Portrait Photography Fundamentals


Portrait Photography Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Headshot Post-Processing

I'm gonna start going through these four things and first off kind of starting with some skin toning, and some skin smoothing. But what I thought would be cool would to start with an image that you saw me shoot already. So let's get to that. So here's kind of like what I finished up with. But this is how it started. You know I can say, "Well, you know, as long as I'm close, "I'm there, I can at least get it to there." So let's start off with this process starting from here, how that skin tone looks a little bit differently and what I do. I love using Lightroom and Photoshop, so I think they go both-- My Lightroom is more for global adjustments, whereas my Photoshop is more specific, and so that's how I use them both. You know that question is if you, hypothetical situation, if you can only take one lighting thing, flash or whatever, if I could only have Lightroom or Photoshop, I'd say screw that question, I have to have both! Because there's just no way for me to get what I want withou...

t both in an efficient manner. So anyways, some people like all Photoshop. I like both. So first of all, what we're gonna do, let me show you a little trick here on how you maximize the dynamic range. And so in this first module here you have exposure and contrast, or you have temperature. I actually don't fiddle with that color balancing until way later, because sometimes the way you expose the images changes the tone of it. So I wait until I've kind of got the tone firmed up, and then on top of that, okay, now it's still, after everything that I do it still looks a little green, let me add some red to it. But I do it a little bit after. But the first thing a lot of times that I do, and it doesn't necessarily work with a head shot, but I want to show you this technique because it tells you how to get the maximum dynamic range out of the picture. To see okay, here's all the pixels, okay, let's work with that. But I just want to see all of them, up front, now. And so what I do is I bypass the exposure and contrast, I get straight to these highlights, shadows, and blacks. And the first thing I do, and this works for every image and you can adjust it afterwards. You pull all the highlights down. So I want to see if all the highlights in there and I want to see all the blacks in there. That looks weird in the beginning but don't worry, it's gonna get even weirder. Now you hold the option key down and then you mess with the whites, and it turns it all black. You turn this slider until you see a little bit of information. That information that you see now, that's getting blown out. See that red ball to the left there? That's blown out information so you pull it back until you see a little bit or none. That's my maximum whites I can go. If I go over that I'm gonna blow out more whites. I do the same thing with blacks. I want to see the maximum blacks. If you see black all the time and you can't get rid of it, that means you underexposed your image so much that you can't get that detail back-- it's gone. So you sort of want to see everything. If you don't then you go, "Oops, I screwed up." Oh well, move on. You can still fix it. What I want to do is get to the point where I see nothing. That's my maximum blacks I can go. And so really that is showing you the full detail of everything. If you were shooting a landscape you'd love it, but because it's a portrait you're going, "That's ucky." Because it's showing all the detail, it's showing all the blemishes on the face. But you are getting the maximum there, and so now what I do is I take that and for a portrait you can just pull back the highlights and pull back the shadows to make it more normal. But I want to know what the maximum is, and then I can work with that, and see that. That's why I didn't even get into-- You'll notice I didn't even get into exposure at that point, because exposure is not that accurate to me, because it's a global adjustment. Where here I can actually fine tune things and find out exactly where I wanna be. So okay, I don't know, whatever, let's just take a guess here of where it kind of looks like a normal photo. I'm not sure if my screen looks a little bit different than what you're seeing too, but don't worry about that. So clarity, clarity creates sharpness. So what it actually does, I think it puts like white points by dark areas so it looks like it's sharper. I don't mess with that until later because I don't want to sharpen blemishes right now. The first thing I'm gonna do is smooth out the skin, so I don't want it sharp. I may, after I smooth everything on the skin, go back and sharpen it, then that's okay, but right now I don't want to create more work for myself so I'm not gonna sharpen it. Okay, vibrance and saturation. You may say what the heck is the difference between them? I don't know, I just fiddle with those and whatever. But I think the official story is, and how I saw it was vibrance brings up all those colors that are not related to skin. So if you want to up the colors but kind of leave the flesh tones alone, that that's what vibrance is, where saturation is global and it just brings everything up. So a general technique that I love doing is bringing down the saturation so I neutralize the skin. You see how the skin is being neutralized and being grayed out? And then I can bring up the vibrance without touching the skin. You get that? And so now I can get the blue to come out but I didn't necessarily touch the skin. Okay, so you see how I used that? All right, moving on. Now you have your curves area, which I really like. And I kind of do this before, and I kind of do it after, where you can kind of do these adjustments where you're messing with the highlights, so here I can make the highlights brighter, or less, or whatever. And you just kind of get a feel of what you like. I don't know, there's really no method to it. But see how you kind of-- Oh, I might like it-- Somebody might like it like this. Ooh, yeah. I like it poppy a little bit. But then somebody might make it a little bit lower if they're doing a low key something. So it's all kind of personal taste, but I just maybe like a little pop in there. And then the darks, right, depending. And so a lot of this I'm kind of looking for the dark areas and making sure that there's some