Discussion: Shooting & Retouching Techniques for Professional Photographers

Discussion in 'Careers, Education & the Business of Fashion' started by Derin, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. Derin

    Derin New Member

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    I love this thread. Do you guys think that we should open another thread (maybe a more technical one) about the shooting/Photoshop techniques our favourite photographers most commonly use? Or how important do you think this is?
     
  2. Imaginara

    Imaginara New Member

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    Shooting techniques by all means, but photoshop techniques will be hard to do. Most of those techniques (the ones not publically known =) are very guarded and thus hard to get hold of.
     
  3. Derin

    Derin New Member

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    Even this one is valuable info for me at this point. Thank you! Do you agree that it is mostly a matter of taste too - since I know some photographers who have been playing with Photoshop for years and still don't get the similar feeling/texture to the ones we -or the major magazines- actually adore?
     
    #3 Derin, Jul 14, 2010
    Last edited by moderator ChillChaser: Jul 14, 2010
  4. Imaginara

    Imaginara New Member

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    It is definately a matter of taste, when the photographer or the client feel they are happy with the image.

    As a photographer myself with many years experience with photoshop i can say that having a good professional retoucher is key to deliver the level of quality that you would expect in the major magazines or ad-campaigns. It's all about what you focus on, photography or retouching. Hell, i can even whip together a pretty decent dress aswell but im no Galliano :wink:

    Now i don't often use external retouchers simply because there aren't that many around here, and you need to be able to work closely with them to get the look that you want. Retouchers should be a part of your team just as hair & makeup and stylists are. (Btw, if there are any in the Gothenburg area that are interested, gimme a shout ;D
     
  5. Derin

    Derin New Member

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    It's not hard to imagine that the best photographers in the business work with the best retouchers side by side. It is also known that having a decent retouching for your images is quite expensive yet very hard get hold of in some places - like in your case. Being a very neat person with a concrete taste in imaging, I'd rather do it myself than pass it to a random freelancer unless I become commercially/financially strong to hire someone to work only for me. That must be a tough task :smile:
     
  6. Imaginara

    Imaginara New Member

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    Yepp. thats how i do most of my stuff now. Myself. At least until i can find a retoucher willing to create a working relationship with me.
     
  7. SoBlonde

    SoBlonde New Member

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    Ooh, good thread idea. I'm always wondering about what to do in Photoshop to achieve print/magazine like end products. I can do minor retouching, but I'd like to expand a bit more.
     
  8. Imaginara

    Imaginara New Member

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    Well, to expand a little on print/magazine like end products, it's a very very very big field, and it both deals with the quality of the imagefile aswell as the quality of the actual image (including retouching).

    When we talk about the polished style i am assuming you mean a look with even skintones, a "fresh" appearence and no skinblemishes. The techniques for this starts with taking the photograph ofcourse, making sure you start off with the best possible image out of the camera. This is also divided into 3 things that matters, model, makeup and lighting. If the model has very varying skintone (due to uneven sunbathing or skin issues) it will create more work for the second step, makeup. Makeup is the first step to even out the skintones all over the body. An unexperienced makeup-artist (and photographer) quite often forgets the body beneath the neck. They concentrate on the face, gets it all nice smooth and even and forget that they are shooting the model in a deeply cut dress, and then it will be a lot of work in post to match the tones of the body with the face.

    When it comes to the lighting it's impossible here to say "use this and that" when taking the image because it varies infinitely really depending on the look you want and the situation. And if you are not good with lighting, get better quick ;D It's all about practising and experimenting and learning the basic rules of lighting.

    Once the image is done however, the retouching starts. First step is RAW development. Here is also a number of techniques and software to use depending on which developer renders the way you like it. Personally i prefere to use Capture One since i feel it renders the skintones better than Adobe's engine (Camera Raw). Now a thought here to remember is not to develop the image once. You develop it as many times as you need to. Thats the beauty of digital capture, you can reprocess the original (raw) over and over again, highlighting different aspects of the image each time. There is a fairly good free tutorial on this over at http://www.digitalphotoshopretouching.com/retouching-tutorials/beauty-retouch actually which deals with this.

    Once you have your different developments of the image you will start working on the actual retouching. I like to use a workflow that goes something like development - skintreatments - skintone - reshaping - contrast & color treatment.

