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Manipulating images is easy, manipulating them well is more tricky. Mark Wilson asked four users to nominate favourite projects while those involved explain how it’s done

Dave Waters

Joint creative director, Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters

“The photograph of two nudes with the wrong genitalia used in The Observer’s Life magazine recently is representative of one of those fantastically simple ideas which obviously required a huge amount of re-touching to produce such a simple and convincing image.

“Instead of opting to use the seemingly eight million colours available on a system and to make the image really overstated, photographer Tim

O’Sullivan and the image manipulation team involved created a beautifully crafted execution which leapt out at me from across the room.”

John Whillock

Director, Colourspace

“The photograph was taken by Tim O’Sullivan for The Observer and was really a very simple job.

“O’Sullivan shot the male model in both the male and female pose, and subsequently did the same thing with the female model.

“This ensured that the lighting was right and the lean, for want of a better word, was there from the beginning of the process. The job was completed on Quantel Paintbox and was a basic case of swapping the relevant parts.

“Working with photographers who understand angles, light and shadows when they are shooting is very important to us. It also enables us to achieve effective results in postproduction.”

Martin Galton

Head of Art, Leagas Delaney

“One of my image manipulation favourites in two-dimensional work is the now defunct Camera Obscura strip which used to be in The Guardian magazine. Its idea was to satirise the week’s news, and it always managed to be very funny and to look fresh.

“I also admire Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s work for Murphy’s Bitter, which uses Janet Woolley’s photography and illustration in a novel way. However, I do tend to prefer image manipulation in 3-D rather than in stills, as it often looks ridiculous and false in press work. Image manipulation skills also seem to translate humour more effectively in a 3-D medium. The Guinness Dancing Man ad is an example of this. Manipulation tends to work really well when it’s used to make things funny.”

Steve Caplin

Freelance graphic artist for Time Out, The Guardian and New Woman

“Camera Obscura ran in The Guardian magazine from 1990 to 1995 and was a political photo-montage, produced digitally on the Mac.

“The idea was to satirise politicians by manipulating them so much that it was difficult for the reader to guess if they were illustrations or photographs. Paul Jeremy and I took photographs of politicians’ heads from the library and used Photoshop to distort their features to make them more entertaining.

“I am currently using Photoshop to a create 48-sheet poster campaign for a beer in the same style as Camera Obscura. If I can design a 48- sheet poster on a Mac, why use a Barco?”

Kim Le Liboux

Head of Advertising Design, Bates Dorland

“One of the most interesting pieces of image manipulation I’ve seen in a long time is a series of pictures entitled Against Urizem by photographer Robert Davies. The series was featured in a recent issue of the magazine A Be Sea.

“One of the dangers of using image manipulation is that many of the photographs look too slick and smooth. I don’t know how the photographer realised these pictures, but they are really refreshing in terms of their roughness and the way the bodies have been exaggerated.

“Computers tend to get used for these purposes far too much. I’m not a Luddite when it comes to technology; there are times and places for its use, but whenever a new system becomes available, a lot of designers use it as much as they possibly can and then the trend usually dies out. I am tired of seeing multi-layered images. I really like the dirty and organic feel of these pictures.”

Robert Davies

Freelance photographer

“I left the Royal College of Art in 1993 and now work as a photographer and part-time lecturer at Solihull College, Birmingham. I also work as a part-time secretary at the RCA to fund my photography.

“The series of nudes was inspired by William Blake’s writings about Adam and Eve, and the relinquishing of the protection of God. I used a photographic film which has a reflective backing. The distortion of the images occurs when you hang up the film during the developing stage and it bends and twists.

“People can never tell how it is done. I am presently working on a way of producing similar interesting results digitally – using Photoshop for example.

“The only hitch with using digital imaging means is that once you are in front of the machine, you have to rely solely on your imagination. By processing the film traditionally you are assured of never getting the same results and there is always an element of surprise.”m

Jo Tanner and Viv Walsh, Copywriter and art director respectively at Saatchi and Saatchi

“All too often image manipulation is used to disguise the lack of an idea rather than to enhance one. The film The City of Lost Children and Michel Gondry’s latest video for the Rolling Stones song Like a Rolling Stone are two current exceptions. In these cases image manipulation is used to enhance the narrative. In the Rolling Stones promo, image manipulation techniques are used to present the world from a junkie’s warped view.

“The directors knew from the start what they would be using it for rather than turning to it at the end to correct mistakes. These projects contrast strongly with films like The Mask, which is little more than a moving brochure for the image manipulation tool Flame.

“The secret is to know what you want from machinery before you go to it. All too often people go in search of the idea and hope it will answer their brief. If they haven’t used every button and every effect available they tend to think they haven’t been as creative as they might have been.

“Also, effects are scrutinised so scrupulously that if they aren’t absolutely seamless, they may do more harm than good.

“There isn’t a reactionary swing against special effects – it’s just that people are now more familiar with the possibilities and therefore less entranced by them.”

Toby Courlander

Producer, Partizan Midi Minuit

“I’m loathe to give away too many details about how the effects and warps on the video were achieved. But director Michel Gondry spent several days shooting the band and the central character, played by Patricia Arquette, using a stills camera. We then took the 16 000 still images and transferred them to tape. We then blended all the images using 3-D morphing techniques. Postproduction was completed in Paris at Buf.”

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