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AlienSkin Exposure Color Toning

Lesson 41 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

41. AlienSkin Exposure Color Toning


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out


What is Lighting in Layers?


Build a Lighting Foundation


Layer One: Main Light


Layer Two: Fill Light


Layer Three: Accent Light


Layer Four: Additional Light


Lesson Info

AlienSkin Exposure Color Toning

What I'm gonna do next is I'm gonna open up Alien Skin. So the newest version of Alien Skin which is called X2, it's actually stand alone software. It can be opened within Photoshop if you want, filter down here to Alien skin, but the way they designed it now it can be used as a stand alone. So here's our Alien Skin. And what you can do is just like we did in Capture One, you can go up to your folders, we can select our E2 folder, that's where we just put all those files, and now we can start opening them. You know you can view them in different ways from small thumbnails to full size images. Whatever you want, there's 17 images in there. Now that we have our folder selected, we can minimize that. Over here is navigator, that just let's you look around the image selected. I never use that tool, so we'll keep that one small. It does have a histogram, hopefully we've already handled all that stuff within Photoshop so we don't really need to watch that too closely. There is a history tool...

, which I look at occasionally, but the most important one on this side is your presets. So you'll see here there are hundreds and hundreds of presets. These are all your color, they're all based on films from classic films to experimental type film, and Cinema, Polaroid, Lo-Fi, all that type of stuff. There's also a whole section of black and whites. So everything from vintage black and whites to infrared to all sorts of stuff, anything that you can think of. There's also favorites, I actually just got X2 so I haven't even loaded my favorites up yet, so you can save. And then there's user ones that tweak and set to your own favorites, so you can kinda customize them and save them as user presets. We'll start with color and we'll start with our basic studio image here. So what we see is as we look through the filters, it's gonna affect the image, a lot. Like I said, a lot of these start off pretty extreme. But here's the cool thing, we're just gonna select this one because it is more extreme, we'll go with that one. I like the overall creamy feel of it, I like the tones, but obviously it's blown out, it's too much, it's way over done. When you get to the right, this is where all the fun starts. This is the new part of Alien Skin for anybody who hasn't used some of the older versions, they now have layers. So you can actually stack filters on top of each other and they have on off switches, so you can see what it looks like without that layer or you can go up here and click before. So that's the raw, that's the after. You can adjust each layer's opacity, so that. And then if you had multiple stacked, you can adjust the overall intensity of everything you're doing, it's pretty cool. They used to not have that feature, so that pretty neat. We're gonna start off with that at 100, we'll close our layers palette there. And then what we have here, and we'll get to masks, oh we'll just talk about that right now. Similar to Photoshop, there is this white rectangle next to the image, that's your mask. You can actually mask where that filter's hitting your image. So you can select a brush, select the size of the brush, just to show it of we'll do that. You can select the feathering and the flow. I'm just gonna erase this section. This is something I wouldn't do, but just to show you that you can mask within Alien Skin now. So you can mask out where certain filters are hitting. We're gonna get rid of that, because I don't wanna do it. But it is a feature that they've added and there is healing as well, you can do a healing brush. So we'll close that and we'll get rid of our brush tool. Now this is where the fun starts. So what we have here is all these different tabs. So a lot of times, like I said, people look at these filters and they think oh yeah, I don't know what I'm doing with any of these, they just all look so extreme. Well we selected this creamy blown highlights and what we can do now is adjust all the individual characteristics that make up that filter. And this is where you can get down the rabbit hole and all of a sudden three hours have passed and you're working on the same image. (audience laughs) And you lose your sense of color identity, but what you do is then you figure out what you like for a setup and you can apply it to all the rest or you can save it as a favorite. And like I said, for any of my client images I haven't tweaked with any of this stuff in so long, because I figured out what I like, what works for my work, and I've set it that way that I've saved it. So experimenting is really fun, but you don't have to do it forever, you can save what you like. Within each of these tabs there are on off switches. All the features that I'm sure Alien Skin would love to show off, but there's certain ones that I never touch. Because I've either already done that when I shot the photo or I've done it in Photoshop. So lens correction, I don't mess with that. The bokeh, I don't mess with that. Infrared, I turn that off. Grain I