Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photo Thoughts: Soft Skin

Ever since I read Scott Kelby’s new book, Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers using Photoshop, I’ve been itching to retouch some portraits. I’ve got tons in the queue that need to be done, so I started with this one as I’ve had requests to see more of this model after this Photography Notebook entry of this model was published.

NOTE: My apologies for not showing a before shot in this article, but out of respect to the model I’ve elected not to do that this time.

How I Processed This Shot

The techniques in Scott’s book are great and I want to use every one of them, but the problem I find right now is that I’m stuck in my old ways. When I’m in a hurry, as I was when imaging this shot, I resort back to doing what I always do. I know from my experimentations while reading Scott’s book I can get more natural and better results using his methods, but I need to find some time to practice them more so they become my first thought for processing.

With that said, here’s how I imaged this shot on a calibrated NEC PA Series display:

  1. The original background was a little darker than I would have liked and the model was a touch under exposed, so I processed both separately using Smart Objects in Photoshop and merged them together. I didn’t spend much time on this because the real work to clean up the background came in the next step.
  2. Next up I used Viveza to brighten all the white spots of the background and put separate control points on the model to keep her from being bleached out. I brightened her up some, but naturally note like the background which I wanted to be pure RGB 255,255,255.

    I also added a little color to the lipstick to give it more oomph.
  3. This model’s skin was in pretty decent shape, but I went ahead and just did a few content-aware healing brush touchups on a few moles and skin imperfections. I also removed some of the major stray hairs. I did this right on the Viveza layer, but I should have done it on its own layer. I was just in a hurry and didn’t take the time to do that.
  4. Next up I used the medium skin softening preset in Portraiture. It’s a little aggressive for some, but for this model I like heavy softening so I stuck with it.
  5. The next step was to use Color Efex with its Tonal Contrast filter. I checked the “Conventional High Pass Filter” checkbox and brought the midpoint slider down to zero. Once I had it back in Photoshop I set the blend mode to Soft Light and reduced the layer opacity down to 51%. The net result is that I had a taste of this filter that gave the skin more edge definition.
  6. The skin was feeling a touch too dark for my taste so I came in again with Viveza to brighten it up selectively in spots. I used a mask to touch a few spots to keep them from being overblown.
  7. I dodged the whites and iris of the eyes, and then burned the rest. I also did a High Pass Filter with an Overlay Blending mode on the eyes to give them the wet glassy look I like.
  8. The image looked pretty good to me, but I wanted to sharpen the clothes and some of the hair for display output, so I used Sharpener Pro. I used just a quick rough mask to only apply the sharpening where I wanted it and at the level I liked for this image.
  9. I capped this one off by putting my logo on it.

This was a pretty simple edit that took about 30 – 40 minutes start to finish – mostly because I’m slow. Overall I’m pretty happy with the final result as I got the look I had in mind when I started imaging it. However, I realize it may not be to the taste of those who prefer much more subtle editing. That’s again where Scott’s book comes in, so I hope to try his method on one of the images from this series just to compare the results with this workflow.

Here’s a screen shot of my layers palette in Photoshop CS5.1 Extended for Windows:

image

Technical Details

I shot this with a Canon 5D Mark II using my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens dialed in at 80mm and I was at f/11 for 1/160 sec @ ISO 160 thanks to my studio lights working hard for me.

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1 comment:

CostanzaPhoto.com said...

I'm reading Scott's book now, love it! I may do the same this evening, gotta practice!