I’ve said before on multiple occasions that I’m not really a fan of post processing for post processing’s sake, but I do tend to find myself processing photos of models a little bit more then any other sort of photography. The reason behind this is that there’s lots of small changes that you can do to help your photos look better, in just a matter of minutes.
Below is the original photo, which had a slight straighten and crop applied to it, but other than that, nothing else has changed. I feel it’s important to get it all right in the camera, so that you don’t have to mess around with minor adjustments like exposure and contrast which can become very time consuming when you have hundreds of photos to go through.
Each step below is accompanied by a photo, but if you’re struggling to see a difference then there’s a slideshow at the bottom of the page to help. It’s important that all the steps below are done in order because they affect each other in different ways.
The settings for the photo below are ISO800 at f/1.4 for a/6 of a second. I focused on the eyes to keep them the sharpest and fired the flash off camera to add depth and freeze any motion.
Step 1 – Retouch
Fortunately for me, my model had very good skin so there was really very little to do, but there’s often times where there will be a spot or an unsightly mole that needs removing. In Aperture, which is the program that I use, it’s very simple to fix and I just use the repair brush in the retouch section to correct any blemishes – it’s mostly unnecessary to use the clone tool. You’ll notice I’ve removed marks from the right cheek and the left of the chin, but as I say, I was fortunate with the model I was using. I did also use the clone tool (which is also found under the retouch brush setting), to remove the top of her hair which was a bit messy and then I used the repair tool along the edge of the hair to help it to blend in. You may think it looks a bit obvious now, but it’s hard to spot without having it pointed out.
Step 2 – Vignette
The first thing that I should note is that I don’t always use the vignette tool, but when I do, I do it subtly. It’s a great way to darken the edges slightly, which draws in your eye to the subject. It works well in model photography as the subject is clear, so it doesn’t matter that you’re drawing the attention in further, but when you’re shooting landscapes, then it can become more of a distraction then anything. The lighting I used for this photo was a beauty dish with a Canon 580 EXII pointing into it. This can produce a vignette effect if you like a more natural effect and it can be strengthened by the addition of a grid on the front of the dish.
Step 3 – Saturation Brush
I personally don’t like to saturate entire photos, so the brush tool helps loads to make photos stand out. Because I used a high ISO and a slow shutter speed, I was able to capture a lot of light and detail in the background and because it was dark out, this produced some really interesting colours. When you saturate these background colours, they make the photo feel warmer and are much nicer to look at, while not messing with the skin tone which you may find if you were to saturate the whole photo or change the white balance.
Step 4 – Definition Brush
This is probably the most subtle tool that I use, and I only use it on the eyes, teeth and sometimes lips. It does exactly what it says on the tin, which in this case is adding definition. To be more specific, this brush brings out the whites of the eyes and teeth and the shine on the lips out a little bit more to make it stand out from the rest of the face and produce a contrast to the rest of the photo. These areas deserve more definition, but it would look bad if you were to add it to the darker parts of the subjects hair, for example.
Step 5 – Sharpen Brush
This is a very useful little trick, but it’s to be done sparingly as it’s painfully obvious when you over do it. A small amount of sharpening on the eyes and teeth make the photo appear to be very sharp, when in reality the depth of field was very shallow as I shot the photo at f/1.4. By focusing on the eyes in the first place and adding a sharpening effect like I’ve done below, it produces a contrast to the rest of the relatively soft photo. This step is my favourite step out of all of them as it makes the biggest difference in a subtle way, just make sure you do it in small doses.
Step 6 – Skin Smoothing
Again, my model had really good skin so there wasn’t too much need for this, but I like to add it anyway as it cleans up the photo nicely. It’s an easy tool to use and you brush it on like you would the sharpening or definition, over areas of the skin that you feel need improvement. The most noticeable part that I’ve done is on the chest of the model and the cheeks. I liken this step to a final polish, which should always be kept til last.
I hope you’ve learnt something from what I’ve shared today, If you’re having trouble comparing the photos step by step, then click play on the slideshow that I’ve produced below and you should be able to see everything that I’ve done.