Thursday, December 31, 2009


I started this picture of Penelope with no other intention than to work through it with my normal approach to things. However halfway through the retouch, I watched the RetouchPro rebroadcast of the interview with Amy Dresser and well, things changed.

To make a long story short, I walked away from the 2.5 hour interview realizing that I knew nothing about Photoshop compared to a seasoned pro like Amy Dresser. The good news is I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico. :)

In all seriousness, I was able to understand all the techniques and keep up and I have several new techniques to try out... some of which appear in this picture of Penelope.

I'll go over them briefly on a high-level:

-Dodging and burning with black/white brushes on an overlayed blank layer. I used to do this a while ago with a 50% grey soft light blended layer but for whatever reason it felt tedious and hard to control. Most of you know that my preference is to use the dodge and burn tool directly onto a copy of the image. I know the current retouch stance is to not use the original D&B tools because it "destroys" original data, but I don't care. Amy Dresser uses them, so it's okay. Anyway, I am going back to experimenting with D&B via black/white brushes

-Bringing out the highlights with a (white) color range select (variable fuzziness) and then filling with white. This is a totally new technique that I learned from Amy yesterday and if I remember was even a new technique to her quite recently. Essentially you're selecting highlights by selecting the color white and making adjusting the fuzziness so that it captures as much of the skin tones as you want. Then you fill that selection with white, thus making those areas brighter. Then you adjust accordingly via mask, opacity, etc. This was an interesting new addition to my arsenal. The side effect is that it desaturates the image

-Color adjustments via curves. I've known that Amy does color adjustments via curves, particularly global ones early on in the workflow but I had no idea she did localized color adjustments to even out skin tones on the skin. In fact she sometimes does 20 or so layers of localized adjustments to even out skin tones/colors. I used a global curves adjustment with the master channel to adjust luminosity and then the RGB channels to correct/adjust for feel and color temperature.

With my own original workflow, this image was a little different because of the amount of shadows and the focus on the parts of the face that were lit. I dodged the face extensively to bring out the highlights and also spent a lot of time evening out the skin tones across Penny's cheeks. The lips were also slightly saturated to draw more attention. As usual, I brought out skin texture in the arm and cheeks but this time before resizing. This slightly affected my post-resizing sharpening which was almost unnecessary because of the amount of detail retained and accentuated by the high-pass prior to resizing. Speaking of skin texture, since there wasn't much real estate on Penny's face to begin with, I didn't need to apply any skin filtering.

The biggest challenge was her right arm (our left). By stretching out her right arm across the frame, it was nearly impossible to create a crop that didn't make her look like an amputee and didn't sacrifice the composition of the frame. Ultimately I opted to make her look like an amputee because I didn't want to destroy the composition of the crop. In retrospect she should have dropped her right arm and thrown her shoulders back a little more to be less square to the camera.

The white wooden frame that she's leaning on also made for a slight challenge because I wasn't directly in front of it so the lines don't match the frame of the camera. That bugs me slightly.

Camera: Nikon D3/28-70mm f/2.8G @62mm, 1/200th, f/11, ISO200

Strobist: Single18-20" beauty dish (with silver-lining) monobloc from camera upper left. Reflector board right.

Model/Makeup/Wardrobe: Penelope Ko

Studio: Winson's studio in Shi-Lin

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