Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Portrait Post Processing

A friend of mine has been getting quite into his photography recently. It's really nice at that stage to compare yourself to others and see how people do things differently from you and what various techniques people employ. Of course the best way to learn is by doing and soon it all starts to make sense. Anyway, this chappy took a portrait shot of his other half and we used the RAW file to see how each of us process our shots. This is by no means exclusive and I'm sure plenty of the photographers that I look up to would shun what I've done here and do things completely different. Oh well, I only spent 10 mins on it so tough, this is all you're getting. So this is the original. It's not a bad wee shot. It's ambient light only from camera right but that is introducing some shadow on the the right side of Sam's face. The background is quite plain which is ok but it therefore doesn't really lend itself to depth of field. It's also a bit similar in colour to her top and eyes and skin tone so this makes everything a bit bland. As with every single person I've ever photographed, there are routine skin blemishes but those are easily dealt with.
This is my friend's version of the shot after processing. I'm not sure of his setting but there are a few things that are worth saying about it - from a personal view point of course. First the colour. It's a bit too warm. Not that that's a bad thing but the issues here is all the colours involved in the picture are from the same palate and this makes every aspect of the picture quite samey. Also there is the issue that warming up a whole picture also warms up the blues to orange and I've got a feeling that in real life Sam's eyes are blue but here they have gone grey due to the warm white balance used. There is that lock of hair at the top of the shot which is quite distracting and should probably be cloned out. I also think that the tone makes her look a bit flushed and although some of the blemishes have been removed, overall I think that there is a loss of contrast in the face. I think also there is some fill light that's been used on her right side and that helps with the shadows but that again reduces the contrast and there is a lack of "pop" in the result.
Ok, so this is my version. I realise that it's a bit overdone but this helps illustrate the points I was making above. So what have I done here. Well I opened the original in lightroom. I've used the following settings.
White Balance
temp - 4793K tint +14
Dropped the exposure by -0.25 Recovery 15 fill light 40 blacks 5 brightness +53 contrast +36
Clarity +23 Vibrance +13 Saturation -4
Tone Curve
Highlights +11 Lights +24 Darks -1 Shadows -5 The only other thing I did in light room was to introduce a post crop vignette of -14 to separate the subject from the background a bit. Then I opened the newly saved JPEG in Photoshop and cloned out the hair strand at the top. I used the heal tool to remove a some of the skin blemishes next. Finally I then saved the shot and then opened it again in Portrait Professional to even the skin tone and play with the eyes. One thing I would say about this kind of software is that it is very VERY easy to overdo is and with only a small amount of tweaking this shot already is beginning to look quite fake so be subtle. Now, if you don't have this program there is still things that you can do. You can either use the brush in Lightroom and change the contrast and saturation of the eyes. Or you can use the magic lasso tool in Photoshop and highlight the eyes and then play about with the levels and the saturation to achieve a similar effect. Also the dodge and burn tool helps to locally increase highlights or shadow to create some local contrast. It's also worth noting that if you use the Lightroom brush you can put the sharpness slider right down and that actually introduces some subtle softness to skin too. Anyway, I hope you get the drift. There are millions of possibilities and eventually you'll find a way to make a shot work in Post Processing that didn't necessarily work in-camera. Good luck. Z

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