detail there. And so kind of come in here and there. I'm looking at the detail. Okay, whatever. Don't give too much thought about it. If you're sitting there for 10 minutes, just do it, go forward, you can readjust later. And I think that's the thing with postprocessing. After doing it for 15 years, don't get too hung up on something because if you're deciding between like, "Should I change this sepia, or black and white," and you're sitting there for 10 minutes trying to figure out what. That means it doesn't matter, either one probably looks the same. Because the things that you change that make a difference, they're gonna be obvious. It's just like the good pictures. You know what the good pictures are. Boom, boom, boom. And so you spend a lot of time doing all this little tiny stuff, it probably doesn't matter because it's not affecting totally the global thing, so don't worry about that. Now here's the hue where you want to change things. And the reason why I don't mess with the white balance is that I do this first. You can select this little guy here, I even know what official word for adjust-- So you can select that and now when you click on something you can change the color by going up and down with your mouse. So let's say I want to change blue. I click on that blue and now I can change it to how I feel looks cool. It's your own personal taste. I can change this orange to whatever I want. But that orange probably affects the skin a little bit too. And so it's easier to visually see it than to turn these sliders down here. So that's why you click it and turn and then like okay, that's what I like. So then you can do the same thing with the skin. So you can click the skin, and... Oh, shoot, sorry. I was selected on luminance. I meant to be on hue. So I'm gonna reset the whole darn thing. Oh shoot, I just did everything. How do I go back on that? Edit, undo. Let's forget that, let's just-- I think if I just double click on things it goes right back. All right, so let's go to hue and do that. So here I'm on hue. And see that? What do you like? See how easy that is? What's your flavor today? Today you're gonna like that, tomorrow you're gonna like this. I don't know, whatever. Things change. So I select that. There, going with the complimentary colors, and now I can go with the skin too and I can say warm it up, cool it up. I see a little green in there. Maybe I'd like to add a little bit of warm. That still doesn't kind of get me where I'm at but it's closer. Okay, that's cool. Let's stay with that. That's great for like if you're doing trees, or whatever different colors and you can slightly edit it. You just select that, go back and forth and down, you're right in there. Okay, sharpening I don't mess with that until later. Noise reduction is great, and this is kind of like if you want a quick global thing. On how to do that, you can do the noise reduction, and this is also great for smoothing skin. So let me see if I can get in here real close. This is not my computer so... If I wanted to zoom back a little bit on that where do I go here? Okay, anyways. Let me show you this noise reduction. So this is a great skin smoothing. I mean you can go all the way, and smooth it all the way if you wanted to. But what happens is the more you smooth the skin, the less sharpness you're gonna get. So, you know, I do it, but I really finish it off in Photoshop but I want a little bit of a head start so I'll just give you some skin smoothing but not all the way. This color I always rip it to the right, everything, because that takes out some of the chromatic distortion, I can't remember exactly what they call that. But I always just turn it all the way to the right. I think it eliminates the magenta on that. And then also under this lens correction I always say remove chromatic aberration, I always click that. So right away you can see kind of the difference of the photo. Was I working with the original, the finished photo? No, right? Okay. So you can kind of see the difference of things back and forth there. That's a good start for me. I kind of like that. And then now I just want to kind of finish it off and get it into Photoshop and do the skin smoothing part. So I kind of do that process with every single image. Like see where we are, whatever we're going, and then okay let's bring it into Photoshop. So let's select this and edit in Photoshop. Now when I bring it in, as you know, I shoot in JPEG, but what happens with JPEG and when you're bringing into Photoshop, in and out, in and out, you're losing some pixels, and some quality. But before the days of RAW, and because I was a graphic designer a long time ago they used to have something called TIFF, and TIFF was a format where it didn't, it was lossless. And so that's what I do. So when I bring it into Photoshop I select the option to turn it into a TIFF, so at that point that's kinda my RAW. So that's what I do there. So let's bring it into that and then let's get into the smooth skin and what I do with that. All right, so here it is. Shoot, I got a bunch of things going in here. I wanna close that down. Don't save. Okay. Now I have my skin, and you can see some blemishes there. I do a real fast and easy way. If you really want to be an expert at skin smoothing, and let's say your images are going on the cover of Vogue Magazine and all it is is two eyes and a mouth? (laughs) I recommend you get into frequency separation and learning how to do that. It's a long process. I've done it and gone, "It looks great," but for me, I have to edit a lot of images, it's just not for me. And I figure I'd get that point, if some magazine wants my image I'm just gonna pay somebody $30 to do that, that separation for me. I'm gonna show you what I do, and how I get there. How do I collapse these windows? There we go. Okay, I usually like to turn those-- I think they changed configuration when I went to the screen. Okay, so I kind of have these actions here. They're a little bit different now because I'm used to them all in a line. But anyways, my skin smoothing is very easy. So what I do, I'm gonna just show you manually what I do. I've been using this technique for like 10 years. I haven't changed it. In fact these actions that I have here, it says up here, if you could read it, it says version three Photoshop. What version are we on now with Photoshop? 