We are truly honoured to feature Pratik Naik, a high end retoucher specializing in commercial and editorial work. The owner and founder of retouching firm, Solstice Retouch, Pratik Naik won Framed “Retoucher of the Year” in 2013.
A regular contributor to DIY Photography and Resource Magazine, Pratik previously contributed to Fstoppers and is now a retouching educator for companies like Creative Live, The Breed Fashion Academy and the Retouching Academy as well as being an Ambassador for Phase One.
Extremely thankful to have Pratik share his knowledge with us here at ARC.
Interview by Sachin Khona // November 2015
Profile image by Dani Diamond.
PHOTOGRAPHY WORK & PRACTICES
HEY PRATIK! You’re the first non-photographer we’ve interviewed on Arc! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us!
so, where is home for you and where do you work?
I’m based out of Houston, Texas!
Have you always lived there or was there a conscious choice to move to where you currently live?
Home has mostly been here in Texas, although my birthplace was in Africa. I’m of Indian decent but I’ve lived in Houston all of my life aside from a span of 5 years. It was definitely a conscious decision to be here. For school and the industry, being here was the right choice for my family and I.
In what way, if any, does your location influence your work?
I think the opportunities being in the US grants me a lot of freedom for growth. A lot of companies and photography related groups are based here. The connections I’ve made has impacted my business opportunities. It’s really a melting pot here, including the ability to pursue anything you want. You can make it a feasible venture.
When did you know you wanted to be a retoucher?
When I realized I couldn’t get away from Photoshop. I had too much fun modifying images. This was back in the year 2000, ever since then, I just stuck with it!
Photo credit: Alana Tyler Slutsky
Do you have a designated workspace or office? (Do you have a picture to share of that?)
I actually work from home.
What has been the most defining moment in your career? OR Do you feel there was a turning point, monumental time, or series of events in your life that you were felt as though you were on the right path in regards to your photography career that bought you to where you are now?
I see my career as a terraced rice paddy, each step bigger than the last. I can recall my first time working with an editorial photographer, that lead to his recommendation to a bigger photographer. That followed with my first commercial job, to my first interview on the Framed network. From there, SLR Lounge got wind of me and I also started writing for Fstoppers. With that, came my first workshop, followed by ones sponsored by brands like Wacom and Phase One.
It branched off like a tree with equally amazing opportunities in each direction of the industry.
I’ve been blessed for sure.
Can you describe your retouching style for us?
I would honestly say, to get the best overall view of my style and the big picture, check out my website at www.solsticeretouch.com – I included a variance of images that identify with me. I enjoy the differing styles and unique look that each photographer brings. I could never narrow it down because with each job, comes a different look altogether.
The main takeaway is that I like to abide by the photographer’s style and it’s a new challenge each time.
Photo credit: Andrew Fearman
What inspires and motivates you?
Honestly, the insatiable urge to retouch is my main source of inspiration.
I have an addiction to see an image from start to finish. The end goal is so fascinating to me that it keeps driving me.
Externally, seeing my friends progress is powerful. This is why negative people have no place in your life. It holds back success. Get rid of them!
What creative training do you do outside of your work?
I’m working 7 days a week, throughout the entire day.
When I’m not working, I tend to surround myself with other creatives. Seeing their personalities is better than seeing their work.
When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
I take a break, schedule time off, and do whatever I want in order to break the cycle. It’s not easy though. It’s like stopping a train.
Photo credit: Susanne Spiel
How do you know when a piece of your work is finished and needs no additional work?
That takes time, and you just know it when you see it. It takes years of guess work and listening to yourself on the inside. I’d recommend sleeping on it and coming back the next day.
Your new set of eyes will tell you.
Photo credit: Anushka Menon
Are there any key lessons in your career that you’d like to share? OR Best piece of career advice you were ever given?
– The rules suck, do what you want!
– This is art and you only live once.
– Make your clients happy, not other photographers.
– Realize your own vision, without the noise of negative thought.
