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Retouch Images With Presets

Lesson 25 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

Retouch Images With Presets

Lesson 25 from: Environmental Portrait Photography

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

25. Retouch Images With Presets

Work with cropping inside Adobe Photoshop. Then, move into Alien Skin to work with presets to work with different colors and dramatic effects. Work with film-inspired presets, then learn how to fine-tune the effect.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Introduction to The Environmental Portrait


Environmental Portrait Purpose


Personal Work


Find Your Process




Purpose For Action Editorial


Prepare for Shoot


Lesson Info

Retouch Images With Presets

What I'll do next is, we'll edit one more of these, and then I'm gonna open them all in Alien Skin. So let's see, maybe I'll do two. We're gonna do this one, 'cause I wanna crop it. So I do all my cropping in Photoshop as well. I'm not gonna do any constraints on this crop, because I don't really care about the aspect ratio, I just know I want it to be down lower, a little more aggressive. There we go. That's more of what I had in mind. Oops, wrong button. When we shot it. So I think that's pretty good, we'll save that. I'm actually not gonna do any retouching to that, we're just gonna leave it. And what I want to do right now is open Alien Skin. So I already have it open, it's Alien Skin Exposure X3, and what we can do is similar to Capture One, you have this file structure over here. Just to give you guys a quick overview of Alien Skin, it's similar to, you know, Lightroom or Capture One in its overall setup, but its main goal here is to use film mimicking filters to give you differe...

