Meet Alice Constance: Wonderhatch’s Wondrous Retoucher

  • Issue no. 2

As we continue with our newly found tradition of giving our unsung heroes a moment in the sun, I wanted to turn our attention to something that is often quite literally a hindsight. The people that can transform a measly burger from reality to the Big Macs of billboards. Stick with them sweetheart, they’ll make you a star. That’s right, you guessed it, it’s the turn of the almighty retouchers!

Far too often retouchers can be brought in after the shoot has happened, but by bringing the conversation up stream, and integrating these designers into the briefing stage, or even having them on set, can be invaluable. We meet with the amazing Alice to discuss:

So Alice, firstly, tell us a bit about you; How long have you been retouching, and how did you get into it?

I’ve been on photoshop since I can remember, turning my friends faces into all sorts of horrific liquified creatures. I loved taking a photograph and seeing how far I could push it. One of my favourite early projects in school was ‘shopping my classmates into different monsters. Professionally, it’s been about seven years now. Time flies when you’re cloning and stamping. There are less monsters but it’s still fulfilling.

What would you say is important when retouching food and beverage shots?

 The most important part is separating colours and making them sing. On set, it’s often that the lights of the environment wash colours down and tweaking those pickles and tomatoes can elevate a shot to a whole new level. Also adding as much depth as possible to give a glossy texture to foods that can seem flat. Take a meatball, it’s rather straightforward, but adding a little luma-curve in there can really help.

How about Hotels?

With Hotels, the most important thing is to carry the energy of each space forward. Whether it’s a warm, sunset balcony, or a pristine bubbling bathtub, you want to take the best associations with those spaces and push them even further. Also, making sure angles are near perfect, it helps create a sense of calm and satisfaction.

In this issue of TAH, we are talking about launches – can you tell us about the gorgeous work you did for the gorgeous imagery Hot Cut used to launch on Deliveroo?

Those sandwiches were a mouth-watering struggle because I just wanted to eat them off screen! The main thing was to make sure each ingredient in each sandwich had its own moment, so each part would be masked off and given its own treatment in colour, cleaning, and tone. The biggest challenge was making sure each sandwich shot stayed consistent with the rest. Even when that meant a turkey sub would stand alone, but also perfectly beside a meat feast and so on. Also, using their brand colours to alter the backgrounds of each sandwich, and making sure each chosen colour helped make the ingredients drool-inducing.

Sticking with the theme… over the last two years a lot of hotels particularly have had to re-launch, under numerous and ever-changing measures. Whilst these pre-cautions help keep everyone safe, they don’t always look the best in pictures – has that been problematic for you?

One very memorable shot was for the Hyatt Churchill. In the midst of the first lockdown, their lovely lobby was overrun with covid-friendly screens at reception and directional arrow stickers on the marble floors. There was no way to avoid reflections, but after three+ days of reconstruction, assets, blending and an insane amount of clone stamping, it was as if the virus was never there.

Any Examples?

Here’s a few!

We often refer to you as the wizard, not because of your chic glove and wand you carry (pen and tablet) but because you really can make the impossible possible. What’s the most challenging retouch you have had to do? Can we see the end result?

The most challenging I’d say was the Ford Mach-E Shoot in Fordwich. We had several shots and options for each model, placement challenges, sky and environment rebuilding, the car herself! Removing roadworks in the background, bins, and pedestrians, and rebuilding whole areas, and even the direction of the sun!

What’s the one bit of advice you would give people working with retouchers, that would help allow them to do their very best work?

Don’t be afraid to try out your own techniques. A lot of what I use in retouching today I learned from illustrating and drawing. And taking on new skills and adapting them to your workflow is how you advance as a retoucher. There are rules in post-production, but what’s the fun if you can’t break a few?

Why is it useful to have retouchers come to the shoots as an on-site editor?

When you are working with environments or products, especially when it comes to colour, the most important thing is the retoucher knowing how true to life and to the eye the subject is. Too often, certain things can get lost in translation from client, to photographer, to producer and then to post-production. So having one of us onsite guarantees client direct selection and retouching notes, clear understanding of tone and direction, which all leads to a faster delivery.

What’s the one tip you would give a photographer on these shoots to make your life easier when working on the images?

Take shots of the set, product, subject etc on your phone! Whether we’re there or not, having those extra Behind the Scenes shots can help remind us of what exactly we’re aiming for with each client and project. Also, any time we’re doing any sort of composite work, always make sure you turn to your retoucher for advice on what they need. What we see is vastly different to what the photographer sees…
And lastly, trust our process! It may look strange at times, but we see images as canvases in our minds. We are rebuilding the data to give a polished piece, so patience and trust are vital!

Any final words?

Retouching has developed and changed with technology incredibly fast, so you can never be even close to knowing everything about the craft. Being open to learning new ways, studying old ones, and developing your own are what make a great retoucher.
And never trust a finished image, a wizard has never been too far away from it!

If you think you’ve got something exciting to share about your travel and hospitality job over a glass of tequila, pop Chris an email at

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