How in the heck did I go from this image on the left, to the image on the right…
Disclaimer: I am not obsessed with my looks, and I am the furthest from being a model. However, I am my only readily available model, and am willing to work for free :)
This is a post inspired by one of my favorite bloggers on WordPress, Stacy over at Visual Venturing.
Stacy and I have been blogger buddies for quite a while, and we’ve watched each other improve our photography skills over that time… at least, I’ve seen Stacy drastically improve the quality of her photography. For nearly six months, she has been running a weekly feature on her blog called “After-Before Friday” where she she shares her post-processing techniques in a video, as well as the image processing of other fellow bloggers. I’ve wanted to participate for quite a while, and I felt that this was the perfect time to jump in.
As you can see from the image on the left, there’s only a hint of a subject in the image. The funny thing is that that same image looked a lot nicer on the back of my camera, which goes to show that you should never fully trust what you see on the tiny screen on your camera… which is actually a compressed jpeg version of your RAW file.
Being a RAW shooter, I thought I’d take on the challenge of trying to bring this image back to life, and through this post I’ll show you how I did it.
My original intent with this lighting setup was to create a dramatic low-key black and white image, but when I converted the image, something just didn’t feel right. So I started over.
Often when I’m not sure of the direction I’d like to take with an image, I’ll press the “Auto” button and let Lightroom begin my journey. What Auto does, is look at all the light and dark areas, and make it’s best guess on the exposure, and in this instance it added five stops of exposure, removed a lot of contrast, and adjusted the light and dark sliders. Unfortunately, this resulted in a well lit, unfocused, and dull image.
MANUAL TONE ADJUSTMENTS
If you’ve ever seen one of my images, you’ll know that I love adding clarity and contrast to my images. In an attempt to draw attention back to my face and my “intense stare” (insert laughs and insulting jokes here), I reduced exposure by two stops, increased clarity to 100%, and manually added contrast by drastically adjusting the highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks sliders. This instantly brings the focus back to my face.
To black out the background and maintain the low-key effect I envisioned, I brought in a radial filter and two graduated filters so I could reduce the background exposure by nearly three stops and create a black backdrop to my scene.
After a couple more highlight/shadow adjustments, an increase to vibrance, and a decrease in saturation, I completed my “movie poster” look by cropping the image to a 16×9 aspect ratio.
EYE ENHANCEMENTS (Adjustment Brush)
I next used the adjustment brush to make the eyes pop! Here, I basically boosted the exposure, highlights, and clarity slightly, so that they catch light was more visible and they eyes looked more alive.
Lastly, I made a few slight adjustments to the orange and red tones in my skin, made a slight increase to overall exposure, a reduction on the highlights slider, and the image was complete!
Thank you so much for following along on this longer than normal blog post, but I had fun sharing how I worked on this image. I probably won’t do this every week, but I’ll definitely participate in Stacy’s forum again soon. In the meantime, click on over to Visual Venturing to see Stacy’s work… I know you’ll like what you see.
I’d love to hear what you thought of the post – what you liked, what you didn’t like, what you would have done differently. My favorite posts are the ones that generate great discussion in the comments, so please chime in.