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Thread: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

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    "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    So - what else is there to do? To be honest, ususally, not a heck of a lot. Whilst still in ACR you'll then need to adjust other sliders to "get the image in the ball park", but unfortunately, the adjustments that are required really depend on how accurate your exposure was, and the characteristics of the lighting at the time. In essence you have 5 main controls ...

    1. Exposure
    2. Highlight Recovery
    3. Blacks
    4. Fill light, and
    5. Brightness

    Exposure

    Exposure affects the whole image - but - we really only need it to get the brightest things in the capture looking good eg a white wedding dress. If it's looking too gray (although it will need to have some gray to be able to show detail) then adjusting exposure upwards will make it look more like a white dress - rather than one that has been washed in the same cycle as 20 pairs of black socks! In contrast, if the highlights are looking over-exposed then simply reduce the exposure (slider) until they pop into line.

    The trick is to only look at the highlights - ignore shadows and midtones for now. It's also worth mentioning at this point that the histogram is only of limited use here ... if you have an image that consists mainly of skin tones then you normally won't want to be turning them into highlights by pushing the histogram all the way to the right (unless you're creating a high-key image).

    Highlight Recovery

    If you haven't over-exposed your subject (over-exposure is unlikely if you're shooting your subject in the shade) (and probably not for the reason's you're thinking) then you probably won't have to use this control (who can tell me why?) (that was a test to see who actually reads all of this!) -- but if you have areas of blown highlight - and adjusting them with the exposure slider kills the other highlights too much - then by all means give it a go.

    At this point it probably worth mentioning that this is very much an area where "the end justifies the means" - if adjusting a control makes the image look better then this is a good thing ... and that's all that matters!

    Blacks

    Also meaning "setting the black clipping point". It's the control that determins the demarcation between what is black - what is dark gray - and then scales the rest of the image tones to suit. This is another area where the eye can be fooled ... often you'll think that the image looks fine, but "something isn't quite right" ... you'll move the blacks slider ... and immediately you'll think "aahhhhhhh! - bingo!" (even in skin tones / facial texture). Be aware though that once you set this slider - and then move on through to Photoshop - then if you subsequently want to recover some of the shadow detail - you're going to be out of luck. So personally I don't set the slider quite as high as I'd like - but - I then add a levels layer in Photoshop to give the image a final adjustment before printing (keeping in mind that the adjustment for printing is slightly different that the one for display on a monitor, but don't worry about that too much for now).

    Fill light

    In many books Scott Kelby writes that his wife Kalebra is the kind of person love songs were written for - the reason birds sing - the reason the earth turns (sounds like a great lady!) - well if there's a Photoshop equivalent, it has to be the fill light control. I've upgraded the entire package just to get this control ... it's pure digital magic (assuming that you shoot RAW). It's so powerful it can recover up to 6 stops of information hidden in the shadows.

    Again, using it is simple ... just move it and see if you like what happens. Just be aware though that the blacks and fill light slider do work against each other to a significant degree - although they do cover different tonal ranges - so with some types of images (mostly landscape) you may get a better result by getting quite agressive with both.

    For portraiture it's often good for revealing detail in dark areas like between the hairline and neck, although it does compete against the blacks slider so one has to be careful not to make the image look too flat.

    Brightness

    This is an often mis-understood control; although in theory it affects the entire image, in reality, it's essentially a mid-tones control - and that's pretty much where skintones are. So - when you're got all of the above sorted - give it a tweak and look closely at what it does to skin contrast. Again whether or not it's needed is going to depend on the capture; the more accurate your exposures and the better your lighting then the less you're going to need to adjust any of these things, but at the end of the day, if you're shooting RAW then you'll usually have more than enough lattitude ... no need to $1000 light meters just yet!

    Keep in mind too that every control has the potential to interact with every other control - but not by the same amount; so you might need to go over all the controls a few times, but quite quickly you should be able to get things looking pretty good.

    With regards to other sliders like contrast / saturation / vibrance / clarity etc, you probably won't need to do a lot with them when processing portraiture. Avoid any positive clarity adjustment (it's a train wreck to portraiture), although a small negative amount can provide a degree of quick and dirty skin softening (there are better - but more time-consuming - ways to do this in Photoshop though). Saturation and Vibrance are similar, except that vibrance is SUPPOSED to leave skin-tones alone.

