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The World Of Product And Food & Beverage Retouching - Interview With Julie Missey

The World Of Product And Food & Beverage Retouching - Interview With Julie Missey

Product, food and beverage retouching is fascinating to me. It's not often spoken of and that's precisely what makes me curious. 

I recently got to go to St. Louis when I went there to record an upcoming retouching tutorial at the RGGEDU headquarters. Co-Founder Rob Grimm is an epic food and beverage photographer. As you can see from his work, he has some serious game. 

Fortunately for me, I got to meet his  brilliant retoucher behind a lot of his work, Julie Missey! I got to pick her brain on the industry while also convincing her to share some of her work. Fortunately, she indulged me for our benefit!  

See our interview below along with some before/after images of her work. You can also get in touch with her directly via e-mail for future work!


How long have you been in the retouching industry and how did you get started? 

I have been working as a retoucher for around 15 years.

I have a degree in Photojournalism and I started out as a commercial photographer and a photography assistant in St. Louis just as the industry was beginning to transform from film to digital. I always loved working in the darkroom. For me, digital imaging was sort of an extension of that. You could spend hours perfecting a print in the darkroom and it is the same way with working on images in Photoshop.

I took a few Photoshop classes, I think around version 2.0, and found I really enjoyed it. I started using Photoshop on a daily basis when I took an assignment shooting digitally for a local studio using some of the earliest Phase One and Hasselblad backs. (I am really making myself sound old here!) We were working on Walmart’s early version of a website.

At the time, we couldn’t believe that anyone would want to shop for products like a toothbrush online. Over the next couple of years as digital imaging really began to take over the industry I realized that my passion was in retouching and began doing it professionally around the beginning of 2002.

You've been relatively low-key as far as being out there with social media. Do you think it's important in finding work? How do you find clients usually? 

Fortunately my work has been very well received by my clients and I am able to obtain excellent referrals. When I am introduced to, or seeking a potential client, I like to send them an individualized representation of my work that is specific to their interests. I feel it is more personal this way, rather than them just seeing a random collection of work on a website.

I do see the tremendous value in using social media and I plan to develop my presence there as the need and time allows.

What is the fascination with retouching products and food? When I work on beauty, I just can't explain why I love it so much. Do you have a particular reason? 

When I first started working in the industry I worked for studios that shot mainly food and product. I worked many years for Sara Lee at their in-house studio and eventually did all of the retouching. I have also done a lot of work for some other great food and beverage photographers in the area, like Steve Adams and Rob Grimm.

I think now it is what I enjoy most, not only because it is what is most familiar to me, but also because it is different all of the time. There is no end to the variety of food, beverage, or products that are out there.

I feel like most of the time when I start on an image, since I am often compositing a lot of different pieces into one image, it is like putting a puzzle together without being able to look at the picture on the box. I just love the feeling of seeing the puzzle transform into one final finished piece. I am sure other retouchers like to do the same thing but there is just something so satisfying about toggling back and forth between the before layer and the completed image to see how far the image has transformed.

If you had to do anything other than what you do now, what else would you like to retouch?

I really like projects that challenge me creatively. I would love to have more time to spend on creating really complex composite images with a lot of special effects. They could be landscapes or complex room scenes. I love projects that take a lot of thinking and finessing.

When it comes to communicating the end result, do you only do what the photographer wants? Or do you have your own end goal in mind? 

I would say it is definitely a combination of both. Of course on any project I will address the issues the client wants taken care of. The majority of the time, I will find things that I feel need to be finessed as well. With some of my main clients, I have been working with them so long that I will retouch images with very little direction. I like to keep things looking as realistic and clean as possible.

How do you even go about pricing what you do? 

The majority of the projects I do are based on an estimate of how long I think they will take and are charged at an hourly rate. I can estimate most things fairly accurately by how long earlier projects have taken to do similar work. Some projects that are larger in scale, like a catalog or something like that, I come up with a flat rate for the entire project.

How does someone go about learning product and food/beverage retouching? 

Practice! After my initial Photoshop courses I was relatively self taught. It was through experimenting and using Photoshop on a daily basis that I began to develop my skills. And it is always changing, as you know. So there are constantly new tools and methods to learn. I would also strongly recommend using tutorials as a great way to learn. Another good way is to find a food/beverage photographer who is willing to provide you with some images to do a test on.

What is your daily work schedule usually like? 

There is not a typical daily work schedule as no two days or projects are ever the same. The flow of incoming projects and deadlines pretty much determined when I work.

Ideally I would work from around 8:00-5:00 Mon-Fri but that is rarely the case as images don’t always arrive when I anticipate. Projects always come up at the last minute. Luckily since my office is home based I have the flexibility to work whenever I need to and I can fit it in around my family life. I am kind of a night owl so sometimes I get good chunks of work done in the evenings.

Photo Credits: 

1)   The blackberry- photographed by Rob Grimm for Bissinger’s, art director Lauren Knobloch

2)   The cereal splash- photographed by Group 360

3)   Lipton Tea- photographed by Eric Johnson of Bruton Stroube

4)   Gold flower- stock image art directed by Sarah Gaffney at Mio for Love Noir wine

5)   Helma, shoes with red purse, photographed by Jerry Tovo for Marmi Shoes

6)   Bebra, shoes, photographed by Clay  Crain at Meoli Studios for Marmi Shoes

7)   Floh Vodka, photographed by Rob Grimm

8)   Hatfield and McCoy, photographed by Rob Grimm

9)   Glenlivet, photographed by Rob Grimm

We're Giving Away $1,300 Worth Of Gear In Celebration Of My Latest Tutorial!

We're Giving Away $1,300 Worth Of Gear In Celebration Of My Latest Tutorial!

This Photo Has No Red Pixels And You'll Refuse To Believe It

This Photo Has No Red Pixels And You'll Refuse To Believe It