Digital Photo Retouching Q&A with DT’s JJ

Jilly Jackson

Although we’re normally all about the more visual aspect of photo retouching, we thought the time was prudent to jump aboard a more word-y bandwagon as we launch our brand new Digital Talk blog. And that’s because acronyms are everywhere these days. Rather like txt spk, emojis, memes and snapchat filters; whether we love them or loathe them. Everything from LOL and BRB to FYI and TBH.

With this very much in mind we therefore give you this; our Q&A sesh with DT’S JJ. Which, reverting to plain English, is a question and answer session with our Senior Retoucher, Jilly Jackson.

Yes. To add even more of a personal touch to our digital presence, we have put the kettle on, located the posh biscuits (that’s right; the ones we keep hidden away for special occasions/client visits to the office while the rest of you duke it out over the Viscounts and Blue Ribands) and sat down to have a proper chinwag with our founder, photo-editing guru and the undisputed best maker of brews in the office (her claim, not ours); namely our talismatic leader, Jilly J.

And who’s primed to answer a few quick questions we’re firing in her general direction with regards to what she does, what generally makes her tick, why she does what she does (eg, edit photos with steely attention to detail), what things she engages in to unwind and that most important of interview standard questions; where she sees herself – and Digital Touch – 5 years from now (clue: scrambling up the Matterhorn, knowing our adventure-seeking Jilly).

Anyway, here’s the upshot of a natter with Jilly; and one of the digital photo retouching services leading lights….

Us: “Hi Jilly. Could you tell the readers how long you have been putting smiles on – amongst other people, bride’s – faces; courtesy of visually amending pics of their big day? Oh, and why you become a photo editor in the first place?”

Jilly: “I’ve been professionally working in the sector since 1998, started off as a Graphic Designer in the dog breeding world. My job was to perfect the visual presentation of pedigree dogs. But my passion for image editing was borne out of my personal fascination with the introduction of digital photography in the early 90’s. I knew that if I learnt to edit them I could perfect them from a presentation perspective.”

Us: “OK. So what inspired you to branch out on your own and set up your business some 8 years ago then?”

Jilly: “My belief that there was a market out there for this service. It’s as simple as that.”

Us: “In one sentence, what’s the secret to your success?”

Jilly: “Knowing the importance of building up trust from the outset via online reviews such as Trustpilot and Google.”

Us: “Speaking of secrets, Jilly. Tell us one of the industry ones you use on a regular basis? Go on! We won’t tell your competitors. Promise!

Jilly: “Haha. erm. Let me get back to you once I’ve got the legal docs drawn up that swears you to secrecy!”

Us: “Haha. Point taken. Though I’m pretty sure you could write a book based on some of the more ‘unusual’ client requests you’ve had over the years. Which of course, because you’re sworn to client confidentiality you’ll always stay tight-lipped about as a professional. That being said, could tell your readers any ‘stories’, hypothetically-speaking??”

Jilly: “It’s true; we do receive the most unusual client queries. One particular example I am at liberty to recall was a request for a car being edited into the home garage with a digital date adding. Which of course would not be a problem, in theory; but the job was swiftly declined on the grounds of legality!”

Us: “Wow. Yeah. All the hallmarks of a dodge. Haha. Moving on then, what crucial advice would you impart to your twentysomething self when starting out on this chosen career?”

Jilly: “It’s difficult to answer as I have no regrets in life. I am very happy with the organic direction and evolution that Digital Touch has progressed in. Besides, I doubt my 20 year old self would believed I would have arrived at this station in life today, if I’m being totally honest! She may not even have listened to me for that matter, either, she was rather stubborn I’ve been told, ha!!”

Us: “Haha. Probably not. But what if you weren’t professionally editing photos all day. What do you imagine you would you have done for an alternative career? I’m thinking adventurer…..”

Jilly: “Good question. I’d like to have been a motivational speaker for women in a movement to help them, and empower them to be who they are, and not what social conditioning dictates they should be. Alternatively, perhaps I’d have been a professional adventure blogger, in my fantasy world. Travelling the globe searching out – and documenting – the weird, wonderful and real. Capturing every experience via photography.”

Us: “We could definitely see you doing either. Next question though, and what motivates/inspires you to do what you do (professionally), and in life, broadly speaking?”

Jilly: “I’m motivated by the one word; and that word is ‘gratitude’. Which also flows into my work. I’m forever grateful to be in a position to impact people’s lives, be they clients or my own family and friends.”

Us; “OK. Here’s a curveball for you, Jilly. How/what would you change about a famous work of art, in terms of photo editing? For example, would you be wanting to give the Mona Lisa a scowl instead of a smile? Or unmelt Dali’s clocks?”