nt coloration options when it comes to doing color grading on your images and adding grain and things like that. So what we have is Navigator. That you can click within an image and it'll show you kind of where you're at. I don't use that at all. Our histogram, I've already figured out all of the settings I want as far as exposure and contrast so I don't use that. Folders, that's where we can select which images we're going to work on. We already put our edited pictures of Brock in the output folder, so there we go. Here he is. We can minimize folders. Now presets. That's where things get fun. So let me minimize some of these. What we have is color presets, and within each of these dropdown menus, let's say you want color films, Polaroid. Boom, there are a ton. And let 'em load, or don't, and there's hundreds. Not in that one, but hundreds in general. I mean, you go to Cross Processing, there's a ton more. And you'll see there's these little yellow stars, that's because those are the ones that I used. So then when I'm looking through, I don't necessarily need to go to Cross Processing. I can go to Favorites, and you'll see Cross Processing is just the ones that were starred. You can go to Polaroid, there was like, 70 in Polaroid. Now there's three, because it's just the ones I use. So I've favorited the ones that I like. You could even make your own and save them as users. I do so much individual adjustments to each one that it's not worth it for me to save a user, because I'll end up changing it anyways. So I just have favorites. There's even black and white, you can see there's black and white films, there's, you know, another 30 options in there. And all these things, there's other options too, like Bokeh, those are things that you should've figured out in camera with your lens, it's like, that just doesn't look good. So we can select an image, make it full-size, and you'll see, things like that, that's just not gonna work for me. But if we go to Favorites and I can start playing around, actually, we'll go to Color, and we'll go to Polaroid. You'll see a lot of these straight outta the box are pretty aggressive as far as the toning, but what's unique is that once you get in, you can always look at before and after. I don't mind where this one's going, actually. But what you can do is over here on the right, you have your Layers palette similar to Photoshop, Capture One even has layers. I always start by adding a layer, a blank one, and that way I can always adjust the overall intensity. But what you can do is click on the layer and adjust each layer individually with its opacity. So uh, it makes it a lot easier to really fine-tune what you want, so we'll start with this one at about 50% or right around there. I always leave the overall intensity at 100, that's why I start with a blank layer, so I can scale it back. And when you copy and paste, let's say I started with this one without this blank layer and I started at 70%. If I copy and paste all these settings, it puts the next one at 100%. I think it's either I don't know how to use the software right or there's a glitch, because then I have to go in and adjust them all down to 70 rather than it automatically set it. But by me making a blank layer and adjusting each other layer individually, it'll copy and paste them properly. So it's just kind of a, something that I do to up the speed of the workflow, and maybe there's a way around it that I don't know, but I dunno. So with that said, within each filter, we did this 669 Creamy Highlights Polaroid filter. You can see what it did before and after, you can turn each layer on or off, or on, and what you can do is then you can open up all these other, and this is what I'm talking about, how it can end up two in the morning and you're still working on the same photo. Under Basic is your exposure, all the stuff you should have taken care of when you were shooting in Capture One. So you can turn these layers off. I never use Basic. Detail is all about sharpening, I don't do sharpening in Alien Skin. I turn that off. Color, we're gonna play with that. Curve, we're gonna play with that. Vignette, nope. Overlays, no, focus, no, grain, yes. Infrared, no, Bokeh, no, and lens correction, no. Those are all things that I already took care of shooting. So within all these options in Alien Skin, the only thing I use are the presets is the color, the tone curve, and the grain. And mostly the color. So within the color you'll see this Polaroid filter here is made up of all these premade settings. So it has all this yellow filter over the image set at 39 density. So you'll see if we turn it way up, it adds more yellow. If you turn it way down, the yellow goes away. I like that little bit of warmth. You saw I always add yellow to my highlights in Capture One, so essentially that's what this is doing here. You can add, cool off the image or warm it up a little bit. I'll leave that neutral for right now. And then down here you can actually adjust color saturation by shadows, midtones, or highlights, or by the RGB or CMYK channels. So if you want to get rid of some of the saturation in red you can watch the brick or the ball as they start to go gray or more red, depending on what you want. I never oversaturate, I always undersaturate. Oranges, there's probably not a whole lot. Same color, you know, see the ball. I'm not gonna mess with that. That's even important with black and whites, and we'll get there too, because a lot of these SRG images, they're all made up of an RGB file, so adjusting the reds, greens, and blues will adjust your black and white. And we'll do one of those shortly. So I adjust a decent amount of these, but again, I found filters that work for my workflow and my color palette, so I don't need to do a lot of adjusting. It's mostly in the opacity and the intensity of the filter. When you're talking about tone curve, if I think the highlights are too bright I can bring those down, and I do. I'm gonna bring 'em down. You can adjust the shadows, I can bring those up a little bit. But for the most part, we'll leave that about where it is. And then the grain, that's gonna be a little tricky to see on this monitor, but when you open grain, it's essentially adding digital noise that's hopefully just a little well, a little more well-manicured than actual noise. And this one has no grain on. But if I turn it up, I don't know why they do this, but it goes zero to 200. Zero to 100 always seems to make