Photo credit: David Benoliel
Do you have a photograph burned in your memory that you never took but wish you had?
No, the more I keep images burned in my head, the more it influences my direction.
I wish to take the photo that doesn’t exist yet.
Can you share one creative tip that you use when you are working?
Is each step making you happy? If you don’t like the direction you’re going it, stop right there and readjust.
What are the 3 most important things in your personal life?
Family, love, and making yourself happy.
Do you work in any other fields of business?
I photograph sometimes, but that’s merely just for pleasure!
Can you share a bit about your daily schedule? What within your work do you not like to do and why?
Yeah! Basically, work happens throughout the day. It is ingrained into every minute and it’s just become a part of me. In between, I take breaks as needed to get the things I need to do. I also travel quite often to teach classes to those that really want to learn. I love retouching the most, but I also love sharing. In the process I get to meet creatives from different countries and also retouch on the go. Within my work, I honestly don’t enjoy compositing and the accounting.
Photo credit: Michelle Fennel
What was your hardest / painful creative failure to deal with and what did it teach you?
Not everyone will like your work. You have got to live with that. People will also talk negatively about you without knowing you. There’s nothing you can do except put your best face forward!
What will you be doing (or hope to be doing) 5/10 years from now?
I want to evolve and take my position within the industry and use it for something even greater. I am still figuring out what that is. I just need to feel satisfied within and I will do whatever it is that mirrors that feeling. I like helping others so it will be within that realm.
Photo credit: Eric Michael Roy
Can you share an image that you’re particularly proud of and tell us why?
I wish I could say I had just one, but it would do a disservice to the rest of my work. I can say I get at least one each week that makes me feel that way!
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
Are there any mantras that you live by?
Stop wasting time!
Seriously, you have a finite amount of time, and it is more valuable than money. Use as much of it as you can because you waste whatever you don’t use.
If you were no longer able to retouch, how else would you express your creativity?
Mostly through photography or by the written word. I enjoy both of those as well.
If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your day?
Probably just with family, sitting and talking about everything we could never say to each other.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I’d make the idea of retouching as transparent as possible so everyone knows what goes into each image they see on magazine shelves.
Education is the key to an open mind.
Photo credit: Scott Hugh Mitchell
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Doubt came from those who did not like my work. Even though it wasn’t as common, it was a reality. I dealt with it by just understanding that we all have different styles.
Photo credit: Keith Clouston
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your favourite podcast(s)
The Breed, Resource Magazine
Daft Punk, Kavinsky, Thievery Corporation, Tycho, Grimes, Justice, Cherub, Chicane, Purity Ring, Oh Land, Aphex Twin, Zero 7, Late Night Alumni
Film / Documentary that is a must watch?
This may be coincidental because he’s a friend and client, but Joey L’s documentary for Varanasi is amazing: Beyond Varanasi
Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading.
This may be sad but I haven’t read many books since I left grade school, aside from college textbooks in college. My time has been so immersed with the industry that all the textual information I read comes in form of industry articles or articles I find on reddit or digg correlating to the most interesting things happening with our current world. So in a sense, I read a ton a day but not in the form of books.
A website you regularly follow?
Last place you travelled?
Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?
Photo credit: Bella Kotak
Do you have a favourite poem or quote?
Life itself a poem, riddled with ups and downs that no poem can give you a sensation of. I just made that up.
Favourite TED talk
Last gallery / exhibit you visited
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Links to your personal work // projects
I post a little about each of my work there and what I’m mostly up to.
Can you share a short assignment / project that has benefited you in the past OR create / describe an assignment that you feel can help those reading this interview?
I created a time-lapse video of my retouching work. I did it for myself because clients could see what went into my process. In turn, I gained a few clients I never would have because they saw what detail I went into.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME, PRATIK!
You can see more of Pratik’s work here // Web
UP NEXT …
Stay tuned for an interview next with UK-based wedding photographers, The Kitcheners
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