Meet Dean. Art director for a commercial advertising client. We were scouting a location for an upcoming photo shoot. As we were talking, I turned around and saw this image. Behind Dean was the paint bay for a city transit bus (if that gives you any idea of it’s size). A visual scene taken straight out of a Kubrick film.
If you’d like to read about how this photo was created and the technique used to achieve the look presented in the before and after image, meet me on the other side.
I literally snapped this image of Dean as we were talking. Something for the visual idea file. Thankfully, Dean is a very gracious (if not begrudging) model and understanding of my creative process. His masked curiosity is evident in this photo.
I’ve been thinking of incorporating a new style into my work next year. A conceptual, photo illustrative look for a series of portraits. While editing, this image of Dean jumped out at me. As a very long day was finally ending, I poured a glass of cabernet and started playing. It’s rare these days that I take time to creatively play with my images. Practice what you preach, right? This is the result of that creative time, exploring in Photoshop.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
As this was a reference shoot— a scouting expedition, I was limited to the lighting in the natural environment. Also known as “ambient” light. A mixture of florescent and daylight. This image was captured on a Canon 5D with an EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II lens. It was captured as a RAW file at 16mm ( 1/125 sec.— f/4.0 @ 400 ISO).
The RAW conversion was handled by Canon DPP. I generally prefer Canon Digital Photo Professional for my RAW conversions when shooting people. Adobe Lightroom 3 is a wonderful tool for a production workflow, but I continually battle how it renders skin tones. Once the image was exported into Adobe Photoshop CS5, the first thing I did was an auto color correction. The next step was to open the new Lens Correction tool in CS5 and correct the ultra-wide angle distortion from the 16mm lens.
Next, I went over the image in exacting detail with the healing brush and the clone tool. The door on the left hand side was really distracting, so I decided to try the new Content Aware Fill. To be honest, nearly every time I’ve tried to use this greatly hyped tool, it’s failed miserably. I’m sure much of it has to do with learning how it thinks and I clearly haven’t figured that out. But in this instance, it worked surprisingly well. It even added a bit of perspective transform to the window. I then cleaned up any stray elements using the clone tool.
Then, I started working on the color elements. I corrected the skin tones and masked this separately from the background, which had it’s own color corrections applied. After this, I created several subtle color shifts, using layers of color fill set to different layer blending modes and adjusting the opacity until I was happy with it. All of this involved using layer masks to place color or keep color.
Once I was happy with the overall color tonality, I started playing with the high pass filter. This increases edge contrast and dramatically enhances detail. Again, this was painted in using a layer mask and a paint brush set to varying opacities. It also makes any pores or wrinkles very pronounced. Not flattering to most models, but a stylistic choice. Thankfully Dean is very accommodating.
The last step involved desaturating the color overall and selectively reducing the saturation of reds in Dean’s skin. A bit of local dodging and burning using the lasso tool and a curves adjustment layer. Finally, I increased mid-tone contrast and selectively applied it to his face. Finally, I desaturated the color in his shirt and using the history brush, painted it back into my image.
At this point, I decided to stop and let it rest. It’s easy to get carried away and go too far when you’re playing. As a first step towards a new style, I’m very happy with the results. I think it’s important to point out that this image worked on it’s own visually, before any Photoshop work was done to it. For a visual artist, post production is merely a means to realize your vision. But that vision has to be in place as no amount of post production can rescue a poorly executed image.
What do you think? What do you like or not like about this image?
Many thanks to Dean for his permission to publicly humiliate his beautiful face with it’s well earned wrinkles. You are a wonderful model and an even better human being with a quirky, sarcastic sense of humor.