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Thoughts on Remote Retouching with Rhea Pappas of Bath & Body Works

Daniel Jester
Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester:

From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester and this is the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. Rhea Pappas joins me to talk about the benefits and pitfalls of remote retouching. Rhea has been a post-production expert and a retouching manager for quite a long time in this industry. And we learned some valuable lessons during COVID about how to operate remote production teams. And there's a lot of benefit to widening your available labor pool and use remote retouchers. Really, it all boils down to developing relationships based on communication and trust, and then setting expectations.

Rhea Pappas:

In my opinion, the best way to solve something like that, or to even approach solving something like that, is that you just need to develop a relationship with a retoucher. If you were shooting watches frequently, let's say you did it four times a year. For every cadence, they released a new update to either a watch band or a watch face, maybe even more frequent, you would use the same retoucher. You would set your expectation. Again, here I go back to my expectations. I think that most of the things that we really struggle with in the remote landscape, even in the physical landscape, but specifically the remote landscape, is that we just need to communicate what's expected of roles and responsibilities and set that with the entire team.

Daniel Jester:

I really enjoyed this conversation with Rhea. I had not met her until one of the Henry Stewart events, one of the virtual events last fall. And she is really sharp. She really knows her stuff. I'm looking forward to having her back on the podcast. But for now, you just have this episode to listen to, so let's dig in. This is the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. I am your host, Daniel Jester. And inviting onto this episode, I think, 66, by the time you guys, you listeners, hear it, inviting to the show Rhea Pappas. Rhea, welcome to the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast.

Rhea Pappas:

Thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here.

Daniel Jester:

We decided, just before we jumped into this episode, to kind of focus the conversation a little bit on the retoucher-photographer relationship and what it means as we start to broaden our ability to do more remote work. So COVID taught us that a lot of the production process can be done remotely if we get creative, if we build some standards, if we open those lines of communication.

Daniel Jester:

I've been thinking a lot about this, as I shared with you before we started recording, that it's already really common for a lot of studios to have a hybrid workflow, where they're sending images somewhere else to be worked on and then come back. It stands to reason that the individual contributor-retoucher, whether they're full-time or freelance, could also be handled remotely if we can solve some communication issues and figure out ways to make that happen. So let's see, where are we going to kick this one off? Tell us a little bit about you, Rhea. What's your background and where are you today?

Rhea Pappas:

I've been in the industry for now about 10+ years. I started off in photographing for record labels, EMI specifically, when I was a teenager. I went into my 20s. I went to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. And I got my BFA in photography. And my first job in kind of a corporate photo studio setting was at Target. I was a digital imaging technician there. I worked on Canada, if you remember that small stint that Target did in Canada. I did enterprise-wide rollouts, too, when it came to being a subject matter expert on automation and processes and metadata. And then, when I left Target, I spent some time at Best Buy working as a high-end retoucher, doing a lot of stuff for print work. We did these banners. Then I did some work with Aveda and Regis as well, freelance photography.

Rhea Pappas:

I did a lot underwater. I got a fine art career shooting underwater photography. And then I was doing a lot of freelance digiteching for the last five years, loving it and really kind of sharpening my toolkit, as I like to say. And then I ended up getting a job at Shutterfly when they moved from California to Minnesota, right as the pandemic started. And there I got to do a lot of amazing work about bringing a team in house. We moved the photo studio from California to Minneapolis, or Eden Prairie, more accurately. Then I also got to hire a team out, outsource certain parts of the process. Then bring on video animation. Also, CGI work we did in-house as well. Then recently, I just kind of jumped ship to Bath & Body Works, where I'm enjoying managing a team of both post-production designers and retouchers.

Daniel Jester:

I mean, you've touched all of it. You didn't specifically mention producing in there, but I'm sure you could find some example of having produced some shoots and some things in there. And I think that that's a really valuable base of experience to tackle this conversation from. Because like we've talked about on the show, and I think a lot of people in the industry are aware, there can sometimes be a disconnect in the hand off of imagery from the actual production teams, the photography teams, into post production. The communication can be challenging. Passing on retouching notes throughout the process can be kind of challenging.

