It’s been a while since I posted a before and after that shows you my editing process. My workflow and editing has changed a bit since I last posted; I’m starting to favor a more clean look with a slight pop of color and a tiny bit of cross-processing. I love a lot of the current styles for photography that include artistic editing – vintage haze, color washes, textures – but, even though I’ve included these in a few select photos I’ve edited, I just find I favor a more classic look with just a hint of processing. I like to think of it as enhancing
So today, I’m going to share my editing process, from start to finish! Some photographers are more guarded with their post-processing Photoshop secrets, but I like the idea of sharing and learning from others. Keep in mind, this is what I’ve found to work for me currently. I edit each photo my clients receive individually and I’m guessing that in 6 months, I would edit this photo a bit differently as my preferences and vision develops and changes.
Alright, we start with this as our before image, from a senior session I did this week with Jorie:
This is SOOC (straight-out-of-camera), shot with my Nikon D700 in RAW using auto white balance on a pretty gray and cold day, during early afternoon. It was shot using my 85 1.4, and the settings you can see on the image – ISO 200, 1/1600 shutter speed, and f 2.0. I’ve pulled this straight out of Lightroom – no sharpening or anything.
Alright, let’s start in Lightroom:
The first thing I did was change the Camera Calibration to Camera Portrait, and up the white balance temperature to warm the image up a bit. I’ll tweak the WB more in Photoshop later on.
Next, I used the recovery slider to bring back a little bit of detail in the highlights – the main difference you can see is on her cheeks. I also brought the black slider up a bit to add a bit more depth. It’s super subtle, but I can see the difference.
In the Color panel, I raised the luminance in the oranges – this helps brighten the skin a bit, without making Jorie look too washed out or too orange. Again, this is pretty subtle.
After playing around a bit with the luminance slider for the oranges, I dialed it back a bit since it was too much – I ended up leaving it at +6. That’s all I’m going to do in Lightroom for now – I could go further, but I’m going to do the rest in Photoshop.
I tend to use a lot of adjustment layers in Photoshop, so I start with my three basic ones – a white balance correction for the skin, a soft light adjustment layer to add some pop, and a levels adjustment to bring a bit of contrast in. You’ll notice on the screen grab below there are a bunch of hash-marks on Jorie’s face – these are eye-dropper samples on her skin. I use the eye-dropper to sample a few spots to double check the white balance on the skin using CMYK values. I won’t go into great detail about how this all works, but basically, Jorie’s skin needed a bit more yellow in it to warm things up. Using a curves adjustment, I dropped the curve in the blue channel just a bit to achieve the proper white balance for her skin. Next, I added another curves adjustment layer, and set the blending mode to soft light – this adds a bit of pop. I lowered the opacity to about 50% so it’s not too strong. I can always add more later on. Finally, using a levels adjustment layer, I was able to add some contrast by shifting the shadows a bit. You can see that these three adjustment layers accomplished quite a bit in adding some life to the image!
A side note – when I first started using Photoshop, I felt super-overwhelmed by all of the adjustment layers and preferred actions. Photoshop intimidated me! While this is totally fine, there is a LOT you can do using simple adjustment layers, and it’s super quick. I definitely encourage you to experiment with these!
After making my basic adjustments, then I start to play a bit more For this photo of Jorie, I wanted it to be a bit punchy, but not too much. Thus, I used a cross-processing action and lowered the opacity to 12% for a subtle change:
Next, I used an action from MCP Actions Fusion set – Sentimental. It’s one of my favorites! Again, I lowered the opacity quite a bit – Sentimental is at 8%, and the base One Click Color is at 15%. I also ran Magic Markers from the same action set, and painted across some of the brick, wooden door, and a little bit of Jorie’s hair to add a bit of depth and richness.
Next, I focused on Jorie’s skin. Usually I do skin retouching first, but for some reason this time I didn’t. I think her skin looks great, so I’m just did a bit of work on her left cheek and chin. After zooming in, I made a duplicate layer for my skin retouching.
Next, I used the patch tool and sampled from her upper left cheek, and used that to retouch the lower part of her left cheek, fading the opacity to about 70%. She’s got some cute freckles and I don’t want to lose those, so I’m mostly just trying to even things out a tad. I also used a brush set to a low opacity and sampled colors from her skin, brushing cover her nose, forehead, chin, and cheeks. Again, this is just to smooth things out a bit.
Next, I made another adjustment layer and set it to Multiply, and inverted the layer so the mask is completely black. I painted some of the adjustment back in using a white brush around the corners and bottom of the image – a simple way to “burn” the edges. I also cropped the image a bit.
After the Multiply layer:
The last thing I do is resize for the web, and sharpen the image for the web using a USM filter and some masking. I’m kind of picky about sharpening, so I don’t use it for the full image – I use a mask and a brush for it. Yes, it’s slower, but I like the way it looks better then sharpening the entire image. After sharpening:
And that’s it! Here’s a reminder of the before:
Looking at them together, I may have dialed back the contrast/pop a bit, but I still like it enough to keep it
I’m sure I could be even more detailed about how this worked, adding little arrows and diagrams, but hopefully this was still helpful for some people!