Thursday, November 9, 2023
How the founders of a retouching house built their own software to make post-production easier on the entire creative team.
Peter and Emily both began their professional journeys in multiple creative pursuits. For Peter, it was intro to architecture that led to graphic design at Miami University of Ohio. While in school for design, Peter realized that his love for photography drove him further than design. “My whole life, I was always taking pictures of everything. I have always been a creator…making, tinkering with things.” After taking a year off of school to realign on his next move, Peter enrolled himself at the Minneapolis College of Art Design as a photography major. It was in Minneapolis where Peter’s exploration into the commercial photography world solidified — he began assisting photographers and expanding his skillset to digi-teching, and embarking on his post/retouching work.
For Emily, she too began her career studying graphic design. She honed her Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator skills at Custom Ink for a few years and eventually as the lead photo editor for a gourmet dining vertical for LivingSocial. As she produced shoots for others, Emily felt a pull to create her own photography work. “I had a hard time starting with a blank page or screen. I would become overwhelmed by the possibilities. With photography, I could compose something out of this existing environment.” When she decided to explore new artistic ventures, Emily moved to Minneapolis to live rent free with her brother and focus on acquiring new skills while growing a body of photographic work.
While Emily was busy assisting photographers and developing her work in Minneapolis, Peter opened what was then called Hunny Digital in 2012. It began as a retouching, digital teching, and equipment rental studio for commercial shoots in Minneapolis. As Hunny Digital began to grow with clients like Target, Samsung, Adidas, and Fedex, Peter realized that more support was necessary to scale. He needed someone who had exceptional taste and interest in the image-making industry, had production experience, and could also interface with clients. At a museum get-together organized by producer and good friend Bobbi Peacock, Emily was introduced to Peter.
Emily recalls, “We hung out one or two times, talked, and then Peter brought me on-set to shadow. I then went on to get Capture One certified, learned the ins-and-outs of Hunny and quickly began to work with Hunny's clients.”
With Emily on board, Hunny Digital continued to grow but they soon found themselves feeling more creatively fulfilled when focusing on post-production. In 2016 Peter and Emily rebranded as Hunny Retouch, pivoting to focus solely on retouching and proofing.
“Retouching lets us be creative and play a larger part in creating the final image. It’s nice being able to flex your creative muscles,” Peter recalled.
Hunny Retouch became one of the go-to retouching houses for commercial clients like Benefit Cosmetics, Polaris, and Evereve to name a few as well as work with photographers like Bill Phelps, yu+ma, Brook Pifer, and Davide Luciano.
As Hunny Retouch became busier, Peter and Emily were relying more on software to help organize and streamline the retouching review and approval process with their clients. They spent a few years testing different platforms with clients, however, none were specific enough to the retouching processes to truly be effective. They were either too complex, too expensive, or caused more workflow friction than was necessary. Eventually, clients would revert back to their old way of reviewing images and communicating retouching feedback via PDFs, Google slides, emails, and screenshots, which was disorganized, hard to track, and time consuming.
Peter said, “Dealing with piecemealed feedback, unorganized files, and massive email chains is time-consuming. The time spent on organizing and sorting through information quickly accumulates. Before you know it, two hours have passed, and the actual retouching hasn’t even begun. When juggling three or four jobs simultaneously, having a systematic workflow and one source of truth is essential.
As many creatives feel with their workload, production burnout crept into the workflow. Emily remembered, “When I would see chaotic, handwritten markups on a page, I would shut down. I’d have to go through Peter to check through my work because I was constantly missing new notes or comments. It was the biggest bummer for me."
Peter & Emily began to evaluate all the pain points they were experiencing with their current workflow and the software they tried. They needed software to address smooth communication, file management, client collaboration, and track project progress; they also wanted it to be uncomplicated for creative collaborators to use. From photographer to producer and art director to agency, they needed something to provide a single source of organized communication and project tracking for team members across the board — this is where verybusy.io started to develop.
Hunny Retouch inevitably partnered with a software developer to create verybusy.io with all these capabilities in mind. After two years, verybusy.io debuted its first iteration in 2021. As verybusy.io continued to be developed through user feedback and daily use of the software by Hunny Retouch, Emily found that she could produce work that was more streamlined and precise. She said, “I’m more organized which has empowered my clients to ask me for exactly what they want and need because we have a tool that facilitates them to do that.
Peter echoed, “There are still days where I work way too much, and that's whole other issue, but it would be a lot different without verybusy.io to keep Hunny Retouch on track and organized.”
Peter, Emily, and their team are continually iterating and improving upon the platform, taking lead from user feedback and requests. A monthly newsletter goes out to their subscribers to give them clear prognosis of new updates and hints at new tools in the works to innovate within the post-production software space.
In their collective journey to improve the post-production industry, Peter and Emily have discovered a new type of creative fulfillment – one that extends beyond the creation of beautiful images, to building new solutions that empower their peers within the industry.
“I like solving problems. It’s nice to build something that makes your life and other people’s lives easier,” Peter said. “A major inspiration for us is to change parts of post-production that have been unchanged for a while.”
While verybusy.io’s goal is to be a platform that delivers upon the phrase "by creatives, for creatives," it has been created to rise up to the specific needs of its users. Emily echoed that sentiment by saying, “I like the idea of unifying everybody around something that they can all agree on. We can all agree that this is a better way to work. It goes back to our notion of having a sense of respect and admiration for our peers in this industry.”