Daniel Jester:

And one thing that you mentioned in there that was really interesting that I didn't know about you from stalking your LinkedIn was the digiteching part of it, which I've said before on this podcast, relatively recently, that the digitech is sometimes, I think, kind of an underappreciated value in the studio as somebody who is kind of really bridging the gap between the people shooting and getting those assets to where they need to go and then solving for technical issues so that the production can continue on. Very, very valuable experience.

Daniel Jester:

So how can we kind of tackle this conversation? I had been just thinking a lot about remote retouchers. And I don't mean retouching services. I mean, these might be actual employees or freelance employees of your studio. And do they actually need to be geographically close to you? And I think really and truthfully, I think the answer is no. But what do we need in order to foster a good relationship between a studio, or even an individual contributor-photographer, and a remote retoucher who is also an individual and not a retouch firm?

Rhea Pappas:

That's a great question. And I've actually spent a lot of time thinking about this. I think one of the most unanticipated benefits of the pandemic has been the desire and the need for retouchers in every single creative environment. When we couldn't go into the photo studios and shoot, we relied on retouchers to kind of repurpose existing images and make them viable. And so when we start to think about how necessary they became, how in demand they became, how much the price for a retoucher spiked over the pandemic, we also realized that the relationship between the retoucher and photographer had changed.

Rhea Pappas:

So I started seeing that the retoucher was more of an active participant in that forward process of how do we get to the creative results we're looking for. And so when we started seeing us being able to go back into photo studios and having that relationship, I think the number one thing that I saw right away needed to be worked on was the expectations of that relationship change, so the relationship change between the creative and between the photographer and between the retoucher as equal partners in that creative process.

Daniel Jester:

We've talked on the show before about the importance of including post-production teams in all phases of the production process. I think I've specifically talked about it more, even in the pre-production thing. That was something that we learned at the commercial studio, where I worked in the years leading up to COVID, is that we included our senior retoucher sometimes in initial customer meetings. Because one of the things for any of our listeners who have worked in a commercial service provider studio, customers come to you all the time without knowing the image dimensions that they need. They don't know anything about what they actually need, at all. And we as production managers and the sales manager of the studio, honestly, we didn't think to ask that specific question, like, "What platform are you using to sell your stuff? What are your image requirements? What file type do you need to do?"

Daniel Jester:

And we'd get into it. And we'd realize we'd shot all this stuff and we didn't actually know what we were delivering. And that's a hugely important part of post production. We talked on the show before that post production is more than just the retouching part. It's basically, everything after. I think you could make the argument that the digitech straddles the line between production and post production, because once it's captured, anything after that is post production, whether it's actually retouching, making image adjustments, appending metadata to those images, or putting those images where they need to go. Or then, like you pointed out, pulling those images back in order to repurpose them, that's all post production. And we need to have a lot of visibility up front before we jump into the process.

Rhea Pappas:

A hundred percent. And one of the things that I found so interesting about this kind of catalyst that you even brought up about being a digitech, kind of helping problem solve situations while on set, I think in the remote environment, we're seeing, especially in your example of having the retoucher further part of the process, where you're having your clients there, when you have them part of that process, and you're having conversations about where this asset's going to live and what's the purpose of it, you can also change the way that it needs to be handled in post production or retouching so that they can achieve their goals.

Rhea Pappas:

And when that happens, that also changes the way that photographers need to shoot those assets so that the post-production specialists can get the client what they need. And that's why it's so critical to have them involved there, is because when you can think holistically from the start to the finish, the end product for that business is so much better for the company.

Daniel Jester:

What you just said reminded me also of I'm ready to get deep in the weeds on some of these things, just to let you know, Rhea. Because one of those things that I feel like comes up every time is that, this is such a nerdy, specific thing, but we're going to jump right into it, is what orientation are these images going to need to be? And therefore, how should we shoot them and compose the image with the model or whatever, to make sure that we can apply the right crop and if we need to apply multiple crops? And this is where the digitech becomes vitally, vitally important, because then they can let the photographer know, "Hey, you need a little bit more negative space so that we can get a vertical and a horizontal crop on this. Or do we, just in Capture One, do we set the crop ratio to square so that we know that we can probably get a horizontal and a vertical on it?"

