Gabor Richter is a digital artist and retoucher from Germany. In this interview, Gabor discusses his humble beginnings as an apprentice furniture salesman, as well as what it takes to create a professionally retouched image.
QWelcome to Psdtuts+, please introduce yourself. Could you tell us where you’re from and how you got started in the field?
Hi, my name is Gabor and I’m from Germany. To be precise, I’m living nearby Heidelberg at the moment, which is one of the most beautiful places in Germany. It has always been my dream to work as an artist using a computer, but I’ve never had a precise goal of what I wanted to work on. I started at the age of 16 with a simple apprenticeship as a furniture salesman. I then had a great opportunity to start a second apprenticeship as a media designer when I was 23. And it was during this period that I discovered my passion for Photoshop. Although the program wasn’t used very much at my company, I always tried to spend as much time as possible learning it. Sometimes I even slept in the office as an easier way to improve and further develop my skills. Money was scarce and I didn’t have my own computer or camera at the time, but the agency I worked for had its own photographer.
One day after work, I started to work on a few of his pictures to try to improve them even more. The next morning I showed them to my boss with the proposal that he should offer this kind of work to our customers. Unfortunately, there weren’t any customers within the customer base who were prepared to pay for all those working hours. Therefore, I continued with my passion as a hobby and started to organize some photo shoots to realize my own ideas. The equipment required for my hobby was a camera, so I borrowed from friends. And through the internet I got to know the great photo artist Calvin Hollywood. For a long period of time I had already been following and admiring his work, then one day he was looking for an assistant whereupon I applied immediately! After being recruited by him, I gave up my well paid job at the agency and moved away from home. I made these sacrifices for an unpaid internship but it was well worth it. Nowadays I have a well-paid job with Calvin as his personal assistant. I work closely together with Adobe, make video tutorials for the company video2brain and photoshopfreaks, and I write regularly for German magazines. I am also writing for PSDTUTS+.
QHow long have you been using Photoshop? What was the tool or technique you had the most difficulty mastering?
I’ve been working with Photoshop for six years now and professionally for four. Initially when I started with the program I was asked to do small corrections like optimizing brightness and contrast or applying minimal retouching techniques. I really started working with Photoshop during my apprenticeship with Calvin Hollywood three years ago. During that time I got to know my favorite Photoshop tool: the Healing Brush. I enjoy working with this tool quite a lot and even use this tool in “real life.”
Cracks on walls, graffiti, and ugly clouds I now naturally remove in my mind. So I think the reason why I like this tool is because it’s easily applicable. The results make such a huge difference that you might actually think it would have taken much more time.
QYour manipulations stand out in incredible quality and technique. What are the most important factors in creating a professionally retouched photo?
Structure and order are the most important things for me. I can’t achieve my desired results if I don’t properly manage my workflow. It is very important for my pictures to start with quality material that I can work with. Anything else only leads to bad results. I prefer high quality material so I can emphasize lighting and depth in order to create a more detailed image. These are the prerequisites for the images I make.
QWhat has been your favorite project to work on to date, and what lessons did you take from the experience?
My favorite project was a private job. My brother and sister-in-law asked me to take some pictures of their beautiful newborn daughter, Mia. Of course I was very happy to do so but I agreed under one specific condition: I wanted to take the pictures in my own style. This is why the project was so exciting to me. For the first time I had a person in front of me who didn’t understand a single word of what I wanted to tell her. I learned to pay attention to my working partner, and could only continue when this small person was ready to go on. I also learned that it makes no sense to create a schedule for a baby shoot because it’s a complete waste of time and effort. Now I can only imagine what will be expected from me when my son is born and I want to take pictures of him.
Q“Mr. Holiday” is a creative photo manipulation in a fun caricature style. Could you tell us how this piece came about?
So if I have to start all over, the story would start like this: I spent a few days in my hometown. There was this Monday where I basically had nothing to do and being idle means stress for me which I wanted to avoid. A week earlier I posted on Facebook that I was looking for male models to realize a few character portraits. The choice was narrowed down to four people. I had three strong men and a quiet individual. I knew one of the guys from meeting him before where I remember we played a lot of table tennis and laughed a lot. I was explaining to him my idea for “Mr Holiday” and he was excited to take part in my creation. When I make comical pictures I like to only work with people who are cheerful and can laugh at themselves. Since this was the main basis of the picture for me, it was actually not important if he had real experience with modeling. My Mr Holiday model was so nervous that he began sweating a lot during the photo shoot. I told him, “Don’t be nervous about sweating. This is very cool and fits this hot summer picture even more.”
QWhich resources do you turn to for inspiration?
To get inspired I often look at the surreal world. I love good pictures but unfortunately I’m never satisfied with images that are too realistic. I’ve already seen a lot of our planet and have also traveled a lot. Though each country has its own characteristics, this is not enough inspiration for me. When I was growing up, I would often be found sitting in front of a small television at the video store after school. This was the real world for me, the surreal world, which we have yet to explore. Nowadays my source of inspiration lies in watching TV and movies. Sometimes when I watch a DVD I’ll press the pause button, lean towards the TV, and take a photo of the frozen image in front of me. I then take these images and observe them all night long, lying in my bed creating my own new images from the inspiration I get out of them.
QIf there was one piece of advice you could tell yourself in the beginning of your career, what would it be?
Actually, nothing. Hopefully this doesn’t sound stupid, but I’ve been very satisfied with my performance. I had very little sleep back then, went to very few parties, but learned a lot of Photoshop in the meantime. In fact, I am happy to be where I am especially in such a short time. I have an ideal job that fulfills my life and although I am not rich I definitely have a high quality of life. The only thing I would probably say to myself is “Don’t watch movies while retouching images.” It distracts me too much.
QThanks again for the opportunity to interview you for Psdtuts+! Are there any final thoughts or words of advice you have for our readers?
Dreams exist to be fulfilled no matter what they are. If you carry a fire inside of you, go chop wood until your fingers bleed. Whether you implement an idea of an image, or turn your hobby into a profession, the most important thing is to continuously work towards fulfilling your dreams. After all, that is the only way to keep your fire burning bigger and longer.