    In reality you can add a little if needed, but be careful as what makes vegetation look good can also make your model look like they're using a fake skintan that's gone wrong!

    Additionally, although there are other tabs and controls in ACR, it's unlikely that you'll need them for portraiture.

    On a final note - if you're serious about quality portraiture - then there's just no getting away from using a calibrated and profiled monitor. If you don't then you'll be operating in a "fools paradise" where you'll think your images look wonderful and everybody else might think they look awful. Seriously, there's just no getting away from it -and by the way - in my experience it's not so much the difference in colour ... it's the difference in levels (specifically white and black points) ... I've seen monitors up to TWO STOPS out in their white point. Unless you're calibrated and profiled then in essence it's just a lottery (and if you're like me, when it comes to lotteries, I always lose).

    One other final note (I lied about the final note above!) - as with many things, practice & feedback makes perfect. After a while you'll not only be able to competantly adjust your own images - you'll also be able to take one look at others images and immediately be able to say "it's flat" or "it needs sharpening". So jump in with both feet - it's very rewarding - AND - an integral part of seperating quality professional potraiture from point & shoot snapshots.

    So - any questions? !

    PS: Obviously a long pair of articles. If you find any typos etc just let me know and I'll fix them as soom as I can. Dave / Rob - feel free to fix any that you find if you wish (It's taken me most of the morning to write, and I'm sick of re-reading it for now!)
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 12th September 2010 at 12:48 AM.

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    Antonio Correia's Avatar
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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Thank you for the effort Colin.
    You did very well
    Cheers
    Last edited by Antonio Correia; 15th September 2010 at 08:15 PM.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonio Correia View Post
    Thank yo for the effort Colin.
    You did very well
    Cheers
    Thanks Antonio,

    I thought that there was a bit of a "stunned silence" after that lesson!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    I missed this lesson. It is a bit like university where in the first week it is easy, then you are in big deal stuff, only here it took four lessons.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post

    On a final note - if you're serious about quality portraiture - then there's just no getting away from using a calibrated and profiled monitor. If you don't then you'll be operating in a "fools paradise" where you'll think your images look wonderful and everybody else might think they look awful. Seriously, there's just no getting away from it -and by the way - in my experience it's not so much the difference in colour ... it's the difference in levels (specifically white and black points) ... I've seen monitors up to TWO STOPS out in their white point. Unless you're calibrated and profiled then in essence it's just a lottery (and if you're like me, when it comes to lotteries, I always lose).
    It is so easy to think that your monitor is fine and also to not notice when it drifts out of calibration. I have found the following test images quite useful as a quick check that you are set up with correct gamma and with a good range of tones at both the light and dark end of the scale. There are a whole range of test images to check through if you want to explore the capabilities of your monitor.

    Thanks Colin for a wonderful series of lessons.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    I missed this lesson. It is a bit like university where in the first week it is easy, then you are in big deal stuff, only here it took four lessons.
    Ah - but when I teach a man how to fish, I feed him for a lifetime!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Coldrick View Post
    It is so easy to think that your monitor is fine and also to not notice when it drifts out of calibration. I have found the following test images quite useful as a quick check that you are set up with correct gamma and with a good range of tones at both the light and dark end of the scale. There are a whole range of test images to check through if you want to explore the capabilities of your monitor.

    Thanks Colin for a wonderful series of lessons.
    Thanks Phil,

    I think there's a lot of finger-pointing going on when it comes to colour management ... it's not MY gear that put the colour cast on it ... it's YOUR gear. In the end I just got sick of it and did it myself ... and there's no problems

    Calibration & profiling is a good thing

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    I read - I learn - I get a grey card
    now time to really learn and try to use it........work in progress, tbc

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by wilgk View Post
    I read - I learn - I get a grey card
    now time to really learn and try to use it........work in progress, tbc
    Lets see that reference shot alongside the finished result ... if nothing else it helps others check for image for colour casts!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by wilgk View Post
    I read - I learn - I get a grey card
    now time to really learn and try to use it........work in progress, tbc
    From previous discussion Kay - learn from this lesson and you are on the way to taming the harsh light conditions we get in Australia that we talked about.

