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Thread: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

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    "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Hi Folks,

    Sorry that lesson 4 has been a while in coming (I got a bit busy, plus, I thought it would be a good opportunity for folks to consolidate what we've covered here so far).

    So - time to move on to post-processing (I'll limit this lesson to initial post-processing in ACR, and then cover retouching next lesson). To be honest, I'm really not too sure how this will translate ... so I think I'll just try to put a basic workflow in place, and then just help people on a case-by-case basis as they try to work through it.

    The other issue will be the "concepts" -v- the "reality" of post-processing or retouching in that I'm basically a 100% "Adobe" person. I'm sure that a lot of what I do can be translated into other programs, but unfortunately, I don't have other programs -- so I might have to rely on others to help out here.

    The first issue I deal with when post-processing images is colour accuracy - mostly with respect to skin tones. And the vast majority of getting that right comes down to getting a correct white balance. And the vast majority of getting THAT right comes down to having an accurate spectrally neutral reference to start with (big fancy words for "pure gray") ... and for the most part, that means - simply - using a gray card in a reference shot.

    Already I can hear the howls of protest ... "but they cost money" ... "but I'd then have to actually organise the purchase of one" ...

    ... GET OVER IT

    The bottom line is that they don't cost a lot of money, and a few clicks online or a trip down to a quality camera store isn't exactly hard work ... and the results are worth it ... so just do it!

    But ... can't I just use a piece of paper?

    No - stop being lazy, and go buy a gray card! (reason being that papers often have UV brighteners that convert a portion of UV light into visible light ... and to cut a long story short, it's better than nothing, but it's not as good as the real thing) (and no ... "better than nothing" isn't a licence to use paper instead of buying the correct equipment - so if you haven't got one yet, then stop reading and go do it now!).

    In all seriousness, it is probably the single biggest thing you can do with regards to accurate colour; be it in a portrait, or even in landscape photography. It's the stuff that sets the foundation for moving an image from the "good" category to the "great" category. Or put another way, if you want to create portraiture to a professional standard then you can't afford to have skin tones that are off (and since many here have really stepped up to the plate in terms of the initial capture, why would you want to ruin everything by messing up the colour?).

    So just get a gray card, and then I'll stop bugging you!

    Haven't got one yet? ... then read on ...

    The next question is invariably "can't I just adjust the colour by eye" -- short answer is "no" - not even close. The big issue is that our eyes like to play tricks on us - and additionally, many won't be working with calibrated and profiled monitors ... and the net result will be inaccuracy and inconsistancy. I've personally found that the human eye is very good at being able to tell when the colour is right, but pretty bad at telling when it's wrong ... so we end up with a situation where it may look OK - and in reality it can be waaaaaay out - and as soon as we see it the way it SHOULD be then we immediately think "wow - that's a lot better" followed shortly by "I wonder why I couldn't get it a
    lot closer to start with"! (followed by "I'll be able to do much better next time"), which just never happens. For what it's worth, I've been doing this for quite a few years ... and I'm STILL hopeless at judging skin tones by eye.

    So just get a gray card, and then I'll stop bugging you!

    Haven't got one yet? ... then read on ...

    Others might think that they can cheat and use other sources like white clothing, white paint etc ... but again ... although it can be better than nothing, it's likely to give inconsistent results ... and inaccurate results; neither of which we want.

    So do yourself a favour and just go buy one!

    To be honest, I'm really not too sure just how many brands are out there or how good they are, but personally, I use a WhiBal card (http://www.rawworkflow.com/whibal/). You may also have heard about a product called an Expodisc - personally - the issue I have with them (and I have 2, expodiscs that is, not issues) is that although they work great for use in ambient light, they can't be used properly when you start using flash ... and eventually you'll probably want to head that way (stay tuned!).

    So have you got a gray card yet?

    Good!

    OK - so now that I have my gray card, what do I do with it?

    Easy. Get your subject to hold it whilst you take a reference shot - or worst case, just get it in the scene somehow. That was easy wasn't it!

    Seriously, that's all there is to it. You don't have to worry about reshooting it unless the lighting conditions change.

    OK - I have my reference shot - and all the other shots from my portrait session - now - what do I do with them all? Thankfully, this bit is pretty easy too; I normally use 1 or 2 variations on the same theme ... In essence it involves opening the image in Adobe Camera RAW ("ACR") - and using the white balance tool (on the tool bar at the top of the screen), simply click somewhere on the grey card and INSTANTLY watch the image adjust itself PERFECTLY. Again, it really is that simple.

    Unfortunately ... you probably won't want to print a large framed canvas of your model holding a gray card - so the next thing is applying the correct white balance to other images in the series. Thankfully, this too is pretty easy ...

    ... if it's just a handful of images then simply note down the colour temperature and tint values - open your "real images" and dial in the same numbers. If you've got dozens or even hundreds of images then personally I just select them all in Bridge - open them all in ACR - select the reference shot - while balance it - and then click "Select All" then "Synchronise" and then choose "White Balance" and "hey presto, job done".