leave on. Focus I turn off, I've already sharpened my image. And some of these old antique type filters used real almost like Vaseline on the lens type of thing so they have a blur to them, I've accidentally used some black and white ones and forgot to turn focus off. And then I'm wondering later why it's not sharp and it's because of that. So now I turn that off. Vignette, same thing. And then again, under basic, this is all the stuff we've already adjusted within Capture One, so I turn off that as well. And then detail, again, sharpening and all that we've already done that. So the tabs you can see it looks like I'm not working with a lot, but wait till we start playing around. (audience member laughs) The tabs that I use are color, curve, which is for contrast, overlays and our grain. Those are kinda what give me my look. So when we open the color tab you'll see oh, a whole bunch more options. So within the color tab there are these color filters, that's adding a filter to the entire image. You can see for this creamy highlight it added a yellow filter, you change that to any color you want. I'm gonna stick with what they gave us or you can just drag the slider along this range of hues and change it yourself. You can also change the density of that filter so you can see less yellow, more yellow, we'll leave it at about 30. And then you also just change it by cool or warm, we'll leave that in the middle. And you can preserve brightness, because sometimes the filters will take away some of that brightness. So we're gonna turn the density down just a little bit, but I do want a little bit of the creamy color to that. The next thing you can do is color saturation. So you can see down here there are presets, I like to think for myself, I don't like the computer to tell me what to do all the time. You can adjust saturation by shadows, midtones and highlights, so let's say the midtones for some reason you wanted no color in your midtones. I don't know why you would ever do this, but just to see it, see how the midtones have now lost all color? So if you do get to a point where you've blown some highlights out and they start to get that magenta or red, you can work with that to get rid of some of the saturation within your highlights. You can also do that in Photoshop, but I like to see how the filters we're using affect that. You can also adjust saturation purely by color channels. So there's your R-G-B and your C-M-Y-K. So here were are C-M-Y, we have our reds, our greens, and our blues. So we can adjust the reds, watch the saturation within his skin. Greens. Blues you'll probably be able to see it in his shirt, there you go we can make it really blue, can make it gray, we'll go with something that looks natural. The other thing we can mess with is tone curve. This is where you can see the curve that that filter naturally puts on the image. You can either adjust it this way, so it was a little too bright for me. The other thing you can do is on the sliders if we think the highlights are just too much, you can start turning them down. If you want less shadow, you wanna flatten it out, there you go. But this is why I start off with a nice flat image out of Capture One, because a lot of the contrast I'm adding comes within Alien Skin. So I wanna start off. You can also do split toning, I don't do this too much so we won't talk about it, because I don't fully understand how it works. (audience member laughs) And I don't wanna tell you something I don't know anything about. Overlays, we're gonna save that for one out in natural light. And then grain, this is where you can get a little carried away too. This adds grain to shadows, midtones, and highlights. Obviously it's digital grain. It's also different types of grain from rough to color variations, so you can have grain that is strictly black and white to stuff that has color. Which I prefer just to leave that alone. And then the overall size. That is something I adjust, because large grain within a digital photo just looks like noise, it's looks like you had a camera from that was at high ISO and it just looks bad. So I like to add a little bit of grain, for some reason it goes 0 to 200, I kinda like 0 to 100 when I'm scaling things. So we'll go in the middle at about 100. We'll zoom in here so you can see what this is actually doing. At 0 if we wanna add a little bit of grain. So we're adding a little bit of grit to the image. There's a lot of highlights here, you can add a little more grain to those highlights. And then down here I'll show you when I talk about the size. If we made this large, look at that, that's what I'm talking about. It looks like ISO 4,000 on my old D70. So I always keep that under one, just so the grain is really fine. And then so just to see without it, it just adds just a little bit of texture to the image that I enjoy. And again, that's personal preference, it's not something everybody's gonna enjoy, but I do like it. So we'll zoom out here. It's the same as Photoshop Command, plus, minus, for zooming. And what I'm gonna do is I'm actually gonna turn down the overall intensity of that. So here is what we did after Alien Skin, there's before. We'll go up a little bit. It's just a little toning that kinda gives that image a unique look that I like. Then what you can do is you can edit, copy settings. If we had multiple layers it'll copy all the settings from all the layers. So we'll hit that, it's just