As always, before I start shooting I want to have an idea about the potential look I can create at that specific location. I always imagine the possibilities of different final results that I could create there.
If I would not be able to come up imagine anything interesting (based on my opinion and taste), then I usually don’t use the location.
This time we were lucky to stay in a beautiful villa on the Island of Mallorca (Spain). The villa was built with natural stones and had a big old wooden door which would be perfect to be implemented in a photo.
There was also a beautiful spacious garden but due to privacy (neighbours) suitable places were rather limited compared to the size of the garden.
Shooting: Part 1
For the first part, we used the garden area to shoot in. There were common deciduous trees, palm trees, plants and flowers that made a nice surrounding.
Here’s what I decided ad-hoc, right away after selecting the spot in the location:
- Rather than putting Melisa next to or right in front of a tree, I wanted to use the ‘scenery’ as background. The trees would have been visually too dominant and competing with the model.
- The main focus literally had to be on Melisa with the garden blurred out (= shallow depth of field).
To do this I chose a spot in the garden where the subject would be freestanding and had the sun on her left backside.
- To illuminate her I chose to use 1 speedlight with a foldable beauty dish, a combination which is very easy and fast to set up.
The light was positioned at the right front side of Melisa. The height of the light’s axis was depending on the pose of her: standing or kneeling. So I just adjusted the correct height during the shooting flow.
- The natural light character we got was unfortunately not constantly the same as there were some clouds, resulting in the sun was shining harsh, medium or disappeared completely.
I chose to underexpose the background a bit so in case the sun would come out, I would still have details in the highlights, knowing that, if necessary, I could brighten-up shadow areas later during post processing.
- To make Melisa standing out even more, I used a white balance of 3450°K, which is rather unusual for this kind of setup.
Of course I didn’t want her to have a cold bluish-grey looking skin tone. No, to compensate for this colour temperature setting I used a 1/2 CTO (orange) gel in front of the foldable beauty dish. The light hits Melisa but not the background, so she got warmer, more natural looking skin tones while the background had a colder colour tint, creating a bigger separation between her and the background.
Shooting: Part 2
For the second part of this set we chose to use the old wooden door of the villa.
- We chose the door because of its beautiful structure and the natural stones of the villa itself would form a nice soft, warm background.
- Again the focus had to be on Melisa. When posing at the door it wasn’t possible to have her standing freely somewhere. To get a better separation between Melisa and the background, I shot most of the photos from a side axis (not plain frontal!), so I had a part of the villa’s wall in front and behind her.
By using an aperture of f/3.2 with a focal length between 90mm and 195mm, I created a shallow depth of field, letting the areas in front and behind Melsia falling out of focus. This also helped to create a composition which guides you through the photo directly towards the subject. It is a much more pleasing and interesting look than having everything in focus.
- To illuminate Melisa I used the same equipment as in the garden setup. This time the light was positioned in front of her, pointing straight towards the door.
The light was positioned in an axis a bit above Melisa’s eye level. The power of the flash was not too high, just enough to give an extra “punch” of light on her but low enough to balance it nicely with the available light.
In this case the light would have hit the background, meaning if it had been too powerful, we would get a spot effect on the overall look. That’s not what I was looking for. I needed to have the scene as naturally lit as possible.
- By now the sun was hidden behind the house, meaning Melisa was in a constant shade. Because the sky was meant to be incorporated for some shots and I wanted have at least a bit of details visible, I underexposed the background again. Of course I was taking care not to underexpose too much for not losing too much of the details in the shadows parts.
- Just as with the garden photos, I used the same white balance and 1/2 CTO gel to create a different look and bigger visual separation.
Light was directed towards the door, slightly above themelisa’s eye level. With the light positioned like this, I was able to shoot from every side of the door (left, right, and straight) without having to change my light at all.
Post Production/Photo Editing
My Workflow in General
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Lightroom: If I am shooting a full set for a website (i.e. MelisaMendini-world.com ) I just use LR to edit and finish the photos.
- 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 were edited both in Lightroom and in Photoshop. The colour editing and contrast was done in LR, the skin retouch and overall finish of the photo was applied in PS.
Hereinafter you will see a series of print screens starting with the LR edits which are then opened in PS to finish the photos.
- 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.
In this tutorial I use i.e. a different Dodge & Burn technique then in my previous tutorial. The technique used in this tutorial, gives more flexibility for adjustments.
Let’s Start Editing…
I offer you now to follow step by step through the full process:
A. Lightroom – Working On Original Photos
Step 1: Import the photo into LR.
Step 2: Image Look
For this series I chose to do the colour adjustments and to create the image-look mostly in LR. I did this by following next steps.
↓ Slightly adjustments of RGB-curve to increase contrast.
To create an image-look by using colour corrections I use a technique called ‘Cross Processing’.
↓Depending on the look I want to achieve, I adjust each tone curve ‘Red/Green/Blue’ separately.
The best way to get this technique under control is to just play with the various curves and to see which effects are created on your photo.
Once you are more familiar with the process, it will become much easier and goes faster to get the specific look you are after.
This particular photo was shot with 3700°K in-camera. During the shoot I changed the white balance to see if it gets a better effect but I must have skipped two turns on my camera’s dial when setting it back.
↓ To equalize my mistake I had to change it to 3450°K in LR to have the same white balance as all other photos.
I also added a bit of contrast.
↓ As last step I added a bit of Vignette. By adding just a tiny little bit of Vignetting, I create a look that draws the viewer more “into the photo”.
Be careful not to make it too strong as it will look too obvious, too faked. I just prefer it to be subtle.
At this stage I have finished to biggest portion of creating the image-look. In PS I will still add a bit of contrast with a B&W layer later but I will not adjust any RGB curves anymore.