    Having just covered all that, keep in mind that what we've really done here is set a consistent starting point - in reality you may (and I do) often increase the colour temperature (but not the tint) slightly to warm the skin tones to taste.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 12th September 2010 at 12:19 AM.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Hi Colin,

    I hope I'm first this time

    ... and yes I do have a WhiBal card, no really, I do!
    Honestly I do.

    ... if it's just a handful of images then simply note down the colour temperature and tint values - open your "real images" and dial in the same numbers.
    Am I not correct in thinking that once the balance has been set in ACR, by holding Shift down to get the dropper, then clicking on the WhiBal card, that will have set it as the "Custom" option in the WB droplist?

    So, for aligning WB on a few images (in CS3/4/5 or Elements); rather than remember the numbers and type them in, or move the Temperature and Tint sliders, just reselect the White Balance droplist on each subsequent image from "As Shot" to "Custom".

    "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1 to "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Rats - in second screensnip ACR lost focus (hence grey),
    never mind, we can see what I mean, I hope.

    I have to say, on a recent series I did, I was pleasantly surprised at how consistent the WB was when using this method. Previously I had used Auto WB, or one of the other bad methods above - and I can confirm they really don't work.

    Thanks,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 12th September 2010 at 12:34 AM.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Am I not correct in thinking that once the balance has been set in ACR, by holding Shift down to get the dropper, then clicking on the WhiBal card, that will have set it as the "Custom" option in the WB droplist?
    Hi Dave,

    No - in ACR (6.2 at least) this drops up to 4 sample points into the image. The other way I didn't mention though which essentially does the same thing is to just use the "previous conversion" option.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    No - in ACR (6.2 at least) this drops up to 4 sample points into the image. The other way I didn't mention though which essentially does the same thing is to just use the "previous conversion" option.
    Hi Colin,

    I don't think Elements users (and we have lots here) have that "previous conversion" option.
    I am pretty confident what I said works for Elements (ACR 5.4 I think).

    I'm off to bed now (nearly 2am), please feel free to edit my post above to remove anything that isn't right before too many people see it - I have just fixed a few typos in 4.2 for you.

    Cheers,

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Colin,

    I don't think Elements users (and we have lots here) have that "previous conversion" option.
    I am pretty confident what I said works for Elements (ACR 5.4 I think).

    I'm off to bed now (nearly 2am), please feel free to edit my post above to remove anything that isn't right before too many people see it - I have just fixed a few typos in 4.2 for you.

    Cheers,
    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for that - and thanks for fixing the typos (my eyes have somewhat "glazed over" I'm afraid).

    You could well be right - I don't use PSE, so no other way of knowing I'm afraid. Whatever works is good

    I might add that ACR colour temp does change to custom as soon as a temp is adjusted, but unfortunately, it doesn't stick between images.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Ok I have a grey card but I did not use it for the first lessons. Why you ask? Because I forgot I had it and did not really think about it until it was all done for the day. With this in mind do we need to shoot it all over to use a grey card or can we recreate it as close as possible with a shot of the card? I do understand that a reshoot will not be exact.
    I have both Lightroom 3 and CS5.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Smith View Post
    Ok I have a grey card but I did not use it for the first lessons. Why you ask? Because I forgot I had it and did not really think about it until it was all done for the day. With this in mind do we need to shoot it all over to use a grey card or can we recreate it as close as possible with a shot of the card? I do understand that a reshoot will not be exact.
    I have both Lightroom 3 and CS5.
    Hi Sam,

    It's really up to you

    Not having a gray card doesn't automatically mean bad skin tones - it just makes it harder to GET good skin tones. Sometimes "close enough is good enough" whilst others, like Ashwin, have a VERY good eye for colour. What I'm trying to do though is introduce what I think is best practice - something that's accurate - repeatable - and simple.

    Probably the best answer is "just remember to use it next time" (and don't feel bad - I've forgotten to use mine quite a lot! The good news for me is that in the studio the colour temperature doesn't change, so 4850 @ -8 works pretty good for me ).

    Looking at the bigger picture though, if you want to get good at portraiture then you also need to shoot as much portraiture as you can so you learn what works (and what doesn't) and at the same time start to develop your own style.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    I'm going to get one now but would like one that flashes on and off so I don't forget it and heavy enough so that it doesn't blow away.

    Actually I did have one but it blew away in a high wind. Trying to guess 18% grey is virtually impossible and when I'm clicking around on white points I usually get a wide range of temperatures and end up guessing anyway.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Colin,

    I hope I'm first this time

    ... and yes I do have a WhiBal card, no really, I do!
    Honestly I do.



    Am I not correct in thinking that once the balance has been set in ACR, by holding Shift down to get the dropper, then clicking on the WhiBal card, that will have set it as the "Custom" option in the WB droplist?

    So, for aligning WB on a few images (in CS3/4/5 or Elements); rather than remember the numbers and type them in, or move the Temperature and Tint sliders, just reselect the White Balance droplist on each subsequent image from "As Shot" to "Custom".