    This means that after the RAW development, i first do the skinretouching. Removing larger blemishes, wrinkles, highlights/shadows that makes sure i have the level of smoothness as i (or the client) wants. Note that the requirements here will vary depending on who the client is. Techniques here can be things like clonestamp / healing brushes, dodge & burn (and variants of this), filters etc. I personally use whatever does the job, making sure i retain skin detail everwhere it should show. I am not a fan of the overly-plastic look so i tend to stay away from those.

    Once the skin is even and smooth, i work on the skin-tones to make sure that the color has not shifted and that there are a smooth even colortone. This usually entails a lot of hue/saturation, Color balance, Curves, and even painted color layers with a lot of layermasks finetuning the color.

    Once the tone and the skin is done, then i can look at any reshaping needing to be done. Now i am not a fan of reshaping bodies, because this is the one thing where too many people overdo it, but sometimes the position the model is in and the lens used may make things look a bit odd. I do this step after all the main retouching though since it's about moving pixels about, not about changing pixels. Tools here are liquify, clonestamp, copy & paste, warp transformation etc. and possibly other filters. The main thing you need in this step i feel is a good knowledge of human anatomy. We all remember a certain major brand who got "outed" with a ad campaign where they launched a picture of a model basically without any intestines ;D If you narrow the waist and remove the hip, that person would not be able to move. And most people will pick up on the fact that something looks wrong.

    Final treatment i do is the contrast & color treatments. Here i set the basic "look" of the image, cold/warm/high-/low-contrast, etc. Here i can use a lot of different filters and adjustment layers ranging from curves / hue-sat, colorbalance etc. but instead of working on just the skintones, i now work on the entire image.

    Now the image is basically done. The only step that may remain before handing it over to the client, is print sharpening. This all depends on what printer it's supposed to be printed on and quite often this is handled by the printer/client themselves.

    This is a basic description of my workflow, and it may sound like much but the more work i do before photoshop, the less work i will have to do in photoshop. And in some cases, i can do it all outside of photoshop.

    Also remember, that editorial fashion photograph is an extremely wide field and can range from snapshot style images to super-retouched highly polished images. All depending on what the client (or you ;D wants.

    Phew.. Long post again :D Hope it helps.
     
  9. Derin

    Derin New Member

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    Imaginara, thank you! What do you think about the plugins/actions? As far as I know, even the software that captures the images in the computer while shooting, have some plugins that gives it a different colour/mood right? We all watch videos of masters shooting and at the same time checking their images on the screen. OK, the lighting and everything may be perfect but it still looks like a bit tuned towards the final outcome.
     
  10. SoBlonde

    SoBlonde New Member

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    Imaginara, that was great! Thanks so much for that information :smile: Do you have any recommendations for learning lighting?

    Ooh, plugins/actions. I don't know how I really feel about them. I like them because I don't have to do any work xD but that's also why I dislike them. I know that I've used them to see what they're about and to see if I can learn anything by looking at the steps, but I feel like they're just another way for anyone to pick up a camera and proclaim their photographer status when they don't actually have an idea of what they're doing and judge everything based on "YEAH! That looks AWESOME!"
     
  11. Derin

    Derin New Member

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    OK, I just tried Capture One (learning so much from Imaginara) for the first time and it is really different I must say. I think I'm going to prefer this over Adobe Camera Raw.
     
  12. SoBlonde

    SoBlonde New Member

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    OH! I remembered what else I wanted to ask about: the thing with photos coming up on a computer while shooting. I know nothing more than that so any info is helpful xD
     
  13. Imaginara

    Imaginara New Member

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    Ok. Lets start with photos coming up on a computer while shooting. This is usually called tethered shooting or shooting to computer (instead of card) and most of the time you are actually tethered to the computer with an USB or Firewire cable. There are wireless solutions but they are not very common becuase they are quite a hassle to work with and very expensive.

    To do this, you need a USB/Firewire cable (depending on what your camera wants), a computer and some capturesoftware. For cables you will want repeating cables because you want to be able to move around without moving the computer. For this i have 2 x 5 m repeating USB cables and a 5 meter passive which gives me up to 15 meter distance to the computer to work. I have the same for my firewire setup so i can run around with the medium format aswell. The computer i use to shoot to is actually a fairly small Macbook white. It has a Firewire 400 and a few USB cables and can easilly handle the task of loading in the images and showing them. So no real need for the biggest baddest computer out there, i do my retouching on a different machine ;D

    Then for the software you can use several different solutions, for Canons there are Capture one, Lightroom 3, Bibble Labs, DSLR-Remote and EOS Utility (which comes with the camera), for Nikons they don't get any capture for free but all of the others work with Nikons aswell as their own NX Capture. For Phase One digital backs it's Capture One, Hasselblad have their own Phocus and Sinar has Xposure. All of these will double as a RAW developer aswell most of the time so you quite often just need to get one software for this. All of them will let you (or your clients) watch the images as they are being shot to the computer. A very very good way to view the images and make sure you got the shot.