shift+Command+C. And then if you had cropped or done anything else within Alien skin, it let's you choose what you wanna copy. We'll copy all the settings and then what we can do is we can open a photo that has similar light, similar color tones, and we can go to edit, we can hit paste so it's Shift+Command+V. And look, it did all the stuff that we just did to that last image to this one. So now we have two images in a row that have a consistent feel, basically the same idea. And that's how within a senior you know sometimes... There we go. Within each image set, like say you have a senior out in a field in an outfit and you love eight shots from that set and when you're putting together an album, if you're gonna have a series of those eight images of someone walking across a field within that album, you don't wanna have them all have a different color tone or different palette. So I'll edit one of those images and then apply all those settings to every image within that set so that way they all have that consistent feel. And the fact that you can just copy and paste the settings means you don't have to do it eight times. I'm pretty happy with this right here. It has a nice little bit of grit to that grain, de-saturated enough, but you can see how he's now back in shadow. That's why I started with that flat image out of Capture One, because I knew that that contrast was gonna come right back to us when we got working on it later. So that's essentially all I would do to those two images. And if I were to do that without explaining it just sitting here, probably would have took me three minutes. (audience member laughs) It's not that long when you're just doing it. Because again, I don't do it that much to each individual image. Let's work up one of these ones and I'll show you how I do something that's a little crazier with the... I know we talked about black and white, let's do one of these. Actually, we'll do another color one first. Let's do this one. So we'll open it, get rid of our stuff down below. And we'll pick something totally different just so you guys can see some of the other filters. So there's all these choices. Another one I like to go with is in cross processing. There's some of these ones that, yeah, something like this that's more blue in the shadows. Has a little more edge. There's also one down here called royal gold, it's a little more gold through the highlights. But I'm gonna go with something like this, so we'll start there. Now we'll go do some quick changes. I already know I'm gonna turn it down a little bit. Anytime you wanna see before or after in the tone curve. The other thing in the tone curve I didn't show you is you can change, you can see how this within a curve of contrast it took away green, so this is your normal curve. The white line, just a straight line. Anything that's above or below that, this is your shadows of your curve down here, this is your highlights, anything that's moved, you can see the greens, green has been removed from the shadows. Meanwhile, blue has been added to the shadows, that's why this has blue shadows. A lot of times if something's showing up too red or green it's because the opposite happened. It's not because they added red, it because they got rid of green. So you can select that channel. You can see this is the changes they did. If we wanted less red in the highlights we could make a new dot and start removing red from the highlights. We'll leave it about as is for this. When I talk about adding layers, if we wanna do something else to this image we can add another layer, go back and choose another filter, let's try that same one we used before, okay so this is the creamy blown highlights again. Clearly she is now blown out. What we're gonna do is first we're gonna turn it down a little bit. Then we can go back to our curve and we can see whoa it's getting crazy, we can bring the whole thing down. And now we have before or after. Or we can see what that layer did. We'll turn it up just a little bit. Gonna bring it up a tiny bit. And you can adjust the overall contrast too. And we're gonna add some grain, because I like grain. We're gonna actually turn it up quite a bit. And we're gonna create something that's just a little more gritty. Something like this looks pretty good, I mean I spent a minute doing it, but it has a different look than just the standard. That's straight out of camera just with our Photoshop and raw. And that's just a little de-saturation, it's just a look that fits that image. So we'll call that good and move on to something else. Let's bring up our images again. I wanna show you guys a black and white. Every image that I make black and white I do it within Alien Skin. So let's do this. So let's open up black and white filters. There's tons of choices from low contrast to polaroid black and whites, to vintage, to black and white films, and you can see how they all start off looking pretty darn good. One that I like to use a lot, you can see how some affect the background more and you can also see how our light hitting her face is the brightest spot, it automatically brings your eye right to her face, almost right to her eye, really. One of the ones I like to use, it's kind of funky, is a black and white vintage that has this Calotype. It starts off as sepia, and I know a lot of people aren't a huge fan of sepia, including myself, but what I like to do is I like to get rid of some