Picture Perfect – Interview with a Retouching Artist

How many times have you looked at a photograph in a magazine, online or on a large advertising board and thought wow, that looks amazing? Well thanks to many years of advertising and consuming visual media we’re hard-wired to recognise images that capture our attention. You may even have gone on to purchase the advertised product or service as a result.

The advertisements we see daily have all been professionally retouched.


Before & After – Retouching Artist Ian Baker gives McLaren a makeover.

I met up with Ian Baker, a professional image retoucher to ask him to explain exactly what image retouching involves…

So, what is retouching?

“Well, it’s a complex skill that requires years of experience combining art, photography, graphic design principles and software knowledge. This enables the Retoucher to enhance and manipulate imagery in such a way that creates perfection in an image but doesn’t raise doubt to its reality.”

What does a Retoucher need to be aware of?

An experienced retouching expert will have an eagle eye for detail as well as the insight and feeling for what an image must communicate to its audience. Consumer brands want to relay their messages as quickly and clearly as possible to potential consumers and this happens in the blink of an eye. Our sense of vision relays a message to the brain within a fraction of a second, so you can understand how powerful and engaging imagery can help to generate sales”.

What’s your most memorable moment?

“It has to be when I was on location in South Africa. Such a beautiful place. However, I was working on the launch of the Jaguar XKR. The photoshoot was in the middle of a national park and I was sat in a Winnebego retouching the shots as as soon as the photographer had finished shooting each image. It was a hot day so I’d propped open the door of the Winnebago. One of the security guards walked past and asked if I’d like some lunch. Before I had chance to answer he stepped inside and said “you might want to think about closing your door too. You wouldn’t want him sharing your lunch with you”. He pointed through the open door and there, sat on a log just outside was a huge alfa male baboon – scoping out the joint with his harem close behind him”

This responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Creative Retouching Artist and it can take many hours of work to achieve the perfect final result but how does this happen?

“Well, a Retouching Artist isn’t by any means the only person involved. They will have experience working with top design and advertising agencies and, also with the best Photographers in their field in order to achieve their goals”.

What does the process involve?

“An agency will provide an in depth brief and moodboard to help demonstrate the desired result; the art direction and photography will follow. Sometimes the Retoucher will request more reference material and supporting imagery at this point – and after the Photographer has handed over his high quality work it’s now up to the Retoucher to produce the final, picture-perfect result. Many photographs can also be used to create just one final image”.
Sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? Well, my quickly formed opinion on this subject drastically changed after talking to Ian.

I swallowed my words after he had explained to me what he actually did. It’s a very detailed, interesting and time-consuming process that requires a true expert eye and an in-depth knowledge of software. Manipulating backgrounds, making nighttime into day, daytime into night, ageing people, making them look younger, altering facial expressions, birds in flight, cars, planes, interiors, weather, lighting – you name it and he has created the perfect image. He sometimes even accompanies the Photographer on location shoots, especially if the final required result is time critical.

The ever-looming client deadline must be met and the advertising world expects images that capture our attention, persuade the onlooker and ultimately – sell!

I now see image manipulation in a different light. So next time when you see a nice advert in a magazine, go online or flick through a catalogue, have a think about what your brain has already registered… a lot of work went into subtly capturing your attention. The Retouching Artist has done his job very well indeed.

To have a look at some impressive retouching work, take a look at Ian’s website: Ian Baker Image Maker.

Maybe we’ll have a retouching opportunity or another great creative vacancy that’s just right for you. Take a look at our latest jobs.

Or contact us directly:

For the East Midlands, U.K. : [email protected]

For Amsterdam, N.L.: [email protected]

Author Director "Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will get you anywhere."