Kate is a retoucher extraordinaire, world-traveler, and trainee of circus skills. She welcomes the adventures that life has to offer – check her vivacious story out below.
Say hello to Kate:
Where are you from?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia. I went to CTHS and my art teacher, Mr. Maynard, introduced me to Photoshop, – thus began my love of post-production. I studied Graphic Design and started my career designing for print. The last full-time job I had in Sydney involved retouching, which was great to learn. I was even able to attend a seminar in Sydney taught by Amy Dresser and Mia Ostberg. I still use the techniques I learned from those two lovely ladies today!
Where have you been?
I love travelling – I’ve road tripped and camped all over Australia and am slowly ticking off the best drives in the USA. I’ve been to a few places in South America, Japan twice, New Zealand and Canada. I’m hoping to get over to Europe next. I’m very fortunate to have a job I can take anywhere with me – I also Digital Tech so that has been opening up some opportunities to travel for work, which is my dream come true.
What’s your favorite place in the world?
I like finding new places I’ve never been – I recently visited Joshua Tree and that was pretty magical!
What tools do you use? Can you tell us how you use them?
I use Capture One when I’m Digital Teching and it is my usual go-to program to process out images. I always ask photographers to give me RAW files when I’m retouching, then I do the rest of the editing in Photoshop.
Most jobs for Digital Teching are Canon tethered to Capture One, but I have also worked with Hasselblad and Leica. I’ll make sure everything is filed and labelled correctly, as well as in focus – I’ll light and color correct on the fly and sometimes even do quick retouching on set. This is great if you have a nervous client as it allows people to get an idea of where their images can be taken in post.
Photoshop is a big beast! But as a real overview, I composite shots together, use dodge and burn, liquify, and I always use adjustment layers so that I can go back and reduce or enhance any effects I’ve done. I work in PSD, and sometimes, I’ll retouch skin in black and white to see details, then move back to color after.
How has your editing style progressed over the years?
Looking back at my old work, I certainly over-retouched a lot. I think this happens when people start out – you get so excited by what you CAN do that you forget that knowing when to stop is a real part of the process. Retouching is very subjective so a photographer and a retoucher have to match in their collaborations. My style now is a lot more natural – I like to keep freckles and pores, but still make the skin look perfect. I look more now at the overall feeling of an image and know that sometimes the flaws are what makes it beautiful. I enhance what I feel makes the picture, which is not always what you might think.
How do you continue to improve upon your techniques?
Your best assets are your peers – some of the best things I’ve learned have just come from chatting on set while we “hurry up and wait.” Just like sports, it’s always nice to cross train – I’ve taken life drawing classes, which I think is very important for retouchers to keep reality in their anatomy. I’ve also taken makeup classes, which helped me to see what the makeup artist goals are when working on a face. Again, fashion photography is a real team environment – talk to your peers on set, what did the hair artist see that they might like you to fix, what was the makeup artist aiming for, and what was the photographer’s vision? Gathering all of the pieces means, at the end of the day, the retoucher can take the project that last little step, combine everyone’s vision and really be the icing on the cake.
Who’s your favorite photographer to work with?
I enjoy working with fellow Aussie, Max Papendieck – he has a great aesthetic and keeps his post-production very natural and beautiful.
Do you find that most of your clients do not want you to advertise their work? What kind of challenges do you face around sharing your work?
Fortunately, I work with very down to earth and lovely clients (by choice). All of my work comes from word of mouth and, as more work comes in, I know my clients have been speaking positively about working with me. Most of them will even tag me on Instagram, and I’ve certainly never been told not to post their work. I choose not to release before and afters and, I find that at this point in my career, I am no longer being asked to show it. For new clients I do always offer to retouch one image to completion before starting a big project – that way, if they are unhappy with the first image, they can opt out before spending their budget on the whole project…in all this time, I’ve only ever had one person opt out – gotta be happy with that!
As a lot of my work is celebrities, I have to be very careful with files – I work locally and usually delete working files of sensitive clients once the job has gone to print.
What is your background?
I have a Graphic Design for print background.
What was the most memorable response to your work?
There have been a few good ones – the best are when a client comes to me unhappy with images, often wanting to abandon the project altogether. Then, when they get their images back and say that’s exactly what they wanted and love the images, that makes me happy!
How do you characterize your style?
There are a few things I’ll always do to an image – I’ll highlight the eyes and I’ll always do something to bring out the tops of the lips. If I’m left to do an image in my own style, highlighting is sure to happen.
What has been your most memorable project thus far?
Probably doing the cover of Vogue Australia. I had just started a new job at a boutique post-production company in NYC called Bitfire and came in one morning to that job sitting on my desk – it was Cat McNeil in a Gaultier dress shot by Gilles Bensimon. Needless to say, this little Aussie was stoked to be working on that.
What challenges do you face in your career?
I think a constant challenge for any freelancer is keeping the workflow coming in at a steady pace. I try to make sure I keep in constant contact with my clients so that I’m top of their mind when they have new projects.
Professionally, where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
As a freelancer, I’m lucky to know where I’ll be next week! That is something I love about my life, so I hope that in five years my career is just as fun and exciting. And hopefully, it’s taken me all over the world by then too!
What is your most life-changing event?
Moving to America, for sure. It’s not only been a huge career move, but certainly life-changing in every aspect. Difficult at times, but by far, the most challenging and rewarding adventure I’ve taken.
What’s something no one knows about you that you’d like to share?
Some people know it, but people I work with may not…I train in a lot of circus skills! Acrobatic dance and aerial hoop, mostly. Sometimes though, you find a kindred spirit on set at the end of a big day at Milk studio in NY. Photographer, Ben Lamberty revealed, he too, had a hidden talent. Here we are in some happy handstands together!
What’s one of your biggest fears?
I get pretty claustrophobic – I much prefer wide, open spaces.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t?
I want to go to Morocco, so that’s at the top of the list of things to do next.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in the visual arts, what other career fields would you have considered?
I don’t think I could have done anything not creative. Other things I had been interested in were special effects makeup, puppetry, and stunts. Maybe fitness and health – I’m quite into my training.
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Kate, here’s some contact information:
Kate, thanks so much for taking the time to interview with us! It was a joy! 🙂
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.