Daniel Jester:

And paying attention to all of those kinds of things. Weird tangents where the model puts the arm out. All of those things become incredibly important. They're incredibly important to the retoucher. They need to be important to the digitech. You have a photography background also, Rhea. And my background is almost... And the way that I characterize it is that I can retouch images. I don't love retouching. I don't like sitting at a computer, working in Photoshop for very long. And so for me, I like having that feedback of saying, "I've got a lot to focus on on set." I'm not saying that photographers are babies and need to be coddled. Sometimes they are. But I've got a lot to think about on set when I'm working with that model. For the digitech to be paying attention to some of those things and saying, "Okay, hey FYI, we need more negative space. We're not getting these crops on here. This is an important thing."

Daniel Jester:

As long as we're getting deep in the weeds on really specific issues with this, the other things that I've been thinking about in terms of sort of enabling this remote retouch possibility, the two key issues that I see are obviously, retouch notes. It can be difficult to pass retouch notes in context. There isn't really a great way to do it without adopting some technology to enable this. There's this handful of technology options out there that allow you to pass image markup and retouching notes in context, which is great. The other one, though, that can be a little bit trickier, is color information. So one of the downfalls, or one of the drawbacks, if we're doing pros and cons, one of the cons, if you will, of having a remote retoucher is that they likely will not have the product in front of them.In order to enable a very quick workflow, you're not going to shoot everything and then send all of that product.

Daniel Jester:

So they need to have some kind of information about what the color's supposed to look like, because color is important. There are again, some technology solutions for this. There are some technology solutions that can pass color reference information in context to a retoucher. But that still requires somebody on set to make sure that you're passing them a color reference that actually is accurate and makes sense.

Rhea Pappas:

Well, first off, there are two very hot topics there and I'm very passionate about both of them. The first one I'd love to talk about is the idea of creative notes and the technology that needs to be adapted for what I would say enables remote environments. What we saw in the remote environment at Shutterfly was that if you had your screen on and you were doing a Teams meeting and you were sharing your screen to Capture One, your retoucher's on one end, your photographer and your creative could be on either end, to be quite frank. What you could do is work in a collaborative way that you could get notes on set to that retoucher when images were dropped. And it wouldn't take more than two to five minutes out of their daily workflow to really execute that transfer of communication.

Rhea Pappas:

Now, in that way, it's really beneficial that you set expectations for all parties involved. And the creative could again, be remote or in person. But what you see when you usually have a photographer and a creative in person, is if we revert back to historical ways of working, then that camera's not on, and we don't include that retoucher in until the end of day. And truthfully, when you're not creating that collaborative environment during the day, you lose time on retouching, which is a valuable interest, usually for timelines, for anything print or digital.

Daniel Jester:

Unclear instructions is a massive area of waste in the creative production process, because we have to know what we're supposed to be doing. And that goes for the photographers as well. If you're talking about a tabletop product photographer, something as dumb as, I don't know, I've shot plenty of things in my career on a tabletop that I didn't know what the front of it was. I didn't know what the front or the back. And I got to go find somebody who does know. And those are significant areas of waste. And it's the same with post production or retouching, either getting notes that are unclear or not getting any access to any notes at all. Or being unaware that some amount of rigging was involved in order to capture the shot that you need. I talked about this at the Pixelz FLOW event in New York recently.

Daniel Jester:

One of my personal professional tenets was to be aware of the work I was creating for other people. And mainly as a photographer, that was, am I inadvertently creating extra work for a retoucher because of the way that I'm working? And one of those professional tenets is to be aware of that, if I'm creating extra work that's unnecessary for somebody else. The second thing is sometimes it is necessary to create extra work. And then in that case, it becomes a matter of communication. I owe this person an explanation as to why I had to use 450 linear feet of monofilament to rig this thing up, that all needs to then be blasted out, or retouched out, or something.

