I know it’s been a while since I shared a before and after. About time right?
My ‘look’ lately has gotten ‘cleaner’ if you’ve noticed. Less vintage- more clean. So that’s what I am going to share today.
Disclaimer: What is to follow is purely my own reflections, opinions and experiences.
Now I have had people email me from time to time frustrated that their images are not looking like mine. I have several things to share that I hope sheds some light on why.
Why don’t my images look like yours when I use your presets or actions?
1. You aren’t me. We are two totally different people. I see the world one way, you see it another. Our end product should vary or I hope so. I don’t want your work to look like mine. I want your work to look like yours- an awesome version of yours.
2. You are not in the same moment, with the same lighting, using the exact same settings with the exact same equipment. A Canon 5D II with an 85 1.2 IS going to produce a different style image than a Nikon D300 with a 50 1.4. It…just is. The color renditions out of the camera are also going to vary. It just is.
3. Your subjects are not mine. If I am shooting a pretty blonde haired blue eyed toddler, get sharp focus and nice exposure and you shoot a sexy red haired green eyed woman, get sharp focus and expose a little under on purpose- that one preset you play IS going to look totally different. Why? Lighting. Equipment. Skin tones of the subject. YOUR use of the lighting. Exposure. White balance. Goodness so many variables!
4. If you underexpose skin very much- you will struggle with skin tones. You just will. Can you fix them? Sure but that preset is going to need more tweaking for sure- and skin tones definitely unless you nailed white balance. Adjust the exposure slider first then apply a preset.
5. If you overexpose much- you need to fix that before applying any preset unless you know that preset well. My presets often run bright- simply adjust by pulling back on the adjustment slider. Simple fix.
Ok so you don’t want your work to look mine- but how the heck do I get it close?
1. Exposure. Find your happy place with exposure. Depending on the light situation- I determine how I want to expose. Over, under or spot on? And not too much over or under.
2. Nail focus. No need to explain here right?
3. If you want lighter crisper edits- watch the contrast and blacks in Lightroom/ACR. In PS/PSE watch the curves/levels layers with shadows pushed in, contrast, soft light layer opacities etc. Just because my preset has blacks at 12 and contrast at 50- doesn’t mean you should leave them there. Look at your image- what does the image need? It’s normal and necessary to adjust presets AND actions per your images. (remember what I said above about why don’t my images look like yours when I buy your presets) It’s not an Olive Juice thing- it’s a processing thing.If you need MORE contrast- then do the opposite with the blacks/shadows/contrast—> push them.
4. I use Fill Light a lot. I am sure you noticed if you use my presets. I will go negative on the Exposure (the slider. it protects me from blowing highlights) and push the Fill Light until I get some of the brightness I want. It helps throw global lighting into the eyes and shadows in general. Try it! Be sure to adjust contrast and blacks to put back some contrast.
5. Natural eyes. I usually do not touch the eyes. Maybe a little here and there (maybe a slight eyelash burn or eye white pick me up- but just barely if at all). If you get nice light in the eyes- honestly what more can you do? If you bleach those eye whites anymore – it looks alien and wrong and unnatural and totally noticeable. If you did not get decent light in the eyes do what you can using the Fill Light and other more global edits- a teeny tiny itty bitty eye pop and be done. Overdoing eyes that didn’t receive good light (and that happens especially when you are a lifestyle photog like me and chase your subjects)- is just bad processing. Sorry it just is. All I’m saying- is go easy.
6. In Photoshop I mask. A Lot. I add color fill layers and I mask the effects off the eyes and lips. It adds depth and it gets the effects off of places I don’t want washed or colored. If you are using a yellow-ish vintage action- I highly recommend using a brush on the mask on that yellowing layer and remove some of it from the eyes and teeth. Who wants yellow teeth and eyes? Not flattering. Not all or it looks funny. Leave a teeny bit behind.Masking is my BFF when I do use PS.
7. Find your shooting style – manual or aperture priority are the two most common settings pros use. Pick and stick and nail it to the wall. I’m telling you the more you find the style that works for you- the more confident you become in your exposures.
8. Find your editing style. The pastel vintage look is all the rage right now. Is it you? Or are you doing what others are doing just because it seems the thing to do? (no judgement here, we all do this at times with various things- props, lenses etc) Edit images several ways and step back. Which do you love? DO what you LOVE. I love to play. Vintage is fun for me. But I really love cleaner brighter crisper these days usually. I do what I love. What fits the image. And I try to stay consistent within the session to one or two looks (for me that means some black and whites because it’s my first love and one color style). That says pro. I know what I’m doing. It builds confidence when potential clients check out your work.
9. Rock what you got. Upgrade as you need to and are able to. You can still learn how to do all this on an entry level dslr and kit lens. Yes, once you upgrade bodies and glass you will see the quality improving but you can still nail that technical skill while you wait!
10. Do you need Photoshop CS5 to edit beautifully? No. There are a few tools in CS5 that I personally use that you cannot find in PSE. But I would survive with Elements as long as I had Lightroom. Some might disagree but I am sharing my opinion and I am entitled to it.Lightroom + Elements is a wonderful combo. Lightroom is fantastic. But I honestly do recommend having a secondary program where you can edit to the pixel level using masks, being able to make cards and things, make your own watermark with your logo and I’m sorry Lightroom- but your Clone Brush isn’t all that exciting or useful to me a lot of times.
Ok so ready for a B&A?
I took this image of my daughter. I shot in manual mode using my d700 and 60mm macro lens.
My settings were f/3.5 iso 400 and ss 1/320.
As you can see from the sooc (straight out of the camera) my exposure is dandy.
Ok first of in my sooc. Exposure? Check. Lighting in the eyes? Check. Lighting on the skin? Check.
In Lightroom I took the sooc (above) then reduced exposure to -.60 (the sooc has not had exposure tweaked fyi).
(processed here a little heavier just so you could see the differences more easily)
Why mess with good exposure? Because I knew I was going to tweak the tone curve a lot and push the fill light.I played Topaz preset from my Jewels RAW Lightroom presets. I liked the way it looked.
I pushed fill light to +22. I like the light in the eyes and overall. The blacks and contrast were too heavy for this image. I reduced the blacks to 7 and the contrast to 40ish.
Then I tweaked the tone curve a little bit. I wanted more shadows so I moved that slider closer to zero rather than +. I pushed brightness to 60. I used my adjustment brush and burned the background at -.39 on the exposure setting. Did a color pop on her irises and lips- exposure on -.08 and saturation on +20. I exported to PS. I played out no actions. I cloned out the scratches on her nose. I adjusted her skin tones with a color balance layer – she needed a wee bit of green and yellow (you can do the same with Levels for you Elements users). I added a white color fill layer at soft light blend mode and 30% opacity to add some light all over and masked it off her eyes and lips. I also added a hue/sat layer and reduced the light in the red channel and inverted it an painted it on her lips to lighten them some.
That’s all I did.
One last visual. All I did was play Topaz and adjust Blacks to 7 and Contrast to 31. No other adjustments were made to these images.
Did this info help you? I’d love to hear about it! <3 xxx