Jilly: “Well wouldn’t it be naughty to break into the Louvre and replace the Mona Lisa with a fake copy of her doing the dreadful pout, I’m an advocate of pure mischief.”

Us: “No, of course not, Jilly. Lol. Whilst on the subject of art though, do you have a favourite artist; either dead or alive? And what do you like most about their work?”

Jilly: “Yes I absolutely do, and his name is Freydoon Rassouli. I love his work because it depicts women in a very spiritually empowering way. Something that’s important to me and the way in which I live my life.” I have also been historically fascinated by the lives of artist such as Klimt, Dali and Schiele.

Us: “I’ll have to check out his work. Changing the subject a bit, what many readers might like to know is this. Just what your personal views on the social media obsession with photo-manipulation – spearheaded by the likes of the Kardashian clan – are? Do you think these often over-exaggerated images are harmless fun or setting a bad example to younger people when it comes to fake body imagery?”

Jilly: “It’s becoming monotonous I feel, and sense society is already starting to bore of it. I believe presentation and the subconscious influence of is key, but within the realms of reality. You always have to step out the front door as yourself and life is so much more freer that way.

Us: “Very true. Following on from this, what are you views on the explosion of photo editing apps and filters, which seem pretty much omnipresent on smartphones these days? And which essentially makes everyone believe they can do what you do in a sense? Do you see them as a positive development/sign of the times which actively encourages those who could go on to become the next generation of professional photo editors like yourself, or an invention which in some way dilutes or negates what you do for a living? I Know. You’re about to ask me what the question was again, aren’t you?”

Jilly: “I don’t consider them a relevant threat in the real world of photo editing as the detail capabilities in the professional world can’t be matched or threatened by an app. Besides which the apps are just offering a very fake representation of the person rather than perfecting the presentation of what already exists.”

Us: “What’s the quickest image you’ve ever edited (and how long did it take, roughly) and conversely what client job has taken the longest (and again, approximately over what period of time?)

Jilly: “The quickest jobs are the crops and adjusting shadows and highlights, which are essentially a 2 minute job. Longest are restoration requests as they’re not technical as such, but more time consuming. But a fantastically interesting job which took roughly 4 days was to edit an entire family into superheroes and subsequently put them on a red carpet.”

Us: “Wow. That sounds like a super cool gig. So, Jilly. Tell us all what a Senior Retoucher does to relax and unwind when they’re not sat behind the Digital Touch hot desk? What does escape look like to you?”

Jilly: “Escape usually involves a packed lunch and flask, a map, all four limbs and a mountain. But I also enjoy club road cycling (of which I’m a member of 2 clubs) and I’m also passionate about tennis and SUP (Stand up Paddleboarding), which I do whenever time allows.”

Us: “As an aside, Jilly; what inspired the name, Digital Touch?”

Jilly: “The boring answer is that the domain was purchased in 2002 with another project in mind, but by 2011 it simply seemed perfectly apt to use for the retouching business.

Us: “What’s the best bit about your job/what do you most look forward to when you get into the office every morning?”

Jilly: “Apart from my first brew of the day, I love the fact that I share an office filled with freelancers and small businesses, as this allows me to brainstorm ideas and share banter with the other companies on our floor.”

Us: “What direction do you envisage the world of photo editing to go in next, and more crucially, where do you see Digital Touch in 5 years from now as a response to this potential sea-change? If indeed you foresee a change.”

Jilly: “Photo editing capabilities at a personal level have changed a lot during my 20 years in the profession and I feel excited when new updates to the software come in. As for Digital Touch, we’re all very happy with the organic progression it has already made during these past 8 years, and envisage its continued healthy growth over the coming years.

Us: “And finally, Jilly. Do you love your work or do you simply see it as a job? And if you do love it, and I’m guessing you do; what shapes this emotive response to your career?”

Jilly: “Apart from the delight of making brides cry (but in a good way obvs), I am also privileged to give joy to people in other areas such as those who sadly have lost babies and want to remove hospital nasogastric tubes, so they can see their babies as they would naturally have been. We are also often asked to add lost loved ones into modern photos, and there’s limited words to describe the joy in playing a part in having that emotional effect on somebody.

Quoting Mark Twain; ‘If you do a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.’”

Us: “A very meaningful quote, Jilly, and a good place to end our Q&A session. Many thanks for answering my questions and as the self-proclaimed undisputed Queen of Brews at Digital Touch HQ; mine’s milk with 2 sugars please. Haha.”

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