Before every shoot I prefer to have an idea of the possibilities of the location. When shooting in a hotel room it can be difficult as the photos on the websites are not always giving the correct mood and impression of usable workspace.

We chose for this hotel room because of the different colours/style and size compared to a typical hotel room. The colours of the interior are all balanced to each other and the floor (hugging) pillows are a nice change.


Handling The (Rather Dark) Location

When arriving at a location I look at the usable places and possibilities for lighting the set(s).

  • The first thing that we noticed when entering this room was that it was pretty dark. There were no big lighters, and the available lighters where only using low power lights.
  • Everything in the room was purple blue tinted. Rather than lighting the whole area with multiple flashes and big soft boxes or umbrellas, I wanted to keep the mood of the room.
  • In every hotel room you find a bed, but the hugging pillows on the floor are something more exclusive so I decided to make use of them and let Melisa pose laying on the pillows.
  • The foot bench was originally standing on wooden feet so instead of being a nice full piece it would have shown a dark space behind Melisa and she was wearing dark lingerie so she would not separate from the background so much.
  • The side was also less interesting then the top. To solve this I flipped the bench on its side to have the top visible in the photo and get rid of the dark space under the bench.

Basic 3-Light Setup

For this set I used three lights, one main light for the model and two for the background, no available light. Later on in a next editorial I will show the same location with the use of available light coming from the lighters and again with a 3 light set up with the difference that in that set the 3 flashes were used for the model and the lighters for the background.

-Light Setup - with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. Main light (1): As I didn’t want to illuminate the whole set but only emphasize the model with my main light, I chose to use a 22x90cm/8.5’’x35’’strip light with a grid.
    This way I could prevent the key light’s beam from hitting the foot bench behind the model.
    By using this size instead of the more common 30x150cm/1’x5’ size strip light, I also got a nice fall off towards the feet/legs of the model and the accent is more on the face of the model.
  2. Background 1: Foot bench (2): To light the foot bench I used a small snoot with a grid so the light only hinted the foot bench without affecting the light on the model.
  3. Background 2: Bed/wall (3): The third light was also fitted with a snoot with grid and aimed from the side of the bed to the middle of the bed’s back.

Shooting Series Version 1

For the first version we were focusing on poses were Melisa would look upwards and therefor the main light was a bit away from the model (not just plain above her), pointing fairly downwards.

The angle is depending on the pose and shadow you want to create and because I strived to have a small shadow line under the cheekbones and under the curves of her breasts I chose that direction.

To determine the power of the light for the background I made test shots and adjusted it until I liked the effect. The back of the bed was of shiny high reflective material which needed less power and the foot bench was from textile which absorbs much more light so needed more power.

Results - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Shooting Series Version 2

For the second version we focused more on a sideward pose. Melisa was still laying but now looking more towards the camera. As the angle of the pose changed I also had to adjust the height and angle of my key light. Remember I was using a relatively small strip light with a grid and therefore the light beam is fairly narrow and the model is “out of the light” very quickly.

To keep some shadows (= plasticity) under her chin and nose I lowered the lights and leveled the angle until I got nice shadow details under her nose but also catch lights (!) in the eyes.

Although I was using a boom tripod which helps me justifying centering easily, I didn’t put the key light straight in the middle front because. I needed one side of Melisa’s face to be darker for creating visually more depth in the photo.

The background lights and camera settings remained unchanged.

Results - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography
-Light Setup - with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Notice that by changing the angle of the main light, the main light now also hits the foot bench behind Melisa. Although the effect is not that hard, the colour is a bit more vivid and there is more detail in the top of the foot bench.

Catch lights in the eyes are important to give that extra sparkle to the look of your model.

Results - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Catch Lights

Compared to the first light set-up, this angle of light gives a bit more freedom to move to the model so she can use a bigger variety in poses without having to change the light constantly.