Rhea Pappas:

Yeah, that's definitely something. And I have to say an experience, whenever you have to do it, or when it's necessary, usually I see the photographer and the retoucher, as long as that communication is there, that's really enjoyed. That's the creative process that we all love to be a part of. We love to be challenged. We love a good, hard creative challenge to solve. Another thing I would say that I think impacts the specific part of the process is, if you're not dropping images as you go, as you complete, that's where again, a lot of that feedback and notes that happen in real time get lost. I see a lot of times when I enter new companies or I'm talking to people about how their post-production process works is there aren't what I would consider universal retouching standards.

Rhea Pappas:

These are things that you can meet with your creative team and your retouchers and your photographers, and say, "What is the expectation for every single one of these assets?" And then we can also categorize our assets and make expectations for them as well. You meet with your creatives and your photographers and your retouchers. And not only do you set standards across the board, that should happen for every single asset, but also for categories of assets. And so there, you can kind of create what I call a RGB universal retouching guide that nobody needs to give you. It's an expectation created across all the images. And so that also reduces the communication difference between what you deliver and what needs to be told for you to deliver.

Daniel Jester:

That can stretch out from actual pixel retouching things into technical requirements. We know that we're on Shopify. We know that it's a square crop. We know that we want the minimum for Shopify. I don't know what the minimum is anymore, but most people, I think, are doing 2000 by 2000. But let's say, we want to use 4000 by 4000, because that resolution capability is around the corner on upcoming devices and screens. We want 247 gray background. We want sRGB color space, all of that stuff, clearly defined, documented. And then can be brought into Photoshop as actions, automations and things like that in addition to actual retouching requirements. We always ask you to path out the garments, the skin and the hair. Every time, that's going to be the case. They're going to ask you to path out the product.

Daniel Jester:

One area where I know that it gets really tricky, again, pulling from my specific experience as a mostly tabletop product photographer is, again, going back to that, "I don't know what this thing is that I'm shooting." I shoot for XYZ hard goods company. I shoot for, I'm not picking on Granger, but Grainger shoots a ton of stuff that most people may not have any idea what that is. And when you're working with remote retouch teams, one of the things that can be a problem is, is this thing I'm looking at part of the rigging to get this shot? Or is this part of the product and should it then not be retouched out?

Daniel Jester:

And the way that we solved that at Amazon was, I think, a simultaneously very low tech, but kind of elegant solution, which is that we had printed cards that had an icon that our retouchers, who often were not native English speakers, knew meant you need to remove this. And so if I had a little acrylic cube that I was using to lean something up against, I'd throw this little printed card on that cube in a way that it didn't intersect with the product or anything. And that let the retouchers know, "Hey, this thing right here is rigging and it needs to be retouched out."

Rhea Pappas:

That's a really nice visual. We actually developed something similar at Shutterfly, where we put post-it notes on things when we were just saying... Or we'd do... An example of a process that I'd set up there is that I was shooting what I called the blank process, where we shot all our product blanks. And we enabled smart objects for flexibility in the back end, so that we could be really agile in the landscape. I know this isn't a new system of workflow. But it was so imperative to the way we needed to work during the pandemic. And one of the things we would do is we would actually use post-it notes as a way to say, "This is what's going to go on this fling product." So when we retouched it, we could put the two together and have an output product that looked just it was as if we shot it.

Rhea Pappas:

So we used a lot of physical ways to communicate. But it still has a challenge when it comes to that actual communication between a stylist and a retoucher and if something's possible, or what's the best result we can get if we tried something different? So even though it's such a helpful part of the process, it still doesn't solve that problem. And one of the things that we did, this is one of my favorite stories. We started in a pandemic at Shutterfly. I'd never really had any of their product in my hands and neither did my photo studio manager. And so one of the things we were doing is we were shooting for holiday. It was our first job that we did. And so I remember ordering with our free products on the website and just getting them shipped to my house. And I was just making stuff up and making things humorous, just so I could physically see what these products were.

