Well, here I am again with another post describing my image processing techniques. This time I decided to spare you the self portrait, and instead, use a proper model. Once again, this post will also be part of the After-Before Friday series, curated by Stacy over at Visual Venturing.
Here is the final image, but I will walk you through my editing process below. And please note that I have left the stray hairs in the image, because I do all of my image processing in Lightroom, and I have NO idea how to use Photoshop.
As I’ve mentioned in several posts before, I absolutely love shooting people and using off-camera flash. and oddly enough, this image came from only my second strobist-style shoot.
Though I enjoy scanning Instagram for those bright, natural light, vintage-style images that are used by so many wedding and lifestyle photographers, I personally like to play with the balance and relationship between shadow and light. At the time of this shoot, I owned nothing more than one flash unit, the Yongnuo YN-560 II, and a basic Westcott shoot-through umbrella.
Here is the image straight out of the camera. You can read a lot about the importance of the histogram and setting the correct white balance in your camera, but I find those points to be largely irrelevant. As you can see, the auto white balance brought out more of the blue tones, and made this image appear slightly colder than it should be, but that’s easily fixed in Lightroom. The histogram leads you to believe that the image is largely under exposed, but you can see that it is actually fairly well exposed, and very appropriate for the mood I was aiming for. Her dark hair, the shadow on her back, and the grey background largely contribute to the skewed histogram interpretation of the image.
WHITE BALANCE & EXPOSURE ADJUSTMENTS
My first step when working with an image is to always correct the white balance and exposure. When shooting with flash, you can often get a pleasing result when you adjust the white balance to Daylight. I also felt that the exposure only need a slight increase… about an 8th of a stop.
When using Lightroom, I typically work my way down the adjustment panel beginning with white balance and exposure, as mentioned above. Here I dive a little deeper into the image by heavily increasing the highlights and shadows, slightly increasing the whites, and dropping the blacks. This is me basically creating my own “contrast” mix.
In my previous post, people found this next step slightly unusual, but I increased the clarity to +31. I did this to help bring out the highlights and shadows a bit more and make the image slightly more three dimensional.
BRUSH STROKE – hair and highlights
I wanted to make the model’s hair less flat, and give it a boost of contrast. Using the adjustment brush, I painted over the hair and slightly increased the exposure, highlights, clarity, and sharpness.
In the image below, you can see that the model’s hair in the image on the left lacks detail and shine, whereas the highlight streak in the image on the right is brighter and more defined, and her hair now has more detail in it.
ADJUSTMENT BRUSH – shadows
I next painted over the shadow areas of her face and darkened the shadows a little. You’ll notice from the red highlighted areas that I was relatively specific about which areas I wanted to bring out more shadows. You’ll see the adjustment in the next image.
Here is the before and after of the shadow treatment. It is a fairly subtle adjustment, but it helps add further depth to the model’s facial structure.
ADJUSTMENT BRISH – soften skin
Though you saw me increase the clarity of the overall image, I tend to like to slightly soften the skin of my female subjects. Though Sara is young, and has very nice smooth skin to begin with, it doesn’t hurt to enhance that ever so slightly. With men though, it often helps to do the opposite and increase the clarity.
The amount of softening you do will depend on your model and the look you’re hoping to achieve, but I find that an adjustment somewhere in the -30 to -50 range often creates a nice, but still very realistic result.
Below, you can see the before and after of the skin softening. It’s a subtle adjustment, but I feel like you shouldn’t really be able to see that the adjustment has been made.
Lastly, I made a slightly closer crop on the image, made one more minor clarity adjustment, and adjusted the vibrance and saturation to get the slightly desaturated look I like. I finished it off with a slight vignette, and you have the final image that can be seen at the top of the post.
I hope you found this little tutorial helpful, and I hope that I was able to bring something different than I had in my last image processing post. Looking at this image, there are a lot of things I would do differently if I was shooting it over again, but those things also include using the additional flashes and accessories I now own. But that’s a story for another day.