more sense, but so, 50% is actually 100, and then from there, you can add the amount of grain to your shadows, midtones, or highlights, there's a lot of shadows and midtones going on here. The highlights, not so much. And then you can add the type of grain, whether it's color variation, so that's more like noise. I try to keep that down, I don't like a lot of color in my grain. And the roughness. You know, obviously the more rough, the larger it's gonna be. And then push processing, you'll see that just does exactly what it used to do with the film, and I don't touch that at all 'cause it looks really fake. The one thing that I do touch is the size of the grain. So this is based off 24 by 36 millimeters file format, this is just relative size, so this is basically one pixel. If you up this, you'll see, it'll just start looking really muddy, and I'm almost zoomed in too far. But I always keep it around one pixel. Between like .7 and 1.2. Because I do like my images to have a little texture, but I don't like it to look fake. I just don't like them to look too smooth. Plus that helps with any skin issues, it kind of makes them just a little more textured without being too digital. We're gonna turn that down just a little bit. So that's basically all I do with the first layer of Alien Skin. Then I would add another layer, I'd adjust it to 50% 'cause I hate working with it at 100. You can go back over to your presets. Again, I have my favorites, one of my favorites is Cinema. It's called Wizard of Oz, and there's three different versions. You can see, we'll turn off the first layer, we already did. And this is that, that look. So before and after the Wizard of Oz. It basically darkens the whole thing and adds this dramatic feel and this kind of warmth to it. So again, by combining the Wizard of Oz with the Creamy Highlights, we're starting to get somewhere. Oops, I'm turning on and off the wrong filter. All right, so we'll bring that down. And then it's getting pretty warm, so I wanna add something that kinda balances that. So that's where cross processing filters come in. So you can go down to your Cross Processing, you'll see that I already have these selected, 'cause I know how I like to edit. And you can see these are a lot cooler. So we have our Optima Mild, our Optima, our Kodak Royal Gold, and Royal Gold Mild. So I'm gonna go with one of these two milds, whether I want it to be really cool or a little cool. Eh, we'll go with this one, it has a little bit of warmth left, and we're gonna turn that layer down. And just so you can see the before and after, it's subtle, but I like what it's doing. And I'm not trying to make some gimmicky image here. And then when you're done you can export those. So we're gonna export this one. Um, I'm just gonna send it to not our output folder, but CLBrock Selects. So you could put, you could name these whatever you want. But this will end up in there, hopefully, if I did everything right. And a lot of times I'll have it put an R on the end to let me know that it's been retouched. So, or we can change that R to, oops. Add custom text, color toned, or color graded. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn't matter. But that way you know this image is different from the last one. Same with low res, I always put a capital LR on the end of any low res, because the worst thing is one time I went to print a new portfolio, I grabbed an image that I thought was high res, I threw it in the book, and I got the book back, it was like a $300 portfolio, and I had this pixelated image because I didn't know I grabbed an 800-pixel-wide, 72 dpi file when I went to print. And yeah, not ideal. So now I put a giant LR on the end of anything I saved that's low res so I don't accidentally do that. So now within our Brock's folder, oops, wrong way. We have our selects, and there's our one that's been color graded. So those are all the ones I'd add to my portfolio or wherever I want to put them. We'll color grade a couple more, and then we'll go back and get some questions. So just because we have a lot of different images, let's do a black and white one. I do all my black and whites in Alien Skin, like I said. This one, when I'm doing black and whites, I want the skin to be the brightest part of the image because I really want the person to pop. So I wouldn't do black and white so much on this one, but I would definitely do it on this one, because I really would like, and that's just personal preference. Again, I have a black and white film. This is gonna start off looking, you know, pretty sharp to begin with, but once you open it, you get rid of these thumbnails. Minimize these menus a little bit. So you see it's already looking pretty good, but I want this one to be like, really gritty and grainy. So we're gonna open grain, and I'm actually gonna go in here and up the grain, up the size, up the amount and the shadows. I just kinda want something that looks a little more rough, and then what I was talking about color channels with black and white images, if you see, we have our RGB channels, so our reds, our greens, and our blues. You'll notice as I adjust the reds, you can really see what it does with the brick, that was red, and skin tones. And I like playing with those to get just a high-contrast, you know, you can see where the yellow is coming through the window, we'll tune that down a little bit. Our greens, yeah, I was gonna say, there's probably not a lot of green going on here. Cyan, that's all in his jacket and that back window. 'cause I really want the focus to be, I like what it's doing with the highlights, though. I want the focus to be on him, so our blue channel, we're gonna keep that pretty low, and then magentas. So that's mostly in the bricks, and I wanna keep that down. So we can, we'll turn down that grain just a little bit. So again, this is about all I would do for a black and white, but the last step I do with all my black and whites is I wanna maximize contrast on black and whites. So we're gonna export this. Again, it's gonna keep all the same names, it's gonna put that CG on the end. Exporting one file. That'll show up here momentarily. Is then I open those within Photoshop, and I open my Levels histogram. So I go down to my local adjustments, open Levels, and you can see we have a little bit of leeway to work with as far as, let me zoom in. As far as highlights go. 