Results - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Post Production/Photo Editing

My Workflow in General

  1. At the moment when I’m taking the photos, I already have an idea of how I will edit them and which effect I will create to get the look I am after.
  2. When I select the photos, I try to go over the photos quickly to select the ones that spark my attention. After the first selection I will look deeper into detail, to the light and shadows, the pose and look of the model.
  3. I use Lightroom for making this selection work of my photos. Depending on what the photos will be used for I will edit them further in Lightroom (LR) or in Photoshop (PS).
  4. Lightroom: If I am shooting a full set for a website (i.e. ) I just use LR to edit and finish the photos.
  5. Photoshop: If single photos will be used for i.e. a calendar or I will use only a few photos from a series in general, then I prefer to edit them in PS. Working in PS gives me greater control about my edit, I do all adjustments on separate layers (non-destructive editing) so I can adjust or cancel every change / effect separately if needed.

Workflow for this Series

The photos for this editorial are edited and finished in PS. Hereinafter you will see a series of print screens starting with the unedited photo opened directly from the selection in made in LR.

Getting Prepared

  • Before I start editing in PS, I have a look at all areas I need to retouch, always keeping the effect I want to achieve in mind. Looking at the skin, shadows, highlights, possible hot spots, dust spots, hairs that need to be removed,…
  • In my workflow I don’t draw a ‘mind map’ on a separate layer like others do (which is made invisible later) but if you prefer or start out, this could be helpful.
    For this matter please read our post “Being Prepared – by Richard Perry“.

Note: As you might know there are many different techniques you can use in PS to get to the same results. The following steps are the steps I use for this edit – sometimes in different situations I use different techniques.

In my opinion there is not really a ‘best way’ to use PS as everybody has his/her own preferences, workflow and techniques that feels most comfortable or suits the needs best.

Let’s Start Editing…

I offer you now to follow step by step through the full process.
Note: On the right side of each photo you can see the layers I have made and which are shown in the photo.

Step 1: Original Photo
Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. New Layer: After opening the photo in PS I immediately copy the background layer <Cmd+J/Ctrl+J> and call it ‘Clean-up skin’.I never edit anything directly on the background layer. This way I can always turn back to the original photo during the whole process.

Step 2: Copied Original Photo
Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. Layer: I select the ‘Clean-up skin’ layer and remove all spots like pimps, beauty marks, maybe a single hair (depending on the area). If there is a dust spot from your sensor somewhere in the photo, it can also be removed here, I call it ‘Clean-up skin’ as it’s my main goal of this layer.
  2. Skin: To do this, I use the Healing Brush tool <J>.
    • It’s important to select <Alt> a piece of skin which has the same structure as the spot you want to ‘heal’.
    • If you select a piece of skin with little or no structure to heal a piece of skin where there is a lot of structure (pores), then you will see a soft spot between the structured skin and vice versa.
    • Don’t worry about the strong skin structure at this moment, if you want to soften it, this will be handled at a later stage.
  3. Wrinkles: I don’t remove all wrinkles completely with this technique. If there are bigger wrinkles i.e. neck, then I will soften them later. When they are all removed completely with the healing brush, it’s possible you lose depth and get a more flat or fake look.
  4. Shadows: Removing shadow completely or too much can also make some body parts look much bigger and unflattering. Therefor I advise to not use the healing brush tool to remove/soften big shadow parts.These areas can be handles later in the Dodge & Burn stage (Step 3).

Result Step 2
Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Step 3: Balancing And Accentuation With Dodge & Burn

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. New Layer: Add a ‘Dodge & Burn’ (D&B) layer by adding a new layer, change the mode to overlay and select the ‘Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)’ button.
  2. To make it easier to separate the “shadows / mid tones / high lights” I add a couple of adjustment layers.
  3. The first one is a black and white layer which I call ‘Contrast skin retouch’.
    To make the contrast stronger I add a ‘Curves’ and/or ‘Brightness /Contrast’ layer which I clip to the ‘Contrast skin retouch’ layer. If I wouldn’t clip them they would affect all layers below them, plus this way I only have to make the ‘Contrast skin retouch’ layer invisible to get back to the normal photo.
  4. After the D&B process is done, adjustment layers are made invisible by deselecting the eye icon next to the ‘Contrast skin retouch’ layer.
  5. I use a soft Brush <B> at an Opacity of 1 to 3 depending on the area I am working on.
  6. To Dodge I use a black, to Burn a white background color (toggle between black and white by pressing <X>). 
  7. In-depth material about D&B: 

Result Step 3
Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Step 4: Creating An Image Look

