I have got a lot of inquiries lately (more than normal) on how I do the post processing work on my images… this image on Demolita Mortier in particular so I thought that it might make more sense to write about it here rather than to keep writing something out over and over. Time is money right?
To be completely honest though, I don’t know if a lot of what I’m about to say will make sense to a lot of people but I’ll do the best I can… and considering a lot of this information applies to the majority of my edited images to some degree or another, it might help people make sense of why I do what I do to my photos.
A couple of disclaimers before we start:
* This will all be written in Photoshop speak.
* I use textures a lot in my editing. There are plenty of them out there available for free so just do some surfing around to find ones you like.
* The two things you will definitely hear me talking about are Blending Modes and Masking. Click the links to find out a bit more about these two Photoshop tools but please take the time to try and understand them… play with them and experiment on your own images because they will certainly make more options available to you while editing.
* I do all of my editing using a Wacom tablet. It’s saves the hand from aching and allows me greater control. You don’t need to have one but it sure does help if you’re doing a lot of Photoshop work.
So getting down to it… below is the original image.
1 . As you can see, nothing overly fancy going on here. This was shot in my dining room using nothing more than the stool Demolita was sitting on (which you can’t see anyway), the blank wall behind her and she was lit using a very simple Strobist (off camera flash) set up consisting of a Canon Speedlight 580EX on a light stand and a white translucent umbrella which was set up to the camera right.
2. The next step was to simply drop a texture layer on top of the image and change the Blending Mode to Multiply. It was adding this layer and changing the blending mode that inspired me because the soft brown tones instantly gave the image a slightly old world feel to it. The reason for changing the blending mode to Multiply was because I had a light coloured background to work with and if I used overlay or soft light instead, the texture would have been visible on the model but not the background which would have been rather pointless.
3. Now that I had my base line sorted out, I added a second texture layer to give it some extra interest and well… texture. I’m not entirely sure why I changed the blending mode to subtract here but I do normally play around and experiment until I find something that looks right and that is probably what happened in this case. Remember, I edit artistically and not technically so it all kind of goes on feel from here on in.
4. Another texture layer was then added to the image and the blending mode was changed to multiply. This layer was added just to give the background a little more interest or pop… could have been left out but I liked the addition so left it in there. Again, this layer was then selectively masked out to only be revealed in the areas of the image that I wanted them to be.
5 & 6. These two layers were simply included in the edit to add some flourish to the background. I didn’t want them to be especially visible and I didn’t want them to cover the image so there was some heavy masking applied to these layers to only leave a little appear on the image.
7. This is where I start to get into the finer details of the image. Using the cloning tool I zoom right into the image and start to remove things like blemishes from the model’s face or unwanted elements that might be on the clothes (such as stray threads) or the background. This step can be very quick or very drawn out depending on the image but this is one area of the processing where I would urge you to take your time. Be picky, be obsessive… because it’s worth it in the end.
8. This is where I did a little skin retouching to the image using Imagenomic Portraiture… I rate this Photoshop plugin very highly and have used it for a long time on my portrait images. Now the thing about doing the skin retouching with this image is the overall brownish tones of the image are closely related to the skin tones on the model’s face and the plugin therefore applied the adjustments to the image. Obviously I didn’t want that so there was another layer mask added and the unwanted effect was removed from everywhere but the actual skin… then the layer was reduced to 86% opacity so that it was a more subtle adjustment.
We’re nearly finished! Now we get to the really fun stuff…
9. Now we start getting really creative with it. From here I will apply what I call a ‘safety layer’. In Photoshop you press and hold SHIFT, CTRL & ALT together then press E and that is the keyboard shortcut for merging all visible layers into a new layer… a very handy little shortcut!
From here I put the image in the NIK Software plugin called Color Efex Pro 4 and played around with it a bit. I’m not entirely sure what I used exactly… I have a heap of saved presets I have already made up and I more than likely started from there but more importantly… this is where the final feel of the image starts to come together in terms of brightness and colors.
Depending on your level of ability using NIK software, this part of the process can be very quick although if you’re only just starting out with it take your time and experiment with different options and results. Once you hit OK it applies your selections on a seperate layer and if you decide it’s not right it’s very easy to go back a layer and start again.
(Don’t forget to check out my Freebie page for a handful of free presets you can download an use in your projects as well once your done here!)
Just one more step to go!
10. Without a doubt the most important part of the whole post processing cycle… and the most fun part (well for me anyway) as well because this is where you can really add depth to the final image. There are many ways to add the dodging and burning to your images with Photoshop and it will pay to try as many as you can to find the right technique that works for you but my biggest piece of advise at this point of your photo editing is to apply it lightly.
If you try to apply your dodge and burn too heavily to save time it will be very obvious in the result and let’s face it… after all the work we’ve just done, do you want to rush it and ruin the image to save a few extra minutes? I sometimes even save my image and walk away for a while before applying this step, mainly because everything starts blurring together after a while and it helps to give my old eyes a little rest… like I said, this is an important part of the process.
So there you have it. In the end the editing for this image from start to finish took me around 90 minutes but that is only because I have done this many times before. I have edited images over a number of days and weeks… whatever it takes to get the right result so please, don’t rush your editing. There is very rarely a magic button that will transform your images and it can take some vision, dedication and patience…
I’d just like to finish off this post by saying something that I have said time and again… I mainly take photos so that I can play around with Photoshop. It’s that simple really. Yes, I love the creative process of setting up shoots and taking photos a lot but more than that I love getting them into Photoshop, putting on some music and picking up my Wacom pen. You see, as soon as a photo is opened up in Photoshop I stop thinking of it as a photo and more like a piece of art. Not a blank canvas mind you but the basis of what’s to come and I try very hard to draw something extra out of each photo.
It’s a purely selfish artistic love affair I suppose and each image is caressed until I can walk away satisfied.