'cause this is our histogram, so this is completely blown out. So I can bring this in just a little bit, and we can up that contrast just a little bit and really create a, you know, that's before, it's not much, but it's a true high contrast actual black and white image. And I'm okay, I'm, I think that looks pretty cool. So as far as the contrast goes, and it's different than the color. So I generally work in color, you won't see hardly any black and white images on my web site, actually, you won't see any, because again that's part of the deal with keeping it consistent. One time at a portfolio review, I had a whole bunch of color images, and I had two black and white out of 30. And the person was like, what's the, what's with these? And again, in my head I thought, well, I wanna show that I can do black and white. And it's like, either do a whole bunch of black and white or do none, so none was the answer. So it's just a learning process, and while it can come across as a little harsh once in a while, sometimes it has to. So we don't need to save that. I do want to edit one of these color ones in Alien Skin, and again, let's say that we liked all the stuff we did to this image. You can reset these layers and, like I was saying before, if you really like this color toning you did in this one, you can go up to Edit, Copy All Settings, take it to your next file, similar to what you can do in Capture One. We'll go with this one, Edit, Paste Settings. Or you can even paste the settings from the previous, and that way you have a consistent look from image to image of what you wanna do, and if you wanna turn it down at all, get a little bit of that warmth back, you can do that as well. So there's tons of stuff you can do to get the look you want, but there's also ways you can save time by copy and pasting those settings so you don't have to go through and do it to every single one. Again, we could go Copy, or Edit, Paste Settings, and it would paste those same settings with that blue tone from this one, so now those two have the exact same color palette. However, when I'm going to images like this, I want it to look a little different. So with this one, this could actually be a pretty cool black and white. I like that quite a bit. This would be one where we could turn down the reds, turn up the yellows to add that contrast, probably not a lot of green. But I don't shoot black and white, so I don't know why I'm doing this. But I'm also curious. So again, it's just something, I actually really enjoy how that looks. We could add even more contrast if we went into our tone curve. We could up the contrast a little bit, bring the highlights down slightly and the midtones, and have a pretty mean-looking black and white, and if you wanted to add a little grit to it, we could go down to our grain, up the grain, especially in the highlights, and again, make a nice gritty black and white image. I kinda like how that looks too. But for sake of education, we'll reset that layer, we'll go back to Color, and we'll kind of look through what some of these filters look like stock. I do like that one, I think that one has potential. I like that one a lot, in fact, I like it enough we're gonna work with it. So we're gonna insert a new layer, there we go. So now we can work from there. We're gonna tone it down just a little bit, but I like the overall feel. I'm not even gonna do anything to it. Well, that's a lie, I'm gonna turn down some of the red. I think there's a little too much going on with the red saturation. There we go, we'll turn that down about 24 points. Now we'll add a new layer, start looking. So I do this pretty quick when I actually do it. I'll spend about five to 10 minutes on an image, and then apply that to every image from that set. So if we did three different lighting setups, I might spend 15 minutes in Alien Skin. And again, I'm only working from these setups, so I know, I don't like those for the white. I know what it is I'm looking for, it's just a matter, like, these look a little harsh to start. But again, we can tone them down and you can see the before and after. So I kinda like how that looks. I'd be happy with that, I would go up and Edit, Copy All Settings, go to the other image from the white setup, Edit, Paste Settings, and there you go. Now we have two images that have the same color palette, a little different light, 'cause we had a little bit different setup. But close enough. And I wouldn't have to go and do that one individually. You could even see how it effects another image. Image, Paste Settings, um, I don't like that gray background with this color palette. I want the gray to be darker, so we'd have to play with that. You can always undo and start over. And then lastly, I picture these ones just having a ton of contrast and being a little more funky and less traditional, so that might be something where it's not my normal way of editing, so I might have to go back in out of my favorites and go down the rabbit hole of Alien Skin and figure out what it would be that I'd want to do. I'm thinking of something high-contrast that will go into some sort of print film, something with a lot of saturation. And then we could go into the tone curve, make it a little darker, up that saturation even more. Turn it down just a little bit, add another layer. I think it needs some sort of color cast. Some of this lo fi ones are pretty cool too. They put these funky overlays that look like dust and scratches, I'm not a fan of that, but you can turn that off by taking the overlay tab and shutting that off. And you'll notice those instantly clear up. I kinda like where that's going. We can turn it down just a little bit, but just a before and after. I enjoy that quite a bit. As far as contrast, go to our curve again. Up that contrast even more. And I'm okay with that. We'll copy those settings, I need to make that base layer or else it's gonna get screwed up. All right, Edit, Copy All Settings, and we'll paste those exact settings to this, and there we go. I'm happy with that, I didn't do anything to that one 'cause it's fine. Those are consistent, and these are all the same. So that's kind of how I would use Alien Skin to go through an entire series of images and add color and do that whole, do that whole deal. Again, once you get in there and start playing around enough, you're gonna find your identity pretty quickly or what you like in your preferences. And you'll notice rarely did I come out of my Favorites, because as soon as you crawl out of that Favorites area, you are about to just waste a whole bunch of your time and get lost, and it's kinda like when you get on Facebook and you mean to look something up and all of a sudden you're on Facebook for 30 minutes and you don't know why you got on there. That's what happens in Alien Skin when I'm trying to edit a photo and leave the Favorite zone. So uh, any questions about any of the, I know we didn't do much in Photoshop, but that's all I do in Photoshop. I don't do much in Photoshop. So most of it's done in Capture One, and then the other part of it is done here in Alien Skin to get the color, and that's it. And then I export 'em, and, one last thing I do is I sharpen in Photoshop and I do that last, after I do everything else. Just to show you, let's export another one of these. We'll go with this guy. 