↓ The next the photo shows what I have done so far in LR, it’s the intermediate result of the post-processing work.
Next step is to finalize the photo in Photoshop (PS).
B1. Photoshop: Skin Retouching
In this process I did all of the skin retouching steps and enhanced sharpness.
Note: In this tutorial I will us a variation of the ‘D&B’ technique in used in my previous tutorial. I will also use a plugin called ‘Portraiture’ by Imagenomic to speed up the skin retouching process.
Step 1: Open the photo with the LR edits in Photoshop.
Step 2: 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.
BTW: I call it ‘Clean-up skin’ as it’s my main goal of this layer.
Step 3: Working on ‘Clean-up skin’ 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.
Step 4: Retouching Skin Process
- 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.
Step 5: 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.
Step 6: Shadows
Removing a shadow completely or too much can also let appear some body parts look much bigger and unflattering. Therefor I advise not to use the Healing Brush tool to remove/soften big shadow parts. These areas can be handled later in the Dodge & Burn stage (B2).
↓ Result step ‘Clean-up skin’ layer:
Step 7: Skin Smoothening With A Filter (Plugin)
For this photoset I will use a filter to smoothen the skin after cleaning it up. As mentioned in my previous tutorial, when the photo will be used for printing, I usually do this by ‘Dodging & Burning’ but by using the ‘Portraiture’ plugin , I can speed up the process significantly.
The advantage of this plugin is that you can change the settings manually. It also uses a mask so it doesn’t affect the whole photo. If it affects parts which you don’t want to be smoothened, then you can easily remove it by adding a layer mask.
The plugin automatically generates a new layer which I call ‘Smooth Skin’. The opacity of this layer can be adjusted if the effect is too strong. As you see on the print screen below, when selecting the skin tones, other parts in the photo are also selected if they have the same colour (i.e Reds).
By applying a layer mask onto the layer created by this filter, you can easily remove the effect with a brush. As with most filters, I think the effect is too strong and the skin looks too faked. So, to lower the effect, you can adjust the opacity of the layer.
↓ This only applies if you have the plugin ‘Portraiture’ installed.
To apply the filter:
- Go to Filter, select Imagenomic, change the settings as desired and press OK.
- A new layer will be made automatically. It will be called ‘Clean up skin copy’ but I immediately change it to ‘Smooth Skin’.
Step 8: Tweaking Skin’s Softening Results
Because ‘Portraiture’ effects applied will also soften some of the edges and detail in i.e. clothes or the background:
- I select and copy the ‘Clean up skin’ layer
- Go to Filter, select Other > High Pass, enter a radius of about 8.5 Pixels and press OK.
- I call this new layer ‘Sharpen Edges/Structure’.
- After applying the High Pass filter, I change the blend mode of the ‘Sharpen Edges/Structure’ layer to Overlay.
Also the effect of this layer can be adjusted by adding a layer mask or by lowering the opacity.
By applying this filter, edges will be sharp again and also the skin structure will be a bit more visible again.
B2. Photoshop: Dodge & Burn
In this tutorial I use a different D&B technique approach than used in the previous tutorial.
Step 1: Let’s add 2 new layers.
- Create a new layer and call it ‘Dodge & Burn’ (which is actually what we will do on this layer…).
- Change the layer’s mode to ‘Overlay’ and select the ‘Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)’ button.
- Do this 2 times.
- Call the first D&B layer ‘D&B Light’, the second ‘D&B Dark’.
- On ‘D&B Light’ I will work on the darker areas, the parts I want to make brighter.
=> I will work with the Dodge tool here.
- Opposite, on ‘D&B Dark’ I will work on the bright areas, the parts I want to make darker.
=> I will work with the Burn tool here.
Step 2: To make it easier in order to separate the “Shadows / Mid Tones / High Lights” I add a couple of adjustment layers.
Step 3: The first one is a Black & White” layer which I call ‘Contrast skin retouch’.
To make the contrast stronger I add a ‘Curves’ 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.
Step 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.
Step 5: I use the Dodge or Burn tool <O> at an Opacity of 1 to 5 depending on the area I am working on.
In-depth material about D&B: http://retouchingacademy.com/tag/dodge-burn/
B3. Photoshop: Creating An Image Look
Step 1: The biggest portion of creating the image-look was already done in LR.
But as the shadow area on my model’s butt has a bit of a magenta tint, I add a ‘Hue/Saturation’ adjustment layer. I adjust the Hue to achieve a more natural, warmer looking colour.
Step 2: To finish-up the image-look, I add a ‘Black & White’ adjustment layer and call it ‘B&W Contrast’. I change the blending mode to Overlay and lower the Opacity to 10.
By doing this I add a bit more of contrast, making the highlights a bit brighter and the shadow areas a bit darker. This creates somewhat more depth in the photo without making it too contrasty.
B4. Photoshop: Final Sharpening
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.
Step 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’.
Step 2: I now sharpen the photo using the ‘Unsharp Mask’ filter. The amount of sharpening depends on the photo.
B5. Photoshop: 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.
- 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>.
- 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.
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 (= a “final version” of the finish).
Gear List Used For This Shoot
- Full Frame DSLR
- 70 – 200 mm f2.8
- 1x Speedlight
- Key: ⌀ 48cm/19” foldable beauty dish, with diffuser and 1/2 CTO gel
I feel like throwing in a little, alluring bonus setting for you 🙂
This photo is made with the same equipment except without the use of a diffuser and 1/2 CTO gel in front of the foldable beauty dish.
- Shot in direct sunlight
- Shutter speed 1/1250 sec (HSS setting with my neat Godox speedlights)
- I chose to apply high speed sync flash to light the model balanced to the pool in background.
So I could keep the water darker and more saturated (= beautifully, strong blue).
- The editing is done in the same way as described above.
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!