Rhea Pappas:

We didn't have an in-house team yet. We were outsourcing all of our retouching. And we were just trying to grapple with what these products were, because the pandemic restrictions were so narrow. And so I remember getting these products and one day I had this water bottle in my hands. And my photo studio manager is on set. And he's like, "We haven't gotten this water bottle. We can't shoot it for this campaign." And I was like, "I got the water bottle." It was incredible. So my husband ran it out to the photo studio that we were contracting for the job. We shot it. It's, of course, of me and my dog. And I think I'm rolling my eyes and my dog's got this big mouth with his tongue hanging out. It was a dog mom mug. A lot of the Shutterfly stuff is positive messages and cutesy. And everybody just laughed about it. But they ended up using it for that promotional.

Rhea Pappas:

But it was really hard to grapple with what even the difference was between this mug and another mug. And one of the ways that I worked hard to solve that with the team is that even, since we're in this virtual environment, even if somebody took their cell phone and FaceTimed or used Teams again and walked around the product, that sometimes was everything, if it was a really, really tricky product that we've never seen before, if we were on set. Now, for a while, of course, we would just have to say, "You did your best." Another thing I wanted to mention about that, the I-did-your-best mentality, is with the pandemic, we didn't see a big return on investment for color correction, which is really interesting to talk about. Color correction is humongous for a lot of companies. It's imperative that the creative journey be consistent for our customer.

Rhea Pappas:

So one of the things that was really shocking to me, continues to shock me, is that a lot of times if this pair of sunglasses that I'm holding up, that nobody can see, and another pair of sunglasses, if they are the same sunglasses, but the color is a little off, it's not going to change if somebody's going to purchase it or not, most of the time. That's what we found in our research during the pandemic. And I've seen this with multiple companies. And so even though it is imperative to some brands, like clothing, or I would say that color correction, depending on the e-commerce business, is a very good investment. And that would be a business critical need to have somebody come into the photo studio to do.

Daniel Jester:

In general, I agree with you, Rhea. I think that so far, this conversation has been going on for over 10 years, easy. I'm 13 or 14 years in this industry. And it's been going on... I consider my first day in the true, modern phase of e-commerce, when I started working with HauteLook after Nordstrom bought them. But I was in commercial photography for several years before then. And it was always that. It was always, how much effort do we need to put into color, because there's so many variables that we can't control? And 10 years ago, it was maybe we don't need to worry about it that much, unless the color difference is absolutely egregious. And we're talking about fluorescent oranges, fluorescent pinks. Whites tend to be a problem, because often you're trying to shoot white on white.

Daniel Jester:

And now, we're a lot better at that than we used to be. But, oh God, you guys, 10 years ago, trying to shoot a white garment on a white background, oof, it was rough, rough business for everybody involved. But sunglasses is another category that is really, really challenging, because acetate sunglasses that have colorful frames, that have colorful lenses, those lenses appear differently when they're on a white background and there's light coming through the white background. So oftentimes that becomes a composite. You alluded to compositing earlier, which is another thing that I wasn't even going to get into with remote retouching. I have personal experience shooting watches for a very popular watch brand that needed 14 or 15 image composites. And working with a remote retoucher on composites was, frankly, it was a nightmare. And I ended up doing most of the compositing myself to put the component parts together.

Daniel Jester:

Just for the listener, if anybody listening is unfamiliar with what it's like to shoot watches, usually, the watch face dial has a texture to it. The crystal has its own curvature and sometimes a texture. The bezel has its own texture and is probably reflective. If it's a metal band, it's its own reflective thing. I designed a watch shooting set that had eight different lights and something like 14 different light settings to try to bring the best attributes of each of those component parts out so that we could compile it into a watch that somewhat resembled what the watch actually looked like. And I ended up having to, as the photographer, actually composite those parts and then send a flattened version of that to the retoucher, who then did a much more traditional retouch process. Path out the watch. Drop it out. Put it on the right background. Do the cleanup and all of that stuff.

Daniel Jester:

Because at the end of the day, it was too much information for me to just pass to a retoucher. Man, it was really cool, Rhea. I used LED lights. And I used one of those dimable systems, where you're using a soundboard thing. So you're like, "Okay, bring up a little bit of light on the bezel and a little bit of light on the watch face." And trying to get as much of it in one shot as I could. But it still ended up taking, most of the time, 10 shots. And how can I pass that off? How can I pass that set of files off to a retoucher and expect them to know at all to do with it? Man, yeah, composites, I don't think we can solve that in this episode.