'cause my sharpening is pretty straightforward. I like how it turns out. I have it saved as an action, but I'll show you the individual steps, which there's approximately three steps, so it's not, nothing too crazy. We'll open Brock here in Photoshop. So what I do, yeah, that's a pretty big file. What I do is I make a new background layer, Filter, Other, High Pass, do that at about three and a half pixels, it's already saved, hit OK, change that blend mode to Soft Light, and you'll see when we zoom in it's gonna be a little difficult to see up there. But it's definitely sharper, and you might even turn it down some. I usually do it at about 30 to 40%, depending on the image. If it's a closer up image with a lot of hair, that hair can start to look oversharpened really quickly. But as far as general sharpening, that's fine. Hit Command E to flatten it, and then Command S to save, and I'm done. So that's really all I would do to that image. You know, you could obviously crop, oh, one thing I was gonna show you guys was if you had that white background overhead, and you cut it off, how you fix it. Let me do that or I'm sure I'll be asked about it later. Let's see. So it was an image where you could see the white background above his head. Somewhere in here, I know I did it on purpose. Here we go. There, we'll do one of these ones. So let me. We'll process this image out real quick. So you can see up above here, that's the wall. I'll show you how to not deal with that and not have to crop, if you wanted to leave this negative space above his head. So we're just gonna process that, I'm not even worried about the rest of it. This is just a quick lesson. So we gotta go back to our output folder, there's the image, open in Photoshop. Okay, so what we're gonna do is, I always work in a new background layer again in case I mess up. Use the marquee tool, you can hit M, rectangular marquee, and you're gonna select from the edge of this frame, and you're gonna select all the way down to just above his head so you're not grabbing any of his hair. That's gonna make this marquee, this rectangle. Hit Command T, it's free transform, and start dragging upwards until you get a good chunk. If you like where that's at, now you gave yourself just a little more room to work with. I also do that when I don't have a wide enough seamless, but the thing to remember is if you don't leave enough pixels between here and here and you start dragging it, it's gonna start to look like garbage. So you need to leave enough space that when you go to drag that upwards, you're not just totally ruining the image. But now I just gave myself, you know, you could drag that all the way up if you wanted, but especially with a large file like this, but you just gave yourself an extra little bit to crop from if you wanna bring in, you know, the bottom, or whatever you wanna do. So that's how I, that's why I'm not terribly worried, you know, if you wanna drag it up, oops, even farther. You'll start to see some of the loss happening in the file, but if you wanna go right to there, that's not actually bad, you can't see it too much. But now you see we went from there to there, so our background, and you can do that width, too. Sometimes, I was shooting a client on a red 48-inch wide seamless. As long as they're close to the background and you can leave that space on either side, you can stretch it a little bit, or at least, you know, find something to pull and blend it. But you know, I don't think that looks too bad. Again, people who aren't viewing the original won't know you did it unless they're being just a pain in the butt and looking too closely. And this would be an image where I'd probably crop it, you know, we could do something cool with that negative space too, and just cropping it different. But uh, let's see. We'll add a little contrast, and... Yeah, that one's kinda neat as it is, and we didn't really do anything to it. And that has the original color from Capture One. And sometimes that's good enough too. Their color is amazing. So a lot of times I won't have to take things into Alien Skin if I can do it beforehand. But there's certain colors in Alien Skin that I haven't figured out how to match in Capture One, and that's just 'cause I'm not a color expert. I just know what I like when I see it. So there's certain things that I have in my mind where I'm like, this has to be done in Alien Skin. Other things, like this, where I love how that looks, and it's like, oh, that's good enough, that'll save me some time not having to do it. So again, it's all about the process and what your personal preference is. But uh, with that, any other questions before we move on to just a little chat about editorial versus advertising, and then wrap up for this segment? Yes. I had a question, when you're actually shooting, it kinda came into my mind. Do you ever not capture an image because you anticipate that it won't fit in well with your visual style that you've already developed? Um, yeah, that'll actually happen more so with like, I won't use a super wide lens or if I'm using that lens I won't go up too close, because it won't look like something I would ever take. Like for instance, when I was taking these portraits of him from here, that's why I switched to the 7200, because when I started to get in close with the 24 to 70, it started looking a little distorted and that doesn't fit my style. So I needed, yeah, I'm very aware of what's gonna fit my body of work, and while sometimes it's fun to mess around and experiment, I also know, like, eh, that doesn't, I don't like that aesthetically and it doesn't fit in with what I do. So yeah, for sure.