    As for plugins/actions i would like to put it like this. If it saves me having to spend more hours on the image it's a good thing. IF the client is paying for those hours, it means i will either get a better profit margin on the paid hours, and if im not paid, then it frees up time to work on things that do pay.

    How with that in mind, the plugin/action still needs to deliver what the client wants. And very few does that (especially the "Professional Portrait Retouching Magic Gizmo One Click And We Fix Everything" ones =). The plugins i use mostly deal with the color and contrast phase and i always tweak them quite heavily from the original setting. I tend to start with presets and then work the settings where i want the image, since usually the presets don't do what i want plus this makes my images look different from if you just choose the preset.

    Note that when it comes to the more "hands on" work like skin retouching and skin tones, i don't use any 3rd party plugins. I feel they just don't work well enough and require more work to look good than to do it the right way the first time.

    Oh and i never use actions (unless ive done them myself to save time on repetition). Not because using actions are bad (its not) but i just never got into it and it can even disrupt my workflow.

    As for anyone picking up a camera and proclaiming they are a photographer, they absolutely can. Wether they will deliver what the client is requesting or not is what determine if they are a professional photographer or not. There are some fairly high up names that really don't know much about the technical part of photography (lighting, handling the cameras, retouching etc=) but they use assistants for that and just tell them what they want in the image. There is nothing wrong with this approach imho, they are the creative directors for the image in the end but i do personally feel it would be a boring way for me to work.

    In the end it's the results that matter however. If that photographer who knows squat about the actual craft produces awesome images time and time again, then he's doing something right even if its based on gut instinct :D
     
  14. Imaginara

    Imaginara New Member

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    Oh almost forgot the important question regarding learning lighting. There are a few rules to remember regarding lighting which is where i feel its best to start. When setting up a lighting scheme, it's all about you making decision as a photographer. To make these decisions, remember this very important thing... you must observe light. It still amazes
    me that some photographers set up lights totally "blind" based on lighting diagrams or that they have learned that the main light should always be exactly here, at this height and aimed here and the kicker yada yada yada. Instead they could open up their eyes and look at the shadows and the highlights and determine if this is what they want. If you did this, it should be impossible to accidentally take a flat boring picture ;D

    The rules we all abide by can be summarized like this: shadows and highlights, shape and softness. Lets start with shadows.

    The softness (how blurry) of the shadow is determined by one major factor, how big the lightsource is in relation to the subject. Quick example using the sun; on a clear cloudless day you will have extremely sharp shadows because the light now is a very small pinpoint source (ie. the sun). On a overcast day you will almost not have any shadows, simply because the entire sky now acts as the lightsource (with the pinpoint behind it :wink: and this is thus a very large lightsource.

    Now to translate this into studio lighting, you can use softboxes, diffusing screens, umbrellas, reflectors, etc. to shape the light, but the shadows will still be mainly affected by how large the source is in relation to the subject. If you take a small reflector and put it really close, it will create a soft shadow compared to putting it further back. If you take a huge softbox, and move it far away, it will also create a sharp shadow, since even though it's physically large, it's small in comparison to the subject. So remember this first rule, large lightsource = soft shadows, small lightsource = sharp shadows.

    The shape of the lightsource will also affect parts of the shadows in one way. Some lightsources may create multiple lightsources, for example umbrellas (especially cheaper ones) can look like it's one lightsource per segment and this will show up in the shadows as multiple shadows. This is not a rule in itself but its' good to be aware of it.

    Next we look at the highlights. The highlights have shape and falloff aswell, the shape being the reflection of the lightsource on anything shiny (like skin, eyes, clothing, teeth, etc). So do you want a square reflection, or a round reflection etc. It will look different on the cheekbone, the eyes, the forehead, the nose etc. Also different brands and quality of softboxes may affect the shape (and falloff) simply because they may not be lighting the softbox evenly. It pays to have quality here.

