Meet Our Guest Erika Barker
My unique photojournalism style is now incorporated into my studio, commercial, and fashion photography shoots. I never capture a posed reaction; I always capture something natural, and wonderful. I find true beauty comes in short burst, and it is my job to capture the split second reaction. Everyone has a natural elegance, and beauty. Sometimes it’s hidden, but I always find a way to bring it out of people with humor, honesty, and passion.
Today we get into the deeps of retouching, talk with Erika about the gear she is using and which software allows her to create and finish up her images.
Times Are Changing
We have grown into a society that has to be more knowledgeable about technology than ever before. We are digital natives and what is expected of us is different from what was expected of people just 10 years ago.
The more we get away from manual labor the more we have to evolve into a creative mindset and not only understand the current technology but also where it came from. In the future, we are going to get paid to think and less to work. We are going to be problem solvers.
Everything has become more advanced. This is also true for retouching. We came from working with film where it was quite a delicate process but also quite limited with what you could do with techniques like dodging and burning. Nowadays everything has gotten more refined. Some tasks can easily be handled by software and filters but at the same time, the manual part of retouching has become more demanding than ever before. Today, high-quality images are expected to look like they were not touched up. It requires a huge amount of skill, effort, and continuous training to keep up with these demands.
Your creative decisions will be more valuable than ever before
Art is so subjective. While AI is constantly growing and evolving, there are certain tasks and creative decisions only humans can make. So, AI probably can never understand how to problem solve from a subjective, organic perspective (so we hope).
However, we fear of the general public losing their teste. Similar to what has happened in the music industry in the recent years. For that reason, we have to keep pushing good and high-quality work.
On Responsibility In The Beauty And Fashion Industry
Retouching is a big part of marketing. It helps people to envision an idealistic product. At the same time, we have a responsibility to keep things real and honest while maintaining a company’s or brand’s vision.
Erika believes, governments often rush to creating laws without having a precise idea if the outcome will help or maybe harm the industry or the intention of the law itself.
A more prominent factor is often is the influence of girls to each other. Governments should probably spend more time spending on educating children on a healthy diet than spending money on pursuing images to be credited as being retouched. We have to collectively develop a healthy mindset. Companies will follow what we decide is desirable.
Our children’s upbringing can play a huge role in that. Do we strengthen young human’s self-image to overcome their insecurities so they feel comfortable without having to put tons of makeup on? Can they accept to be and to look different from the girl/boy next to each other or are we raising a generation that is mimicking the insta trends just to become one in a million because of their insecurities and lack of self-esteem?
Being Tech Savvy
It’s OK to be tech savvy!
Erika takes proud in having a beefy workstation. She eventually switched from using Macs to PC because she can build her own workstation to the specs she needs. While many think the hardware choices might be overkill, Erika responds, working with high megapixel images out of her medium format Hasselblad camera can bring down quite some computers. With the 16 bit workflow she has chosen, working with huge file sizes and multiple layers in photoshop, the tasks are quite heavy on the hardware and very demanding in terms of ram and processing power. As a professional, Erika does not want to have the hardware slowing down her creative process.
Currently, it seems, Apple cannot offer any competing hardware in the highly demanding field of computing for professionals.
It seems like PCs now are meeting more demands of creatives and content creators.
Erika is also excited about the competition currently going on in the computing and tech industry. At this time of the interview, we had a little dive into the current trends of the tech industry: AMD thread ripper was a topic as well as Intel Optane technology. For Erika, staying informed is part of her education and staying on top of the game. Gear might not make a great image but technology helps us as a tool to create and to make our visions come to life.
Her most recent tech gadget is the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro. Being a mobile tablet computer offering the same feel as the Intuos or antique graphics tablets it comes with plenty processing power to work on the go, too. With this device it is possible to tether on set right into the mobile studio and continue working on the same device, getting some editing and retouching work done. All on set while someone is shooting!
What Allows Erika To Get Her Job Done:
- Wacom Mobile Studio
- Wacom Intuos Pro S
- Dell 27″4K Monitor
- Custom Built PC
- Nvidia GTX 1080
- Intel Core i7
- 64 GB RAM
- Mechanical Keyboard
- KRK Rokit Monitor Speakers
Calibrating Your Eyes
To calibrate your eyes and your brain at the same time, Erica recommends having a few high-quality magazines at hand. While working from your desk, make sure you take breaks, look at other quality work. This helps to reset your eyes. Taking breaks from being at the workstation is also very much recommended.
Daniel has another tip to refresh your eye-vision:
Having nothing on your computer’s desktop except a middle to dark grey color helps you to reset and to relax your eyes. As your brain constantly adapts for the brightness and color casts of what you are looking at, it is a great idea to look at an absolute neutral color every now and then.
Visual aids also help to relax your eyes. Using a black and white visual aid layer helps you focus and get less tired compared to looking at a colored image for a long period of time. Also, read our article on using the right black and white help layer for retouching to avoid retouching mistakes and to avoid creating bad retouching habits.
While capture, Erika has all her files synced to google drive for them to be backed up to another place off sight. This allows Erika to also sync the files via multiple devices.
For a real backup solution, she recommends using a cold storage solution like Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure.
After capturing the images, Erika continues processing the raw files either with the Hasselblad Phocus software or Capture One. To her, it is important just to make “basic” corrections to all the images in order to start with the best possible source images. Everything else will be done later in photoshop. Reason for that is control over the changes throughout the workflow. Being able to make changes later on in the process can be crucial and a huge time saver.
Erica usually works in 16-bit tiff files, renders out her variants into her output folder and from there she takes the files into Photoshop. Tiff files are generally easier to work with in terms of having big files and compatibility throughout applications. Tiff files have a file limit of 4GB whereas a PSD is limited to 2GB. Layered tiff files can be viewed in pretty much every image viewer and even most file explorers. With PDS files you often do not have the same flexibility.
Erika’s Photoshop Workflow:
- cleaning layer
- frequency separation
- mixing brush in between the high and low layer
- dodging and burning in between the FS layers
- color corrections
- liquify (if necessary) on a smart object to later have the option to make changes
The older you get you will find that flexibility is going to be more important than strength.
Sitting in front of the computer for long hours can cause all sorts of issues. Stretching an Yoga can be good routines to counteract potential misalignments in your body. Stretching Your chest, back and hip flexors can reduce the risk for suffering herniated disk and other slow-developing spine-related issues like scoliosis.
Erika’s Tips For Beginners And Professionals To Stay Relevant
- Control your ego! You must be humble.
- Stare at work you aspire to create before going to sleep.
- Do free retouching work for the best photographers you can find.
- Constantly up your hame and upgrade your skills.
- Network. Go to events and make real business connections.