EPISODE 8: POST-PRODUCTION

Matt Henry talks to advertising photographer GARY SALTER, and founder of Taylor Janies retouching house GLEN TAYLOR, about current trends in post-production MATT: Hello Gary and Glen. Gonna start by asking you both how business is going!? GARY: It is really competitive out there at the moment! People are commissioning Less, clients are still feeling the pinch of the recession, but, touch wood, webeen keeping very busy. GLEN: Things are tough out there. Isay everyone out there has to do twice as much marketing activity to bring in half the work. There used to be two way bids for jobs but now itas much as six ways. There are a lot of people out there clamouring for a lot less work. MATT: How long has this been the case? GARY: Isay for the Last three years. GLEN: I agree. The money has become so important now. Youhave a two or three way bid and there would be a 10 grand difference between all of them and youstill get the job if your work was considered the best. Now you can go in for a 100 grand job, be told youthe number one choice, but lose out because youjust five grand over. MATT: Really, just for a five per cent difference in price? GLEN: Yep, moneyreally important now. Producing the same creative finishes with much tighter budgets really takes some thought. Therea lot more illustration out there at the moment simply because itthe cheaper option. We had a beer campaign that I quoted for in CGI and can see it running now as an illustration. MATT: Are you finding the same thing in terms of your estimates for photography Gary? A few per cent here or there can deny you the job? GARY: Clients are very money conscious these days. They want to know where the money is going and why, which is understandable. Itsomething that Inoticed increasingly over the Last fifteen years but with the latest downturn it s polarised further. People commissioning imagery are concerned about their own jobs, and those commissioning images are concerned about their own jobs. They re part of a larger mechanism and they canafford to get things wrong budget wise. MATT: Have there been changes in the visual trends for retouching along with the economic? GARY: Since digital manipulation became affordable, people had access to an infinite amount of  treatment  techniques. But digital photography also opened the doors to many more photographers, so applying heavily stylised treatments became a way of differentiating yourself from the competition. But I think the trend has now kicked back to fresher, more natural looking images. GLEN: I get a bit lost because Ispending quite a lot of time in the States at the moment and the style over there is very heavy —they push everything really far. There is a natural style out there in the UK and US which could be a backlash against the amount of CGI in the advertising world. If you look at TV campaigns, theydefinitely more realistic. Theremore of an organic connection with the brands. More human elements and stop motion. You do see that in print, like the HeilmanMayonnaise ad thatout at the moment. MATT: I ve noticed in the last couple of years that there has been a move to create traditional film-type looks with the use of flare and the orange light leak effect; the former made popular by the likes of photography team Blinkk. GARY: There is a lot of that around at the moment and I think that s probably on the verge of having had its day. The more natural image seems to be whatbeing asked for from my clients. I think it s important to evolve your images, always look for something new and try very hard to make it your own. MATT: A lot of the older techniques such as the heavily sharpened crunchy look are still around, so you wonder whether they ll always be there or whether, like the Cokin special effects filters of old, they re something that everyone plays with when first discovered and eventually theydisappear never to be seen again? GARY: It s very much down to the project youworking on. What does that project need at that time? Crunchy works for the right brief; I think you ve just got to make sure that you keep evolving it. You don t want to lose what youbeen working on for the last five or six years. We re continually shooting tests and trying to take things forward. GLEN: For us itvery much a matter of using a combination of the effects techniques. Wenot known for having one specific style. We show a portfolio of quite varied styles so therealways something to match the needs of the client. Itpicking the aesthetic that sits with the direction the brand is going and with the idea and the image itself. Sometimes the decision has already been made for us. MATT: I think the hyper-real, CGI style is always going to be attractive because you re showing people something that they can t produce with their own digital cameras. I think it s much braver to go the non-produced route and focus purely on lighting, colour and composition as a lot of people who arenso familiar with photography will look at the shots and think well, I could have done that!  photographer GARY SALTERGARY: I agree, but even images that look like they might not have anything done to them will always have had something done, even if it s a subtle colour tweak. The smallest level change can make a massive difference. GLEN: Itno secret that retouching has been used even in fine art photography for a long time and is used in a way that you cansee it, so it looks totally natural. Certainly in tine art photography they donhave the same time pressures so they can take as much time as they need to make something look great whilst keeping things completely natural-looking. GARY: Techniques have always been used through the years whether itthe grade or type of paper youused in the darkroom, or a cross process technique. What the digital age has brought are many, many more options. MATT: Gary, have you found that the reduction in budgets has meant people rely on CGI or extensive retouching rather than use expensive locations? GARY: Yes, but sometimes it s a false economy. I think therea responsible balance between getting something the way you want it in-camera and the amount that