of that sepia, but I like the overall thing that this is doing. So sepia is caused by color shifts within that image so what we're doing is it's almost split toning. So we can go down to our tone curve and underneath, remember how we had split toning and color? I don't mess with it, but here you can see split toning here is basically adding color to the shadows, which is done on this slider. And adding color to the highlights. So you can click one of these and you can see how much it's adding. So if we wanted more of those creamy highlights we could turn the strength up. I'm actually gonna do the opposite, I'm gonna turn it down. Same with this, it's adding this brown tone, this sepia to the shadows. I'm also gonna turn that down. So now we're getting closer to just a slightly warm black and white. So I like that a lot better. What we're gonna do next is even though this is a black and white image, there are still color channels within a black and white. Generally, the skin will be affected by the red channel, so watch as I move that. You see her skin tone's going up and down? I'm gonna keep that about where it was. You can see what each of these channels do. This one's clearly affecting the background, I'm gonna make that somewhere in the middle. Some of the channels won't have any affect, just due to the image. Yellow, look at her hair how if we wanna make it almost look like she was blonde naturally versus dark hair, we'll keep that somewhere in the middle as well. The other thing I do when I make my black and whites is the grain. I love gritty grainy black and whites, so let's zoom in. I picture this image being something closer to this crop than the original crop. So if were to do something like this I can look at my grain and look at how the size is huge. I wanna make the grain size smaller, but I want more of it. So we're gonna go somewhere in between. I also want more in the highlights, 'cause I want it to hit on her forehead and skin. So I picture this image being cropped somewhere in here. And just about, let's see, it's a little finicky in here because you can't just hit Control+Plus. Here's kinda what I'm picturing. I wanna little bit of this separation up here. There's the edge of the frame. And ideally I'd probably chop this off in Photoshop at the edge of the hair. So when I was shooting it yesterday, remember how when I said I picture this as a gritty grainy black and white? This is what I was thinking. So it didn't take me long to get there, but this is the final image. In fact, what you can do when you're done is you can actually export these. So we'll export this one. It let's you rename them and all that, I'm not gonna mess with any of that stuff. We're just gonna leave it blank and I'm gonna make it as the same. You can do TIFFs or JPEGs. Oh, our folder location, we'll just put this on the desktop for right now 'cause I do wanna crop this one in Photoshop so we can kinda get a final image you guys can see what something would look like on the final. So here, we'll go to crop, I'm not gonna even have it constrain to any certain crop ratio right now. I just wanna get it so it's just to that edge. Actually you know what, we'll just try and cut off the edge of that hair. We'll go to there. Bring that in ever so slightly. So I just kinda want her eye to be on a third. I mean this would be something that's done to personal preference, but again, something that I probably change 50 times before I actually did it. And then just so you guys can see, I don't want that open, if you can see it full screen. So I think that looks pretty sweet. So you kinda saw the full image from how we got the movement by directing the model, how we lit it to get that look, how I kinda had an image in my head before I ever toned it, to the little bit I did to prep it in Capture One, to then bringing it back to Photoshop where we didn't do anything because you can't see her face, to what we did in Alien Skin to get that gritty grainy black and white. So that would the full step from start to finish of an image. And I'm pretty happy with how that turned out. Let's edit one more and then we should be about set. I don't even wanna save that crop because I don't know what I wanna do with it yet. We'll go back to Alien Skin, open up our images down below. And we'll do one more from the studio. This would be one where I'd definitely clean up the background in Photoshop. In fact, I might even cut him out, because I don't... But that's a whole nother day. (audience member laughs) Let's pick one from natural light and I'll show you guys an overlay. Let's go with this one. Actually you know what, one I didn't export was one of her walking along the path. That's what we're gonna edit. So in Capture One if you wanna see more of the thumbnails at once you certainly can. That was the last thing we did. Oh, they're already selected by rating so it should be up here. Here we go. Alright, so we'll pick one of these. I'm just watching her feet, I want one where she's walking. And you can see there, that's not as flattering as when the leg closest to you is the one extended forward. I don't like that square on hips square to the camera, I want that leg extended forward. So let's start there. We've already brought down our highlights, shadows are up, all that. We already did all that so we'll export it back to our folder. By the time we get there it should be popping up. There she is. Alright, get rid