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Portrait Workflow

Lesson 3 from: Post-Processing Workflow for Portraits and Landscapes

Blake Rudis

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Lesson Info

3. Portrait Workflow

Next Lesson: Landscape Workflow

Lesson Info

Portrait Workflow

We've got a beautiful photo from Adobe Stock and what I'm gonna do here is the basic adjustments for this photograph first, to talk about how we have things like tone and color, right here already in Adobe Camera Raw, or Lightroom. For the sake of the rest of this I'm just going to say Adobe Camera Raw because I don't want to keep saying "or Lightroom." You know that these principles are the same. The first thing I'm gonna look at here when I'm assessing the tone in the image. The preliminary phase is already done, this image has already been taken, this is what I have to work with. Now I need to move on into the preprocessing phase where I would be getting rid of distractions, I would be straightening horizons. But for this one I'm kind of okay with it, I don't really see many distractions I want to erase. So then I can move on into the tone and the color aspect of things. Looking at the tone and the color aspect of things I'd probably first start out, which is kind of counterintuitiv...

e. I usually start from the bottom, work my way up, because I like to set the white point first, then the black point, and then work my way up. So looking at this image I can see that this area back here is kind of a distraction to me, but instead of going through all the work of trying to get rid of that, if I just bring this white point up it's gonna start to make that stuff disappear in the back. I'm bringing that white point up of the image. All my whites are getting whiter. I can even come over here in my highlights and make all my highlights a little bit brighter. The thing about landscapes and portraits that makes them so different and so unique in their ways is that with landscapes I tend to favor my shadows, but with portraits I tend to favor the highlights, because the highlights can start to structure the faces, they're the things we really wanna make sure we don't go too far on because they can blow out foreheads and noses, and you get these hot spots on faces and such. We wanna be careful with that sort of thing. So I tend to be very on the favorative side of highlights when I'm doing a portrait, but a landscape, I'm opposite, I'm really looking at those shadows, and I'm not really concerned as much with those highlights. We can also maybe bring up those shadows a little bit just to brighten this image up a little bit. Again, I'm just really getting the tone of this image right. I could come up to the exposure and really get that a little bit brighter but what I'm looking for is more of like a technical correction for tone. If I go ahead and turn the before and after on and off you start to see the image is a little bit brighter. But here we can also get into the color phase now. We've done tone pretty well. The color phase is two fold. I usually don't like to adjust my tint and my temperature until I've done my tones, so I'll do that now. I can assess this image and say, does it need more blue or does it need more yellow? With this one it looks like it's okay but you're gonna see other ones that it's not quite the same. So if I boost up my saturation, all the way up to 100%, this tells me if any colors are gonna be a little bit off that I might want to correct for. In this case it's skin tones, so I might want to bring this down just a little bit to add a little bit of blue to those skin tones. Because you're gonna see when I get to my artistic effect that I'm going to fill those skin tones in with another to really make it more on the artistic level. The other thing when it comes to this is we have the hue saturation adjustment layer, moving into color. Our biggest area that we can modify our color is gonna be in the HSL adjustment panel because it's specifically designed for color. So I can change the hue of things. If I wanted the reds to be a little bit more on the red side I can just bump those reds up a little bit or make them a little bit more on the magenta side, which I tend to favor that magenta side a little bit. Notice how with the temperature of the sliders I wasn't really too concerned with how it was making my-- I was looking for a neutral color, essentially, when I was looking at the temperature. I didn't want it to get too yellow or too blue, I just wanted a nice neutral color, because here is where I can control skin tones. I don't want to make them look like, I don't know, smurfs, or people that spent too much time on the beach. But with the oranges that's gonna be in their skin tones so I can maybe make their skin on the warmer side. And I can come in here and look at the yellows if there's any yellows present. And look at the blues. Her shirt, if I wanted to make it a little bit more on the darker, deeper blue side I can move that hue over, and then also come over into saturation and maybe boost the saturation in her shirt. But what's gonna happen there, because when