10-something? I don't know. So I've been using this for a long time. I haven't really changed the actions that much. I've added a few here and there, but I haven't, so I'm using the same things. So let's get in here. In my layers I am going to create another layer on top of that that's all blurred out. So I go into gaussian blur here. And you can choose the blurriness. So what I do is I look at the largest blemishes, so maybe it's right there, and I go according to-- I keep blurring that out until I don't see it. And this varies. Like if you have a 42 megapixel camera, if you're like a Sony user, this gaussian blur you're gonna have to have more and more of effect of it because with the pixel count it's gonna change. So you just can't have one number that works for every single file. It just depends on how many megapixels your image is. So in general I think it's about, what, 12-ish you start to don't see it. So let's say okay there. That looks pretty good. Now the problem is, if I do that-- Oh, shoot. I have an action so that does it for me, but I forgot to do something, I forgot to duplicate it. (laughs) Okay. Undo state change. Okay, so, good. Oh man, this is wonderful. All right, there. Duplicate it and let's do the gaussian blur. (laughs) Yes, I'm a rookie. Blur, right there. Okay, good. Blurred that out. There. Now, what you're gonna do is you're gonna paint in the parts that you want to get rid of, but the only problem is it's going to look really plastic-y without any texture there. So you have to add some texture and so what I do for that is I add some noise to it. So I go add noise. And then usually where I want to be is about maybe 3% to 5%. I'll just be a little bit aggressive on this, I'll do it at 5% so maybe you can see the difference. And so that adds the texture into the photo, and so when you blend those two together it's looking like there's a texture there and it doesn't look all plastic-y, and then there's a trick at the end to blend everything together after that, which I'll show. So now I have those two layers. So you can create a layer mask right there. Now it's creating a layer mask, and so I don't want that to show, I just want to selectively punch through there and so that is gonna be white reveals, black conceals. So I'm concealing that layer and I'm just gonna paint on where I want that. And I first start, I start where it is the worst. The largest blemishes, I start there. There's a couple different ways to do it. If they're very large you can do something like this where you just select the patch tool. You just grab that and you can pull it, and then it will also fix itself for you, but I'll go into that a little bit later. So that's where it is. Let's do this. And so let's punch through the areas where I want it, and I'll just paint it through. So what I like to do is use a low flow level, but on these large ones maybe I'll go to a nine and I will just start painting that through here and clicking on it until it disappears. So what I do is I start with the largest ones first-- Oh, I gotta select white here. Okay, select white, and you gotta punch through there, and you're just going around, seeing the biggest areas that need it first, and click on those. Then you can do some more global and it will look the most natural that way. I can get rid of certain things here and there and move forward here. You can see that. Get rid of that stuff. And I just want the major stuff to be taken care of. I'm not really too concerned with the minor stuff. That's cool there. So let's say I've got all that good stuff done. Then I can take my larger brush and then go through that, because that's the minimal amount of skin smoothing that you want to do. You tackle the hard stuff first, you give a lot of attention to it, and then you lightly go over everything at once. So if you start too intense then what you're gonna do is create a lot of skin smoothing areas that don't need it and then it's gonna look very plastic-y out of that. So now it's more of my global adjustments here. And I like to use a low opacity on the flow because if you screw up-- the lower the flow, it's like airbrush. You just give it as much as it needs. But if it's too high, then it's gonna change everything too quickly and then you can't have full control over everything. So the lower it is, the more control it is. Because your whole concept here, you want as least amount of skin smoothing as possible because you want it to look natural. So that's the whole idea behind the process with it. On the neck I don't like any lines on there, so I'm getting rid of that part there, and through here. That's good. You're just generally getting rid of stuff, and it's really quick, and it doesn't look too bad, we were talking about before. But it still looks pretty natural. I also do it in things like clothing, I'll smooth it off that too if it needs be. So now I've got that and the thing is, I don't like to use it at the 100% that I just did it at, and so I back it off a bit. Okay, I'll turn it all the way off, and I'll say oh, what can I get, what is the least possible, and at lot of times I can end up at 80%, around there, and it's good. So I'll take that and I'll flatten that. And then it generally looks good. And here's my key to what I do, which I don't see a lot of people do is, I add a layer of grain over the entire image because now what that grain does, or that noise does, it ties in the skin with the background, and it makes it look together. And so I have a certain grain action. So what this grain action does is it creates one layer of noise. And I can select the strength of it, and so whatever strength I select with it. It also duplicates that layer of grain and then I flip it around horizontally. I can then get a double layer of grain right there, and it's really fine at that point, and then I reduce it by 50% and I mash it together. Let's just get going on this really fast. I can just show you in general. Here's my layer, and looks how it kind of blends everything together here. And then I can just change the opacity with that. And I can just tie it in together, right there. And I can flatten that, and then I've got some skin smoothing there, and that's generally what I do for every single image. That's how I do that particular thing. With that and skin smoothing, but that's how I do everything. And it even works with like, you know, if you have larger blemishes or skin that has more, it will work with that too.