I wanted to make the blue color to set the series tone and added a blueish shine in the darkest shadows.
Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography
Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. New Layer: To do this I added a Curves Adjustment layer and called it ‘Curves color’. In order to get the effect I want, I use a technique called Cross Processing.
  2. Cross Processing: First I selected the Blue range and pulled up the darkest shadows (blacks) to get the blueish shine in these tones. Then I pulled up the highlights and shadows a bit more to make the blue color a bit brighter.
  3. I also changed the Red curve a little bit to adjust the skin tones and create an overall warmer look, by doing this adjustment the purple look in the pillows comes out stronger again too. If I would only adjust the Blue curve, the purple tint would be nearly gone.
  4. The Green and RGB curves are untouched in this step. Depending on the color effect I want, I will or won’t adjust the green curve. The RGB curve always stays untouched in this step

Step 5: Adding More Contrast

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. New Layer: Now I add another Curves Adjustment layer and call it ‘Curves Contrast’. In this layer I will only adjust the RGB curve, the separate color curves will not be touched in this layer.
    In this case, I only pulled up the mid tones a bit.

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Step 6: Bringing Back Warm Skin Tones

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. New Layer: Due to the adjustment of the blue curve in the ‘Curves Color’ layer, the skin tones got a slightly blueish shine too. As I want the skin tones to be warmer and more natural, I added a ‘Color Balance’ adjustment layer.
  2. First I selected the ‘Midtones’ and pulled the Yellow down to -25 to give the skin tones a warmer look.
  3. Because the shadows lost the blueish look partly, I selected the ‘Shadows’ and pulled the blues up to +5.

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

Step 7: Sharpening & Adding Noise

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

At this point I have made all adjustments concerning color, contrast and skin retouch that I wanted to do. Now I will sharpen the photo and because of the colour adjustments (which can create some strange color shifts in the transition from lighter to darker areas sometimes) I will add a little bit of noise.

  1. To do this I will copy all layers using the following method:
    • I select the top layer, press <Cmd + A/Ctrl +A> then —> <Cmd + Shift + C/ Ctrl + Shift + C> then —> <Cmd + V/Ctrl +V>.
    • Now I have a single layer with all adjustment on top of the separate layers and call this layer ‘Unsharp mask + noise’.
  2. I will sharpen the photo using the ‘Unsharp Mask’ filter and add noise using the ‘Add Noise’ filter. The amount of sharpening depends on the photo, the amount of noise is usually between 0.5 and 2, but as low as possible.

Step 8: Watermarking
All I need to do now is adding my copyright logo. I open the PSD or PNG file of the logo and copy it on the photo.

Editing - 3-light setup with Melisa Mendini - David Jorissen Photography

  1. Using <Cmd + T/Ctrl +T> I adjust the size of the logo. When I resize the logo, I always click Shift so the ratio stays the same. To move the logo to the desired place I use the ‘move tool’ <V>.
  2. If you want to quickly move the logo to i.e. the center of the photo, the center bottom, or left / right bottom of the photo, you can select both the © logo layer and ‘unsharp mask + noise’ layer, select the ‘move tool’ <V> and choose the desired align button on top of the workspace.

PS: Don’t forget to safe your progress on a regular basis 🙂 !

Take Your Time, Make it Great!

A last, important tip I want to provide (based on a mistake I sometimes make myself): Don’t try to be too fast! Take your time to finish your edit. If you feel you are done, take a break, do something else, clear your mind, let it rest and look back at your photo the next day (if time permits, of course).

If you are still happy with the result… – great! But maybe your eyes were tired and you missed some part you wanted to edit (e.g. a little shadow you still want to remove or soften, or the color that isn’t exactly what you are after…).

It’s better to wait just a bit longer than to publish the photo online and then you have to take it down just to do some rework (= final finish 🙂 ).

Gear List Used For This Shoot

  • Full Frame DSLR
  • 50mm, f1.8
  • 3x Speedlights
  • Key: 1x 22x90cm/8.5’’x35’’ Striplight
  • Background 1: 1x Snoot w/ Grid
  • Background 2: 1x Snoot w/ Grid

Thanks for following! Hope to see you again next time here for another tutorial.

I love to hear from you! Don’t hesitate to ask any questions or giving me feedback in the comment section below!