Rhea Pappas:

No. Well, first of all, I need to see that behind-the-scenes video, for sure. Second of all, I do see what you mean. In my opinion, the best way to solve something like that, or to even approach solving something like that, is that you just need to develop a relationship with a retoucher. If you were shooting watches frequently, let's say you did it four times a year. For every cadence they released a new update to either a watch band or a watch face, maybe even more frequent, you would use the same retoucher. You would set your expectation. Again, here I go back to my expectations. I think that most of the things that we really struggle with in the remote landscape, even in the physical landscape, but specifically the remote landscape, is that we just need to communicate what's expected of roles and responsibilities and set that with the entire team.

Daniel Jester:

And I will also say that, obviously, during COVID, this was not really possible, but I think one of the things you don't want, not that communication wasn't possible, but now, as we are... I mean, COVID's still out there. I don't want to pretend that it's not. But it's become less of a... Many people are accepting more and more risk. And they're traveling more. And the point that I'm getting to here, that I'm dancing around, is that don't neglect the visit. If you have a relationship with a remote retoucher, do not neglect taking an opportunity to visit.

Daniel Jester:

If you're a company with a lot of remote workers, do not neglect having an opportunity for everybody to get together for some amount of time, a few days a week, whatever it is, because you can have great communication. But when you're remote, unfortunately it's not hard for a little bit of animosity to build, because the communication still is just not as effective most of the time as it is sitting in a room and talking it out.

Daniel Jester:

Before we got on the composite thing, we were talking about color. And the thing that I wanted to mention is just the hard part about that for me is, like we were talking about with the sunglass thing, where we got into the composite thing, that the sunglasses' colors can be represented differently when there's back light coming through them. And the difficult part with that is then you're really becoming reliant on the photographer most of the time or the tech having a good enough eye for color to try to adjust it, because they're the only person who has this opportunity. And that's not an uncommon workflow.

Daniel Jester:

It's not uncommon in a lot of studios to see photographers using color adjustments and Capture One. Capture One has incredibly nuanced color adjustment tools. But you still are depending on, that's another skill that you need to now hire for. Not only are you a photographer, but I can tell you from experience, everybody and Rhea, I think you'll agree with this, not all photographers have an eye for color the way that most retouchers do.

Rhea Pappas:

I think that part of this whole... It's like a full circle moment. We're seeing retouching and photographers continue to irk closer together. We're different people. Obviously, we can't both do both and be experts in both. But we continue to see these barriers between how we connect continue to shift left and right, depending on where we're at in time and space. Wow, that got deep, real fast. But also, I think, where each company is at or where the people from that company want to take it. One of the things that I strive as a leader in this area is that I'm a servant leader. So if I come into a place and I got three retouchers and they say all the same things, I'm going to work towards getting them that, especially if I see it also benefiting the business.

Rhea Pappas:

And so depending on where you go, that line between where a photographer starts and ends and a retoucher starts and ends, varies. And you really lean on your expertise, your subject matter experts and people who've been in the field for a while to help guide that conversation. And, I think, over the next five to ten years, we're going to see this continue to pivot and move, probably ebb and flow, more dramatically in the next two years.

Daniel Jester:

All right, so that's probably about the time that we have. But before we jump off, I want to distill it down. So we talked about a lot of things. We digressed a couple of times. I think it was all really valuable. Great conversation. This is a real banger of an episode, Rhea. I'm glad that we connected on this. But let's distill it down. So building a process for effective remote... Let's not call it remote retouching, because to the retoucher, maybe the photographer, it's remote. It's a remote relationship, we'll call it.

Daniel Jester:

Communication, keep those lines open. Just say the things that you need, from both sides. It doesn't need to be personal. We can remove ego out of it. Retouchers need something to do their jobs. Photographers need to be able to work in a certain way. We can all agree on that. Keep those communications open. Automate, automate the things that you can automate. If you can set a standard, document that standard. And usually, if it's a standard, you can automate to that standard. Agreed?

