Maybe it’s Photoshop.
For a long time now I’ve wanted to show a before and after of original versus retouched images on the blog. I’ve wanted to show my clients and potential future clients why it’s worth it to purchase the high resolution fully retouched color corrected images – and why I can’t sell them for cheap. Work this good takes time and effort and consideration – as well as pretty expensive software!
But I would never want to put a client’s before image on display – or embarrass them by pointing out what specifically got retouched on them. So, this week I had my amazing husband snap a quick headshot of me. And I’m going to break down exactly what goes down between shooting the image and sending your image to print or burning it to disc if you purchase the digital file.
Above is the original image, straight out of the camera. Not a bad picture of me. I wouldn’t cry if it was posted this way – but it could be so much better! First of all, the contrast is a little dull, the exposure a little dark and the colors a little muted. Overall it almost appears to have a hazy grey cast over it. So we’ll start by doing a general color correction. This is not a magic button – I do not use auto correct – the results just are never good enough. I go through and uniquely adjust exposure, contrast, color, highlights, shadows, and much more.
A little overall color correction went a long way towards making this image better. But I’d still like to tweak it even more. I like my images to be very bright and vibrant and skin to look almost luminescent. A few intelligent filters applied and tweaked to the right levels in Photoshop should do the trick.
Now I’m happy with the color. Before I start the fine retouching process, I like to start with a minor amount of liquefying. I NEVER want my clients to not look like themselves – but my hope is that they see in their images the way they look on their very best day. I want them to see their clearest skin, brightest eyes and slimmest face. Now I could very easily remove 20-30 lbs off someone’s face or body, but I prefer just to remove the equivalent of maybe 5-10 lbs. I want to create a very subtle change that simply makes them look their absolute best. Below, you can see the minor adjustment that happens after I make some adjustments to my cheeks and neck for a subtle slimming effect.
I zoomed in a little closer in case you couldn’t tell the difference in the first side by side.
Now it’s time to do the artistic retouching. I generally go through and clean up stray hairs, blemishes, soften wrinkles, erase lint, etc. There is no magic button that does this without completely making the subject look “glowing” or very “soft” almost fuzzy. This is a very careful process that’s done “by hand” (well, by mouse). My goal is to retain some texture and character in the subject’s face – but to remove or soften distracting elements.
And lastly, some final adjustments are applied. Brightening of eyes, whitening of teeth, adding some color to the lips, putting some shine in the hair, and a final sharpening of the image.
All this took about 20 minutes. This is the work that goes in to every fine art print or digital image ordered from me. I work my hardest to make my clients look like they do on their very best day in the very best light possible – but I still want them to look like them – not like they’ve been through the Glamour Magazine Retouching Machine.Here is the final image: I still look like me, right?
And because things are always better with a really great before and after, here’s the before and after from the image straight out of the camera to the image at the end.
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