    Well written Colin.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Ryan View Post
    From previous discussion Kay - learn from this lesson and you are on the way to taming the harsh light conditions we get in Australia that we talked about.

    Well written Colin.
    Thanks Peter

    I think retouching will be the final lesson - but - it would be encouraging if folks would keep practicing their portraiture in the meantime!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Thanks, Colin!

    I just ordered a white balance card!

    I am looking forward to the one on Retouching.

    Cheers!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    I'm still in the boat and have a grey card with me. Portraits have been pretty much on hold recently, but I hope to start putting the recent lessons into practice very soon. Thanks for putting such a lot of time and effort in for us Colin - it really is appreciated.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    I got a new grey card today and a black one and a white one. So what is the technique since if I point it in the same direction as the shot I get a different temperature to when I put them down and focus on them, and if I click on a different part of the card I get a different temperature. Although for the one placed in the room not in the direction of shot but focused on this varied by only 100 kelvin.

    I figured a long time ago it is hard to take a pic of two stained windows from the inside, and one window is even hard to get a temperature from where it is the only light source, but more than two is easier.

    I never did get how to fix that, and that is probably why I didn't go and rush out to buy a new grey card when my old one blew away into the wet long grass.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Klickit View Post
    I'm still in the boat and have a grey card with me. Portraits have been pretty much on hold recently, but I hope to start putting the recent lessons into practice very soon. Thanks for putting such a lot of time and effort in for us Colin - it really is appreciated.
    No worries Kit, aka Slimtla! Looking forward to seeing more results!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    I got a new grey card today and a black one and a white one. So what is the technique since if I point it in the same direction as the shot I get a different temperature to when I put them down and focus on them, and if I click on a different part of the card I get a different temperature
    Just get your model to hold it; if you get variation of only 50 or 100 Kelvin, don't worry about it

    "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Hey Colin - Another great addition to your "School of Portraiture"!

    I have not calibrated my LCD monitor yet but plan to via a product like Spyder3Express or X-rite Eye One. However, the images on my LCD monitor are ballpark with my camera. My color laser printer for printing quick and dirty proofs is another story as the prints appear to be much darker and skin tones are way off. Is there a way to calibrate a color laser printer so the colors, hues, etc are ball-park with the LCD monitor? How would you suggest doing it? Thanks

    Scott

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by plankton View Post
    Hey Colin - Another great addition to your "School of Portraiture"!

    I have not calibrated my LCD monitor yet but plan to via a product like Spyder3Express or X-rite Eye One. However, the images on my LCD monitor are ballpark with my camera. My color laser printer for printing quick and dirty proofs is another story as the prints appear to be much darker and skin tones are way off. Is there a way to calibrate a color laser printer so the colors, hues, etc are ball-park with the LCD monitor? How would you suggest doing it? Thanks

    Scott
    Hi Scott,

    There's really two issue going on ... one is the monitor calibration / profile, and the other is the printer profile ... and each need to be addressed seperately. Don't make the mistake of adjusting one to match the other because what you produce will be out for everyone else on the web.

    I've never tried to profile a laser printer, but in theory, there's no reason why it couldn't be done ... I suspect that the gamut may well be a bit stunted in a few directions if what I've seen to date is any indication though.

    I know it sucks, but if people want to raise their work to the next level then a photospectrometer / colorimeter for printers / monitors is just one of those necessary evils. Personally I use the Spyder III Elite kit.

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    just ordered a Spyder III Elite, should be here this week! Best order a grey card too!!

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    Re: "School of Portraiture" - Lesson 04 - Initial post-processing - Part 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Ricko View Post
    just ordered a Spyder III Elite, should be here this week! Best order a grey card too!!
    Oh - sorry, forgot to mention that you'll need a 1D series camera and a collection of L-glass too!

    Nah - just kidding! Seriously, it's a PITA having to buy this stuff, but it's the ONLY way I know to get things standardised.

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