Rhea Pappas:

Exactly. A hundred percent.

Daniel Jester:

And then including, like I said, bring in that relationship between the photographer. It should be a relationship. It should be, this has been true for me, the best work I've ever produced has been working with a digitech that I knew really well and had a great relationship with, a retoucher that I knew really well and had a great relationship with. And the cool thing about those great relationships is that then the communication becomes almost less of a part of it, because you just know them. And that's super valuable.

Rhea Pappas:

I don't know if I'm taking this into a different direction, but one of my favorite parts about when you have a relationship that close between photographer and digi or retoucher, is when you can almost do things that you can't do with other people, because your relationship allows for it. In the business setting, where you could miss a drop or you can miss a communication, but because you're so close, you're like, "I got you. No worries." Those are ideal moments in those landscapes. And that's where that relationship building, even when you're apart, becomes so critical, because you dissolve that animosity, or that hesitancy, or that wall that's been put up with the distance.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah. I had just had a wave of goosebump nostalgia, because I was remembering not so much on the researcher side, but just when you were working with that stylist as a photographer that you knew really well. And it's like, this is my impression of a conversation between a photographer and a stylist who've worked together for five years. It's just that, "Click. Snap. Pop. Images on screen. Huh? Okay. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. [inaudible 00:31:42]." And now it's solved! Nobody even said anything. It's the photographer saw something they didn't like. The stylist was like, if I'm going to translate that it's, "Hey, can you check the strap on that handbag?" "Yeah, I see it. I'll take care of it." "Okay. We're good." Snap! "Okay, got it."

Daniel Jester:

You almost develop your own non-verbal language when you work with people like that. It's just such a phenomenal environment. I sound like I miss the studio, don't I? They got me doing this podcast from a room alone. I don't get to do this anymore.

Rhea Pappas:

I will share a similar experience, which is in my past role, my creative managing art director, her name was Susan. I just remember when we worked together, she could literally flash me eyes from across the room, just look into my eyes piercingly. And I'd look back at her and I knew exactly what she was telling me and I could implement. And that's probably my favorite thing about this industry. Reading somebody's mind is truthfully impossible. We are unable to read each other's minds. But if you can get really close, it makes that work so much fun and thrilling. And it gives the goosebumps in all the feels.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah. This is another podcast episode topic that I've been kind of playing around with in my head, which is that we, to some extent, Rhea, we've accepted that the life cycle of a creative at any given e-commerce business is something like two years. And the truth is, is that I'm not sure if that's so much a matter of just the nature. I think a lot of us write that off as the nature of being employed in this business. People bounce around from company to company, brand to brand, studio to studio. But I think maybe the bigger issue is that because we've "accepted" that, we haven't put any effort in in retaining teams. And there's so much value in retaining teams that work really well together, people who have developed years and years of working together and having those relationships.

Daniel Jester:

I could tell you right now, if I was going to start a brand that was going to have a studio, exactly who I would hire for that, because they've been working together as freelancers for 10 years and they don't even have to talk at all. They can just produce the best possible work right then and there. But that's another topic for another time. Rhea, thank you so much for your time. I'm so glad that we were able to finally connect and record this episode. And I would be absolutely shocked if we don't invite you back again soon. I was not lying. This is a banger of an episode. I'm excited for people to hear it.

Rhea Pappas:

Oh, I'm so happy to hear that. And also I'm really passionate about all this work. So any topic you got, any day, I'm here. Just give me a call.

Daniel Jester:

Yeah. We're going to do a whole focused episode on color. Maybe it's worth it. Let's start workshopping it via email.

Rhea Pappas:

Oh, I'd love that.

Daniel Jester:

That's it for this episode of the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. Many thanks to Rhea Pappas. And thanks to you for listening. The show is produced by Creative Force, edited by Calvin Lanz and special thanks to my good friend, Sean O'Meara. I'm your host Daniel Jester. Until next time, my friends.

About the host

Daniel Jester
Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.