    "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1 to "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Rats - in second screensnip ACR lost focus (hence grey),
    never mind, we can see what I mean, I hope.

    I have to say, on a recent series I did, I was pleasantly surprised at how consistent the WB was when using this method. Previously I had used Auto WB, or one of the other bad methods above - and I can confirm they really don't work.

    Thanks,
    All I do is select one then choose select all and use the dropper on it; then they all change the same amount. Then deselect by clicking on one of them.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Having just covered all that, keep in mind that what we've really done here is set a consistent starting point - in reality you may (and I do) often increase the colour temperature (but not the tint) slightly to warm the skin tones to taste.
    Colin, can you please explain why you would go through all that palava with the grey card and then adjust the temperature to taste. I think I am getting confused with white balance, temperature and tint here.

    Cheers

    Steve

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    Colin, can you please explain why you would go through all that palava with the grey card and then adjust the temperature to taste. I think I am getting confused with white balance, temperature and tint here.

    Cheers

    Steve
    Hi Steve,

    When you set a technically accurate white balance using a gray card - and then advance it (slightly) to taste - you're going to get a predictable result. If you just adjust it by eye then you're not starting from a known point, and your eyes WILL play tricks on you.

    White Balance is the combination of colour temperature & tint; colour temp adjusts the image along the yellow / blue axis, whilst tint adjusts it along the green / magenta axis ... to add warmth you want to shift away from blue / towards yellow, but you don't want to shift the green / magenta axis.

    If you're keen, take a shot of someone with a gray card, but with your camera set to tungsten ... then try to correctly white balance the shot by eye - and when you're done, use the WB tool to click on the grey card, and see how close you are.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Thanks Colin, I understand where you are coming from now. I can also why it is important to have a firm baseline against which to make my adjustments. I will have to go out and get a grey card. I try to select a mid grey or equivalent within the image and this, for the reasons stated in your tutorial, gives unpredictable results. I am looking forward to your tutorial on photoshop techniques.

    whilst tint adjusts it along the green / magenta axis
    This explains why UFRaw has the green adjustment. The green adjustment is the tint adjustment...which is obviously what I use it for even if I didn't fully understand the technicalities behind it.

    "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Yeah - it's a bit like setting the timing on your car ... Better to get it right, and then advance or retard it a bit for better acceleration (which ever it is) than to try and get it set for best acceleration right off the bat without measuring it (and while adjusting the carb at the same time).

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Hi Colin,Hi Dave,

    I use Elements 7 with ACR 5.5 (i'm sure) and there is a previous conversion option with it. As far as i can remember i upgraded from an earlier version of ACR.
    Hope this is of some help,
    Best Wishes,
    Pat

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    OK, I think I have figured the confusion going on here.

    I am talking about, and show screen snips of, the White Balance drop list, not the drop list that reveals when you click the little icon on right within the "Basic" bar - that is the one that contains "Previous Conversion" (even on Elements) but that brings back all the previous conversion, not just the White Balance - which was all we were trying to do here.

    I agree, if you breath on the Temperature or Tint, you will lose the remembered WB - so just be careful

    Cheers,

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Please forgive that the confusion I had may have caused more of the same.
    Your clarification has lifted my confusion. Once again I have been enlightened by CiC.

    Thanks
    Best Wishes
    Pat

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    OK, I think I have figured the confusion going on here.

    I am talking about, and show screen snips of, the White Balance drop list, not the drop list that reveals when you click the little icon on right within the "Basic" bar - that is the one that contains "Previous Conversion" (even on Elements) but that brings back all the previous conversion, not just the White Balance - which was all we were trying to do here.
    Hi Dave,

    I appears to have different behaviour under ACR 6/2 and/or ACR when hosted by PS as opposed to PSE, but I'll do some more tests, as the initial test I did may have been biased by the fact that the 2nd image I opened may have already have been opened before, and had a different WB set (can't be sure).

    To use the previous conversion option I'm pretty sure that you'd need to open the image for this to be available to subsequent images, but I do find it quite handy especially in a studio or manual exposure situation where things like CT, exposure, black point etc are all the same anyway.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Ollokot
    Please forgive that the confusion I had may have caused more of the same.
    Your clarification has lifted my confusion.
    No worries Pat, if you mis-understood it, others will too, I should have been clearer the additoonal clarification helps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I appears to have different behaviour under ACR 6/2 and/or ACR when hosted by PS as opposed to PSE, but I'll do some more tests, as the initial test I did may have been biased by the fact that the 2nd image I opened may have already have been opened before, and had a different WB set (can't be sure).
    I'll find out soon, I took the CS5 offer
    So now I'm broke

    and I'll be asking you daft questions again ...

    Cheers,

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    I woke up the other morning and was like a kid at Christmas!

    There was something under the tree that wasn't a lump of coal for once!

    Have gray card, will color correct. Once I get back in "The World" the portraits will be flying (or that's the Plan for now at least).

    Thank you, Colin!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 1

    No worries Terry,,

    Lets just hope your monitor isn't too far out!

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