we look at the things people are gonna look at, they're gonna look at areas of highest highlight first, it's the first thing they're gonna go towards. Then they're gonna look at areas of highest saturation, and then they're gonna look at areas of highest detail. Sometimes it happens in that order, sometimes it's kind of mixed around a little bit. If we look at how bokeh works, and how wider apertures work, it really makes all the lights kind of fade away. What it's doing is looking at the highest focus first, which would be the person that's in focus, and then how you look at those highlights and those colors. If we wanted to we could even boost up maybe the saturation in those colors to make those skin tones a little bit more on that-- to have more intensity in them. And then maybe come into the luminance and darken them down or brighten them up. So you have complete control over their skin tones typically within the oranges here. At this point we're at the point where this could be done, this could be where I say, okay, cool, we got the tone, we got the color. But there's more that could be done here. And one of those things that really could be done and this is more of a pet peeve that I have about teeth, and teeth whitening. I've had some work done on my teeth because I wasn't the smartest kid in my adult years as most boys and men aren't. So when my dentist was building my teeth, the ones that he was putting in my face, he was like, "Okay, let's find the right yellow for this." I'm like, wait, my teeth are white. He said, "No, your teeth are yellow, "and there's different tints of yellow." So I'm like, oh this is so cool doc, you gotta show me how this works. So he's got his whole palette of colors and stuff and he's matching the colors to my teeth. I'm probably the only person that was just amped up to see him matching colors to my teeth. So colors are yellow, they are, they aren't white. We have this obsession with white teeth for some reason, maybe it's a societal thing, I don't know. But I don't really fix my teeth, when I'm doing portrait work, with saturation. Some people say, "Go into the Photoshop "and take the hue saturation adjustment layer "and get yellow and drop it down in saturation, "and boom, you've got bright, sparkling white teeth." Well what you really should kinda consider is how much blue is present in those teeth and how much yellow is present in those teeth. And if there's a lot of yellow present in them, what do we need to offset them? We need to add a little bit of blue. So I'm gonna take the adjustment brush and I'm gonna turn the mask on here. I'm gonna make my brush a little bit smaller. I always set my mask to magenta. The cool thing about magenta is that it's not really cool. In the world of photography you don't see a whole lot of magenta in your images. So to find a nice contrasting color, I think by default they might set this to red, but sometimes you might have red in your image, so if you set your mask to red and you start painting on something that's red, you don't see the mask. So I usually use magenta because it's a color that doesn't typically happen naturally in our images. If you don't like magenta or you have some type of psychological trigger that makes you not like magenta, choose its counterpart, which is cyan, and use cyan, because cyan is another one of those colors that we don't see a lot in our images. So I always change my mask to either magenta or cyan, but because I don't have any problem with magenta, I use magenta. I'm just gonna go ahead and start painting on his teeth and you're gonna see that because this is on a brush layer-- I'm gonna take her teeth too. I'd probably do both of their teeth individually just to make it look like they didn't go to the same dentist to get their teeth done. But I'll turn that mask off now that I know that's really on the tooth level of these individuals. And instead of-- I can make 'em really yellow. "Hey, look at us, we're so happy with our yellow teeth." I'm gonna bring this down and add just a little bit of blue to it. You notice how they're getting really white, they're getting really white, like hecka white, hecka white that they're like blue at this point. If we bring that down just a little bit, there. We also have the ability now, because it's on its adjustment layer, we can adjust the highlights and the shadows of those teeth too. So I wouldn't recommend boosting up the highlights a lot because this is what happens, is we get this like, hey we are artificial people. Look at us, we're so happy together, as they're throwing keys at each other when they're trying to go somewhere for dinner and someone's not ready. That's never happened to me before. (laughter) Now we're in this world where we could really definitely stop if we wanted to, or we could go into the realm of artistic effects, and that's where I still like to play with this. People want you to do artistic effects, but I think they want you to do artistic effects in a way that doesn't really wash out all the work that you've done. If we go into our basic adjustments here we have something over here called split toning. I love split