfect skin and perfect curves.
How did the demand change over the years? Do customers ask for different things nowadays?
Clients today want more for less money in less time. Brands only want to spend a lot of money on things they know will be successful. They have more knowledge as to what works. However aesthetically speaking, not a lot has changed.
What type of image projects do you prefer working on?
I personally prefer anything that isn’t advertising – but of course this is a very interesting part of my job as well. If I had to choose a favorite, one of them would our editorial for the American fashion magazine Vanity Fair.
What do you think about photo editing apps like ‘Facetune’, used to enhance pictures on Instagram for example?
In general I find social media quite hysterical, which is why I wouldn’t use apps like ‘Facetune’. With social media everything is so short-lived. One day, you’re in the next day everyone has already forgotten about you (and your posts). Plus we don’t know where it’s heading. Just look at Snapchat – everyone was using it and then all of a sudden people were tired of it.
There are some jobs said to be never ending, where people cant quite leave their work at their desk. Do you sometimes find yourself looking at people on the street and thinking of what you could ‘retouch’ about their faces?
Well, since I don’t do the retouching (Ward is the manager of GLOSS Retouching) that isn’t really the case for me. I sometimes do however see Broadway pictures, book covers, editorials or ads that I think are improvable, so I think about stuff I would find cool. But people in real life? No, I think I’ll leave that to the plastic surgeons out there.