Class Description

Want to be able to go into any situation with your camera and have the confidence to know you’ll get the shot? Award-Winning photographer Scott Robert Lim goes in-depth on the four foundational elements you must conquer if you want to develop your creativity and style.

Scott will give you the guidelines you need to master:

  • Lighting
  • Posing
  • Composition
  • Post-Processing

Once you master these fundamentals of portraits, you free up your mind to get creative and ultimately get the shot.


1Class Introduction
25 Shots That WOW
3Four Fundamentals of Photography
4Create a Visual Impact with Composition
5Importance of Foreground and Background
6Create Depth in Landscape Images
7Photos Don't Always Follow the Rules
8Composition Practice Exercise
9Composition Critique of Student Images
10Keys to Posing
11Shoot: Classic Elegance Female Pose
12Shoot: Modern Female Pose
13Shoot: Rollover Female Pose
14Female Hands & Arms Poses Overview
15Shoot: Hands and Arms Poses for Female
16Seven Posing Guidelines
17Headshots Poses with Male Model
18Shoot: Headshot for Male Model
19Shoot: Sitting Poses for Male Model
20Shoot: Leaning Poses for Male Model
21Shoot: Standing Poses for Male Model
22Keys to Couples Posing
23Shoot: Couples Posing
24Couples Transitional Posing Overview
25Shoot: Transitional Posing
26Keys to Group Posing
27Accordion Technique with Groups
28Shoot: Accordion Technique
29Shoot: Best Buds Pose
30Shoot: Talk with Your Hands Pose
31Shoot: Lock Arms and Hold Hands Pose
32Run at the Camera and Dance in Your Seat Poses
33Shoot: Pod Method Pose
34Posing Critique of Student Images
35Introduction to Lighting
36Soft vs Hard Light
37Difficult Lighting Situations
38Bright Light Techniques
39Overcast Light Techniques
40Low Light Techniques
41Lighting Techniques Q&A
42Drama Queen Lighting
43Laundry Basket Lighting
44Make it Rain Lighting
45Smart Phone Painting with Light
46Mini LED Bokeh Lighting
47Choose the Right Lighting System
48Hybrid Flash System
49Innovative Accessories
50Gear Overview
51Theatrical Post-Processing
52Ten Keys to Post-Processing
53Essential Skills to Post-Processing
54Headshot Post-Processing
55Bright Light Post-Processing
56Flat Light Post-Processing
57Low Light Post-Processing
58Introduction to Fine Art Post-Processing
59Light & Airy Fine Art Post-Processing
60Dark & Moody Fine Art Post-Processing
61Post-Processing Critique of Student Images