Creative Spotlight: Simon Ledder

Posted by: on Aug 28, 2014

Creative Spotlight: Simon Ledder
La Crema, Agency: SF Heat Photography: Rodger Hostetler Retouching: Simon Ledder

Simon Ledder is a digital operator and retoucher based out of San Francisco, CA who is known for his tailored services and high-end retouching. 

I first became interested in retouching…
Whilst I was studying at university. When I researched the photographers I was drawn to at that time, I quickly realized their work was heavily retouched or had some sort of CGI element. I was a little disheartened as I felt that is wasn’t really the photographers work  and was more of a collaboration. I naively thought I never wanted anyone else to touch my work, so I learned to retouch. 

I am mostly inspired by…
I tend to get inspiration from all sorts of strange places but I get a lot of ideas from watching movies. It might be an effect, technique or location that triggers something. For my latest personal project, I created some fan art around the latest Godzilla release. Living in San Francisco gave me the perfect backdrop so I went out, shot some night shots of the city and collaborated with a good friend for the CGI.

Godzilla, Photography: Simon Ledder Retouching & CGI: The Tank

I would describe my work ethic as…
I would say that I am very focussed, super organized and enjoy working under pressure. I love working in a group on photo shoots or collaborating on large postproduction projects with other retouchers, but I can quite easily work on my own to get things done.

I became connected in the industry when…
Two weeks after graduating from university I started a three month internship with Taylor James, a creative production studio in London. After a month I was offered a full-time position and I worked my way up. It was a fantastic learning curve, straight out of university, I was thrown in to the deep end and was working on award winning advertisement campaigns with some of the biggest agencies. I thought I had a good grasp of retouching before working there but I quickly realized my knowledge was minimal. Working at Taylor James taught me how to retouch from scratch and I was exposed to many different aspects of the industry. It was a very valuable experience.

Hyundau, Agency: Innocean Worldwide Photography: Brian Konoske Retouching: Simon Ledder / Digital Giant

I wouldn’t be where I am today without…
Blackburn College in Lancashire UK. This is where I first learnt about photography way before digital was as affordable as it is today. The tutors are great and they really nurtured and developed my passion for photography. I am still in contact with them all to this day. 

My retouching is different from others because…
I tend to do a lot of on-set retouching on photo shoots which I haven’t seen that many people doing. This is great for small projects with a quick turn around. The client/agency is usually on the shoot so it’s great for getting instant feedback as we are shooting and often helps develop the project. I am also a digital operator and on the bigger shoots I do a lot of composting to aid the creative decision making. This is particularly effective with jobs that require multi-part compositions and can give the client a little piece of mind.

My favorite programs to use are…
Well, there isn’t much choice for retouching, so it would have to be Adobe Photoshop. For imaging software I would have to say Capture One Pro. 

Fly Victor, Retouching: Simon Ledder / The Tank

Some of my industry role models are…
I always love the work that comes out of The Tank, a London based creative post production & CGI studio. I am very fortunate that I regularly get to work with them on some big campaigns. I am still very interested in the fine art side of photography and am a huge fan of William Eggleston, Candida Hoffer,  Hans Christian Schink, The Bechers and the deadpan aesthetic to name a few.

To keep up on technology, I like to read/watch/listen…
I find twitter a great resource for keeping up to speed with a huge amount of technology. If you follow the right people and companies you can get a vast amount of knowledge. It’s also a great community and I find it very positive. Everyone likes to share their experiences and advice with you. 

I like to read Lurzers Archive when I can to keep up to date with all the latest high end adverts and I seem to trawl YouTube on a weekly basis looking for new kits, techniques or ways to improve the things I already know. You never stop learning.  I also tend to check out on a regular basis too.

I knew there was no turning back when…
I studied to be a photographer and never planned to become a retoucher and digital operator. Getting that internship with Taylor James sent me on a completely different path and over the years, my goals then changed. After five years working at a production studio I decided to leave and give it a go on my own. It was scary and a big decision, but at that point I knew there was no turning back. Looking back it was the right time to leave and was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I love being freelance as it gives me the opportunity to meet new people and to work with all the different aspects of the industry.

David Attenborough, Agency: Redbee Media Retouching: Simon Ledder / Taylor James

If I could choose one dream gig, it would be…
Not so much a single dream gig, but I think I’d like to open my own creative production studio in the future. 

The project I’m most proud of is…
This changes all the time. You’re constantly aiming for your next project to better than the last one. Currently, I am most proud of the La Crema Wine project I worked on for San Francisco-based photographer Rodger Hostetler, for the agency SF Heat. It was the first large, high-end ad campaign I got to work on when I moved to America. I was the digital operator on the photo shoot and then I did all the post production. Each of the three images had to be created to accommodate multiple crops for various executions. It was very challenging work but I was really happy with the end result.