Insights on Retouching: From a Client’s Perspective with Jason Lau of Team One

Dennis Dunbar, Dennis Dunbar Associates
Link to original article hereListening closely to what our clients want and need is one of the most important skills a retoucher has to master. With that in mind I’m excited to begin this series of interviews, appearing once a month, focusing on the client’s perspective. Each month I’ll be conducting these interviews, featuring folks like Jason Lau, an art producer at Team One, who represent the client side of high end retouching.As Senior Art Producer at Team One Jason Lau has produced advertising campaigns for clients such as Lexus, The Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, Renaissance Hotels, Belkin, Haagen Dazs, Flexjet, Heal The Bay, Nissan, Infiniti, Principal Financial, Masterfoods and Playstation.


1) Talk about your role in using retouching and what kinds of projects Team One uses retouching on.
We retouch everything. A lot of the times when we’re hiring a photographer we want them to hire the retoucher that they feel most comfortable with and who can achieve their overall look. There also have been instances where we have paired up a photographer and retoucher if it’s a budget issue. Or if the person is new or don’t have the resources or bandwidth to do their own retouching or team of retouchers. But most of the time, we’ll leave it up to the photographers to take care of that. That’s pretty much the involvement the art production team has with retouching. Once the photographer retoucher is done with image, it then goes to pre-press for final color.
2) Does Team One ever bring retouchers in-house to work on projects?

Most of the time we deal with the photographer and photographer’s retoucher. In most agencies there are retouchers in house, but again, we tend to leave it up to the photographer to handle their final look. In addition our in house studio\retouchers only have a certain amount of expertise. Just depends on the agency. Currently we have a freelance art director who used to be a retoucher. It’s working out perfectly since we can utilize him these skills. But most of the time, we typically outsource the job.

3) What do you look for when Team One does hire retouchers?
We look at their body of work. The work that we do for our clients tend to be on the more realistic end. Even though a lot tends to be composed, it has to look real. Especially when we do have the CGI, it all needs to look real. In addition, it needs to feel hi-end. But that also goes hand and hand with the photographer that we end up shooting with.

4) In your opinion, what separates a high end retoucher from an average retoucher then?
They should have an idea of what looks good and how things are supposed to look. There’s been times when you see the first round of work and it doesn’t look real. For example, lighting. Directional lighting, where is the shadow falling etc. The retoucher\operator should have an artistic sense and creativity in them. They should be enriching the image.That’s a good point. So what do you think is the most challenging part of retouching?

The biggest challenge is making it feel as real as possible. Even though, as a consumer, you may know it’s not realistic situation.

5) That’s a good point. So what do you think is the most challenging part of retouching?

The biggest challenge is making it feel as real as possible. Even though, as a consumer, you may know it’s not realistic situation.

6) Can you talk about the role you see communication plays in the process?
Communication is key. For example, when there’s good amount of feedback on the retouching. I’ve received the next round and maybe half the notes were addressed. It think as the retoucher, you make it a point that you communicate what was addressed and what was not. There’s time we need to see rounds sooner rather then later. Knowing that we’re rushing the process at times, it’s important to communicate. It leaves us wondering why the changes weren’t addressed, did the photographer see it? etc.

7) Does Team One look to the retoucher to have a “Style”?
If we’re working with a photographer, obviously we’re looking for the photographer’s look and feel. But if we’re looking for something that’s directly like CG\retouching, then I think that having a style or certain aesthetic is not necessarily needed. It just needs to look premium, in my case.  But I think that the retouchers should probably have a range of looks because you only make yourself more valuable in the sense retouching can vary so much.

8) Of Quality, Speed and Price which are most important to you and your clients?
I think it’s quality, price and speed. Though it all goes hand in hand. In terms of cost, I tend to like seeing project based bids rather then per hour. Though it can be vague, but there should be a general brief of the amount of retouching each image should entail. Before the work is started, if the post house feels differently then what was estimated, a conversation should be had.

9) When it comes to skin retouching do you have any preference about the techniques the retoucher uses, or is it just the end result that matters?
I just care what the end product looks like. Do what you need to do to make it look real. Retouching beauty shots and models tends to be a bit challenging. A big note about skin is that the skin doesn’t look like plastic. We should be able to see pores.

10) Are there any trends in retouching or color grading looks you’ve been seeing?
The look I’ve been seeing lately in general is more of a de-saturated look. At one point a couple of years ago there was a sort of hyper saturated look, but right now this de-saturated one seems to be the trend. Very cinematic.

To learn more about Dennis Dunbar’s retouching, please link to his website.

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