is done in post production. Clients can be quite nervous these days, and the amount of money involved in both capture and post-production can be very high. On large productions many problems can arise; for example the weather. If you ve got 20 models itsometimes a better solution to photograph them in the studio and then composite them into the scene. On one hand this can save massive cancellation costs if the weather turns out bad. On the other, it costs much more in planning, production and post-production. These are decisions that have to be taken seriously at the estimating stage of the project. But the great thing is that we have the technology to be able to make those decisions. MATT: I think that brings us nicely onto the next issue that I was going to raise, whether the ascendancy of retouching and CGI has meant a corresponding decline in the skill of photographers with lighting techniques and such like? GARY: Sadly I think they have; digital capture costs very little compared to shooting a sheet of 5x4 or a roll of film. The costs made you double check everything and really craft your image. The digital age has brought massive advantages but also many disadvantages. Demands on a dayshoot have tripled. 15 years ago, you d shoot 20 rolls of films in a day and now youdoing the equivalent of 10 times as much as that in digital captures. Quite often I can spend all day behind the camera doing nothing else but directing. Previously you would have more time to produce, craft the lighting, work on the sets, etc. GLEN: Wegone from a situation where years ago Iretouch on a million-pound retouching suite (Paintbox) to create a setup that anyone can own; and now my mum knows how to retouch. Isure Garyhad the same situation where art directors that are into digital photography might say, oh I would do this, or shoot it that way. That can confuse things. That clarity of decision-making that Gary mentioned is totally relevant to us. To do the job properly we need clear, concise pre-production information. The other point worth making in terms of trends is that the retouching side of things has fallen off for us in line with the increase of photographer skill at retouch. Wemore involved now with CGI and the motion side of things. We couldnsurvive just retouching. GARY: The motion aspect is very interesting as well. That is so big now and is only going to get bigger. A lot of my clients want me to do short films or Little bits of moving image. If I can find a retoucher who can match a treatment for the still and moving image then that makes my life so much easier, rather than talk to two different people or get two different companies. MATT: Your style, Gary, is obviously hyper-real. Is it possible to transfer that look to moving image? GARY: Yes it is. MATT: And who does the editing? Is that you or does it go to a retouching house? GARY: It depends what the projects are. Before the retouchers were up to speed with this I got a freelance editor to come into the studio. Then Ihave the problem of matching the grade to the still. I think itfantastic that the Likes of Taylor James have started to get involved in these other areas so that everything can be kept under one roof. GLEN: People do want to see their brand going out across all the media channels so matching a treatment across media platforms is an inherent part of our work now. MATT: Do you train people up for the video editing and CGI work at Taylor James or do they come with the skillsets? GLEN: Ita bit of both. Some have a certain level of skill in certain disciplines but we have our own internal training programmes to teach methods that we feel work and have the most flexibility. MATT: And this to both Gary and Glen; do you feel that CGI is a threat to traditional stills photography? GARY: Within the commercial sector, it s inevitable. Yougoing to get a whole new era of image makers operating and creating images from scratch. Though I think it s a long way off yet. Ilike to say that the still can add a little bit more spontaneity and reality than something created in CGI. GLEN: I agree. I donknow why youwant to use CGI to replicate the real world. You might as well shoot. For less reality-centred work the CGI style is popular. There are a lot of ad campaigns now that previously would have been photographic but are now produced in that style. Look to Hollywood; in 2010 sixteen of the top twenty grossing films in Hollywood were heavy CGI movies. Like all styles though, things often swing around and come back. GARY: I think we re fairly safe for quite a long time in the stills world. With a physical camera, we re capturing a slice of time. It s a real interaction between people, the photographer, the models, art directors, stylists —the whole team all inputting ideas for that one slice of time. It s all about those interactions. It s not something that one person can always create as easily from scratch. It will still need to be a team of people, and I m guessing far less fun. We ll see what happens! GLEN: Istating these things but not saying I necessarily agree with them! Hollywood isnwhere I go to watch a decent film. GARY: A lot of those films are for the kids market as well. MATT: People do like fantasy but people also like reality-based features, whether film or photographic, so I certainly think therealways be a market for both. You only have to look at the thousands of photography-based blogs to see that the imagery thatpopular amongst the younger generation is the natural-looking work. The hyper-real stuff doesnseem to get such a look in. GARY: But I think it s something that we have to look at. CGI is coming into client conversations on a daily basis. Wegot to evolve with the knowledge and learn how to use it to its best effect. The arrival of moving imagery and CGI, not to mention the economic climate, have certainly meant that it s a difficult time but italso a very exciting time. We ve just got to roll with the way things are going and use the technologies to our advantage. MATT: A good, positive note to end on, so thank you Gary and Glen for your insights!

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