toning. I love split toning because I can say, hey, highlights, I want you to become a little bit more like this color and shadows I want you to become a little bit more like this color. In the last course I taught color theory, so I use colors that are complements to one another to make these adjustments. My go to, it's my thing. We all have our thing, right? My go to is to add a little bit of orange/tan to the highlight areas, and some blues to those darker areas. The way I do this is I actually bring the saturation all the way up. And you're like, whoa, yeah. Let's give 'em that file, they would love that. What I'm gonna do, this is how I just select my tone. I'm gonna move this over until my highlights start to get that tan-ish color that I want, and I'm gonna move this over until my shadows start to get into that blue area that I want. Then I can come down here and drop that saturation down and now I've got a very subtle, very subtle color technique that's happening over the top of the image. If you want more you can boost it up, add a little bit more of that tan to their faces to really boost up that skin color. Notice how, at the beginning of this you were probably like man, their faces look a little neutral, not like skin tones. But here's where you can start either going into the colors of their skin and getting the skin tones to where you want them to be, and then doing some artistic things with their skin tones and with their shadows. And even right here in Adobe Camera Raw I can take this a little bit further with things like a curves adjustment layer. I typically like to use the parametric-- not the parametric but the point curve in Adobe Camera Raw. And for this I'm gonna go ahead and isolate my midtones by putting a point there, isolate my highlights by putting a point there, and isolate my deep shadows. Here's my midtones in the middle and then my shadows at the bottom. And just get that right where it needs to be. Come on, there you go. And then down here in the lower left there is where I can do that matte thing where you're like, look at that, it's lifted up. This is one of the new trends now, where you take those blacks and you just kinda lift them up a little bit so you can fill them in with a little bit more color. If we hope into our split tone you can see how this is really starting to affect those areas now as they nicely transition into the image. Another thing I have to talk is vignettes, I've got to talk about vignettes. Because vignettes, I think, are a tone-based artistic effect. I don't consider vignettes to be part of my tone process but more of the artistic effect process, and it's typically something that happens at the end. And when I do vignettes I like to bring my vignette down like this and say good, we're good. Or I like to bring it up like this and say oh look, 1950s. I don't like that at all. But I bring this all the way down like this so that I can see what the midpoint is of my vignette that I'm making, and what the roundness is, and what the feathering is gonna be. I bring that all the way down and do something like this and then I say, you know what, I kind of want it to be just a little bit like a square and I want my midpoint to go just a little bit out to the outside. Then I'm gonna adjust my feathering. Okay, that looks good, maybe feather it even more. And then bring my amount up. So notice how I kind of worked backwards. I worked from the hardest, most nastiest vignette you can possibly make and then make it subtle. And a lot of times I'll come down to this highlights thing and protect those highlight areas so that you don't get what looks like tone compression or a gray area happening on top of your highlights, because that's not natural. So I'll boost that highlight up. For this it would probably wash out everything that's happening in the background. I'm using this more as an effect. So if we look at the before and after of this, it's so subtle. Unless I told you there was a vignette you probably wouldn't see it. But where a vignette comes in is it can tell the viewer exactly what you want them to look at.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Blake Rudis' Workflow Actions
Intro to Workflow
Workflow Blueprint

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Adobe Stock Tutorials

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Great class, great instructor. Fast, to the point and on target. Lots of useful good info. No stories, no fluff, just down to business. Well worth your time and effort.


Great class to bring you from self-taught (or free online) to professional-level performance! I’ve been working in ACR (via Bridge) for years and this material has provided me with confidence in my current workflow, tips on how I can refine my workflow to become more efficient, and given me actionable stepping stones to move up to the next level. Thank you!


Gagh! Amazing! This is a fast paced class but the topics he teaches will change how I edit my photos. Great class! If you want to make your pictures pop and understand how to use color and tone....get this class!

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