Carlsberg, “That Calls for a Carlsberg”. Photography & CGI: Douglas Fisher.  Retouching: Matthew Haysom.  Agency: Fold7

Astronauts drinking beer on the moon, a spectrum of light refracted from a bottle echoing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Matthew Haysom’s retouching has featured in many ads that reference recognizable popular icons. One of the many interesting aspects of his work is how retouching, and its subtle and dynamic visual contrasts, is central to carrying off the humorous tone of the concepts. Haysom talks to us about about working with CGI, photography, and high-contrast colour styling

IMSO: How did you become a retoucher and what are the three most important lessons you have learned in using image manipulation software?

Matthew Haysom: I first came across Photoshop and started using it properly while I was studying Graphic Design at The Arts Institute Bournemouth. I had stumbled across Photoshop a few times but didn’t really spend enough time on it to actually know what it was capable of. This was all to change when we had a guest lecturer in one day to talk about retouching and go through some of his company’s work. This was Glen Taylor from Taylor James and was to be my future boss! He showed us a few examples of work he had done and showed us the break down for each image. I found this amazing and just wanted to get started on my own images! I was used to working on a single image but Glen was showing us how you could seamlessly bring multiple images together to create one believable image. I have always loved photography and once I saw the capabilities of Photoshop it was an easy decision what my career path would be.

I went on to complete work placements at Taylor James and Parlour Creative, gaining knowledge on the industry and getting a sneak peek to what it would be like being a retoucher. (And as it worked out, I actually went on to work for both companies.) By the time I finished my course at The Arts Institute I had read every Photoshop book I could get my hands on, been through every tutorial on the web and thought I was ready for working in a studio, how wrong was I?! When I first started retouching the learning curve was immense and I was lucky enough to be learning from the best retouchers in the business. The things I was learning you just can’t get from a book or a tutorial. My three most important lessons I’ve learned using image manipulation software would be:

1. Get some fresh eyes! If you spend too long looking at the same image you will be amazed with what you can miss. Take a break, be it an hour or even a day and then go back and review the image. You will have ‘fresh eyes’ and be able to approach the image from a new starting point.

2. Don’t be destructive. I’m always coming across files where people have worked on the original file and have applied their masks. This is a destructive workflow and can cause you problems further down the line. Always keep your original file untouched and keep your layers structured, named and organised.

3. Keep your eye on the ball. You need to keep up to date with all of the current software and plug-ins available. If you’re using old software you’ll be missing out on tools that can make your life easier. Certain new features are a bit of a gimmick but it’s worth testing them out to find the pros and cons and see where you can use them in your workflow to speed things up and make life easier.

Carlsberg, "That Calls for a Carlsberg". Photography & CGI: Douglas Fisher. Retouching: Matthew Haysom. Agency: Fold7

What’s your favourite piece of work (your own) and why?

Matthew Haysom: It has to be the Carlsberg series I worked on with Douglas Fisher. Douglas is an amazing photographer and CG artist and I have been following his work for years, so when this campaign came about I couldn’t wait to get started! This was a big campaign for Carlsberg, relaunching their brand, that was going to be launched in over 140 countries.   The creative reflects on the pleasure of an ice-cold beer as a reward for an achievement. The series of 4 images I worked on depict landmark moments in history which deserve a Carlsberg: Man walking on the moon; climbing Mount Everest; creating the wheel; and Einstein reviewing his formula E=MC2 . All four images follow a similar layout and build with the background being CG and the foreground talent and props photographic. It’s a nice balance and works well together, with the clean strong contrast colour-style bringing them together nicely.  This was a massive job with many late nights working with his team but was well worth it.

IMSO: Retouching and image manipulation is everywhere, and recently it’s been highlighted in the news when it’s gone wrong. Is there a danger of a backlash and how would that change your work?

Matthew Haysom: I think people are now aware of retouching and they have come to expect it and now know it’s not real. A few years ago people hadn’t really heard of Photoshop and thought all of these women on front covers were real, but now everyone is aware of Photoshop and what it’s used for. People shouldn’t take things too seriously and see the images for what they are, adverts.

Carlsberg, “That Calls for a Carlsberg”. Photography & CGI: Douglas Fisher. Retouching: Matthew Haysom. Agency: Fold7.

What new skill would you love to learn to improve your work?

Matthew Haysom: I’m very keen to start compositing and Nuke would be perfect for this. I feel that working on motion and colour grading is the natural progression for a re-toucher. There is so much more you can do with motion and as a re-toucher you know what is required to bring multiple elements together for a single frame, you just need to apply that knowledge to multiple frames. This will then be something else I can offer to my clients to help build their campaign and offer them ideas and options they may have not thought of or thought possible. I also used to use 3D software and this is something I want to start doing again. Now I know how to use CG renders more effectively I can now get to a certain stage in the 3D software package and then pass the renders on into Photoshop to incorporate in my images.

IMSO: Where will this art/craft be in 10 years time? Gaze into the future, what will be the new tools and new challenges?

Matthew Haysom: Lots of motion and 3D! And we won’t just be watching the ads, they’ll be specifically targeted to us and interacting with us! Print based advertising will still be around but no where near as much as now, they’re just too restricting for client demands and the modern world we’re now moving to. Every day there seems to be a new digital billboard going up, especially on the London Underground.

Heineken, "Live every last drop". Photography & CGI: L J Hopkinson & Taylor James. Retouching: Matthew Haysom & Taylor James Agency: McCann Erickson, Dublin.

IMSO: How much work was involved in the Heineken music series?

Matthew Haysom: Lots! I worked on these while I was at Taylor James and it was a big team effort. The campaign was part of Heineken’s “Live every last drop” campaign, focusing on the interesting life of a Heineken Bottle being at the heart of live music experiences.   The main shot of the drum kit exploding, ‘God of Rock’, involved the most amount of work, not just with the retouching but with the overall production. All of the instruments and splashes were photographed upstairs in Taylor James’ photography studio and then brought into retouch to bring all of the elements together. We worked up a few of the instruments exploding into splashes and then incorporated these into the main splash. This was a tricky job and we needed to work closely with the creative team to get the desired look they were after.   The other two shots weren’t as bad, still a lot of work but far less elements! It was a great campaign to work on, I love working on multi-part comps and this campaign was a big challenge.

IMSO: I can recognize the nod to Ziggy Stardust, and Dark Side of the Moon, but what’s the panel of colour?

Matthew Haysom: Great spot on the Ziggy Stardust link! The panel of colour is actually a 1970’s style illuminated LED disco dance floor! This went on to be used in their ‘This one loves electronica’ execution.

Heineken, "Live every last drop". Photography & CGI: L J Hopkinson & Taylor James. Retouching: Matthew Haysom & Taylor James Agency: McCann Erickson, Dublin

IMSO: What are the differences working with Photographs and CGI like on the Carlsberg campaign?

Matthew Haysom: Working with CG is great, you can do so much with it with only your imagination being the limit.  With the Carlsberg project all of the backgrounds were CG, and in many ways it’s the same as working with photographic material, you just have total control over everything. Yes, these backgrounds could have been photographed and given us similar results, but given the subjects we were creating and the flexibility we needed CG was the best solution for this project. With the Everest image for example; if we needed more snow we could make it snow, if we needed the sun higher in the sky we could, if we needed to, move the whole mountain clockwise due to a angle change we could – easily!

To see more of Matthew’s work go to

Heineken, "Live every last drop". Photography & CGI: L J Hopkinson & Taylor James. Retouching: Matthew Haysom & Taylor James Agency: McCann Erickson, Dublin

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