of the menu down below and we'll pick... Oh, we're still in black and white, we wanna do color for this one. So we'll quickly, ' oh that's cool. Something that's a little faded here. We wanna look at it larger. This has more grain. Because she's so small within the frame, grain starts to get distracting, it messes with me. Oh that's also because it's huge. So we wanna set it down to under a pixel. I'm gonna remove some of the grain, this one doesn't really need to be that way to me. And then the overall intensity is a little much, so we can turn that layer down, because there's without anything. I wanna mute that green a little bit and then I also wanna bring up the shadows. It's just a little bit dark for me so we'll go down to our tone curve, we'll bring up the shadows just ever so slightly, bring the highlights back down. Let me see if I can zoom in without losing the frame. So there's before, after. I'm pretty happy with that. We'll add one more layer just 'cause. Another one I like to do is Lo-Fi. There's a couple in here that are also like creamy. they also add some of these overlays which I don't love on every one, but you can remove those. Just to show you guys a couple more. Within color films there's a lot of these slide film. Some of them have more sharpening, other ones have more subdued effects. There's even classic films for print film like your Portas and things like that. And there's ones with and without grain and you can remove the grain manually. We're gonna go back to our cross processing. Generally, like I said, I go to the same, oh I like that. Again, I already picked that one before. It's just my color palette. So whatever you like. We're gonna turn that down, turn it down a little bit more. So I'm good with this. We will then add an overlay. This is not gonna look natural, but I just wanna show you what you can do. Generally, I don't do this, but you actually add sun flare or enhance sun flare that's already happening within your image. So there was no sun in this image, it was kind of a shady day, cloudy day. Our sun was our light that we added just out of your frame here. What you can do is in overlays you can actually go down to lighting effects, you can select sun flare and there's different amounts of sun flare. What you can then do is move, it's coming from this corner, clearly our light's coming from over here, you can flip that. Over here you can zoom it in, you can fade it out, you can also turn down the opacity. So if you wanted to warm up this image even more and add a little bit of that sun flare effect, there's all sorts of different ones, some of them more natural than others. Something like this, we'll put this in the other corner. So it almost makes more sense as to where our lights' coming from. Even though we're the ones who caused this highlight, we're the ones who made that shadow, we can almost add a little more effect to that by adding in the sun flare. It's just totally to taste and what you like. You could play with it all day, like I said. I generally don't use that effect, but I've seen people use it really successfully and to a point where I can't even tell they added that in post. So here, just to see what we did. Did I not move that? Nope, there we go. So now it's on the correct side. But it's just something that's adding a little bit of warmth to the image, a little more character. It's warming the whole thing up, it's makes it kinda look like it's a little bit more of a sunny day than it actually was. And it's just another thing you can do within Alien Skin. So again, just looking at before and after of that image. So before with nothing done, which technically it was a fine image. And then just kind of toning it so it takes it to that next level. So you kinda saw how we went from having the raw image, the setup, the shoot, the post processing, the whole works. And that's how I take basically everything I shoot and get it from the thought that's in my mind to making it happen with lighting and direction. And then this is kind of the backend that makes the polished final image that everybody sees.

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Lighting Gear List

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Lighting Terms Guide

Ratings and Reviews

pete hopkins

awesome teacher and awesome technique. after soooo many webinars, it's really great to see someone break it down to the bare bones of lighting with exceptional quality results. i can listen to Dan all day. no pretense, no over the top emotional pleas, no drama! did i say awesome!!!! Plus, I'm a huge fan of the B! and B2 systems. Freedom is key. Now I can shoot anywhere, anytime. Thanks Dan.


This is by far the best class on senior photography I have found on creativelive. Dan explains the technical aspects in an easy to understand format. He does a great job going through studio shots, outdoor shots, editing and marketing. He's given me some great ideas and inspired me to be more creative. I am going to rewatch the lighting set up for the "hero shot". It's super cool!

Tristanne Endrina

Dan was great. His class was very comprehensive but easy to follow. The slides he used weren't flashy. Instead, they were simple and he went at a good pace. I left feeling like I could really pull off the lighting techniques he taught. I'm excited to put what I learned into my photography. :) Thanks, Dan.

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