    The falloff of the highlights are ruled by the same thing the shadows are. Small lightsource = sharp highlight, big lightsource = soft highlight. So if you use a large softbox for example close to the subject and expect to see sharp highlights on the cheeckbones, you will not get those :wink: You could however put in a secondary light with a smaller source just for the highlights.

    Now those of you who havent' fallen asleep already will note that i havent talked about the midtones (the areas between end of the highlight and the start of the shadows) but they are the areas evenly lit by whatever lightsource you use. So well not really that much to say about them.. they are lit. It's in the highlights and shadows the fun part comes. This is where you can create shapes and form with the light.

    A little note though on using hard sharp shadows and highlights (aka. small lightsources). Every skinpore and blemish has a shadow and a highlight, this is how we see them. So accentuate the shadows and highlights and they will pop out aswell which may result in hours of retouching to make it look smooth. So make sure the makeup and the model is correct for a shoot with hard lighting ;D

    The most important thing to conclude is what i said in the beginning, observe the light. If you are using flashes (or continous light), move it around, watch how the shadows and highlights move around, move it back and forth, watch how the shadows focus and unfocus. This will teach you a lot more about lighting than any book or video (or forum post) ever can. And take it a step further, observe light as you move around out in the world, watch how it plays through a window, reflected of water, bounced of a wall onto someone walking by, etc. When you start doing this and applying it to your photography, then you will start to consider lighting a fairly simple thing ;D

    Hope my long posts helps ;D
     
  15. SoBlonde

    SoBlonde New Member

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    Omg, thank you so much! Awesome posts with great info! Thanks :D
     
  16. BetteT

    BetteT Mod Squad Team Leader

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    Thank you, Imaginara! This is just the sort of thing that can help so many of our members here. We really appreciate the time you take to share all this information. :flower:
     
    #16 BetteT, Jul 17, 2010
    Last edited by moderator Natasa: Oct 6, 2010
  17. Derin

    Derin New Member

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    Karma for Imaginara!
    I have a bunch of favourite fashion photographers that I follow, but I when I think of one photographer whose style is truly distinctive, I personally can't think of anyone other than Bruce Weber. Has anyone had a chance to analyze his style technically (apart from his unique casting and styling choices)?
     
  18. Derin

    Derin New Member

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    ^ Just to add to this: I am checking the website of another fave of mine, David Burton, and some of the pics in his portfolio has EXIF data. Really love to analyze this way :smile:
     
    #18 Derin, Jul 19, 2010
    Last edited by moderator ChillChaser: Jul 19, 2010
  19. dphoto

    dphoto New Member

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    One thing I figured I would add in to Imaginara's bits about tethering and such for Canon users: If your intention is to shoot tethered, many applications require you to use Canon's EOS utility in conjunction. LR2 did, Aperture does, and some others. It's pretty unstable. If you shoot too quickly or if the camera disconnects it can be a pain to get everything back online.

    I personally use Lightroom 3(which tethers natively, and very fast) which I use in a bit different way than Imaginara's workflow so I'll throw out my general workflow/setup just so people can see different ways of going about the same basic process.

    I shoot with a Canon(5D mk 2), tethered to my 13" Macbook Pro running Lightroom 3. I set LR3 up to have two displays. A 20" display pointed at me and the model so we can see/work on posing/composition etc and the laptop's display pointed in the other direction so that clients and other people can see what's going on without being in my way on the set and disrupting the shoot.

    In Lightroom I set the system up to create an XMP file, and I create a user preset for the general look and feel(as far as tones, contrast, color etc) we want that way each image I shoot shows up with the preset automatically loaded so there's no guessing what the image will look like with the desired treatment. I'll usually tweak it a bit later on, but it's nice to have an idea of exactly how the image will look and feel on the spot.

    From there I use LR's star rating system(which is really simple and easy to use) to edit down the shoot to the final images Im going to retouch. I'll then edit these in CS5 using the same techniques Imaginara mentioned.


    And for the love of god, avoid using skin softeners or any kind of blurring techniques/plug ins to "retouch" skin. The plastic blurred look is something that I've never seen accepted
    in any sort of fashion/beauty publication or advertising. Non-destructive retouching can be time consuming to say the least, but the results are natural looking polished skin.
     
  20. jenipho

    jenipho Member

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    I'm in love with this thread. I'm exhausted just now but I'm gonna look back on this soon because it looks really helpful! Thanks everyone who's written all this great info! :D
     

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