Ratings and Reviews

Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience for this class and absolutely loved it. Watching Dan create amazing images from start to finish in front of us was so inspiring. I've learned so much from this class. It actually gave me the confidence to start playing with lights in my studio. It was really useful to see how he sets his lights and how he can easily mix ambient light with artificial. I also love how he focuses on getting the image right in the camera to only do light edits after. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to learn more about lighting, shooting tethered and editing efficiently!

a Creativelive Student

I love this guy! I so appreciate his honesty while he is explaining his thought process, admitting that his “shoulda/coulda/woulda’s” - which I experience ALL the time. I am now going to dust off my light meter and start using it on location as I’m convinced that it works now that I’ve seen Dan’s class. I enjoyed the detailed way he sets up each light individually, checking to make sure it adds the amount and quality of light he wants. Definitely recommend this class - especially for those people who have experience using studio lights and want to see how they can be used to get specific results. Dan’s clear, simple explanations, his unabashed humility, and his sense of humor made this a truly enjoyable way to spend my time learning his methods.

a Creativelive Student

Dan is an excellent instructor! He's completely transparent with his thought processes, from technical to creative. He doesn't waste time horsing around or getting off topic, but is structured and sticks to his outline. Every minute watched is on topic, and is understandable. He's sincere and likable. The course is great for anyone interested in this genre!

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