My rule of thumb? Less is more. For larger prints we use a technique that will magically increase your images to just about any size without any virtual deteriotion. It's like over-cooking a steak. Which we've over-complicated beyond anything that makes sense.
2-Adjust contrast: For many images we hardly do much contrast adjusting. If you are off, you are either over or under exposing your files and you are asking for trouble. Now you are are ready to do the first step. Next, switch the Range to midtones. But be careful not to over process. She doesn't care what kind of lights I use, how I workflowed my images, whether I did them on a MAC or a PC (PC by the way).
7-Sharpening: This is the last step, well, almost. In Photoshop go to Image/Image Size. It works all the time because the lights and the studio setting is consistent. Click on preview. And that's a lot of images. In Document Size, switch the option in the drop down menu from inches to percentage. The final step for all images is by to Filter/Noise/Add Noise, and set the amount at 1.
To check that you are getting a fairly neutral image from you custom white balance, again, shoot a grey card, in Photoshop use the color picker, and the RGB numbers should all be very close together. The first step, in highlight mode in the Range bar, gives your image some teeth for the next step. I'm sure it breaks all sorts of rules. Burn all around a few times, and stop after you notice a very slight darkening.
I've been shooting with digital cameras in my portrait and wedding photography studio for about five years now, and in that time I've taken well over 50,000 exposures. Here's how: Go to Filter/Sharpen/Unsharp and start with these settings: Amount 500%, Radius .
This always brought the final steps of those long tedious retouching by hand steps together just nicely. These settings are vital to your success. They knew and valued the importance of an image that was properly worked. This means your image is neutral. We find that most images are within the -20 to- 40 range. I was able to get tack sharp images from file sizes as small as 3. A good exposure means you have as many of the tones, from the blacks all the way to the whites, in the image. The size will depend on the area you are burning. If you have to ask yourself "Does this need more contrast?," then you're done. Again, I figured out what works, and what works best. After all, we're in business to turn a profit, and time is money. It's very easy when you get the hang of it. In our studio I created a custom white balance and never change it. She ultimately is the final judge and jury. But that's good! I get to adjust these myself. We size two ways.
Let give you a "snapshot" overview of our digital workflow. They will not recommend this technique in any course or book, but it works in the trenches. The image will increase in size by 10%. That's when it's done. The success of proper burning will depend on how well you can achieve an almost imperceptable dark vignette look to the image.
One of the reasons this is so important is because so many photographers get bogged down and stuck in time wasting systems, systems that are over complicated and too "perfect'. I should point out that this is not recommended for white or very light images. Adjust it to your taste. Pull the top slider, Cyan, over to the left, and watch the colors, especially in the skin, warm up. The middle tones are exactly where you want them to be, in the middle. How can you verify? You should first of all should be creating a custom white balance for each lighting scenario. This is the one we want so don't switch. When I am burning all around an image, I generally choose a larger than the image area size. We do, on every sinlgle image we work on. It takes some doing but this skill is worth mastering. We call it the de-fog step. She doesn't care how many megapixels I use. Next, choose Highlights in the range options.
That's it! In a nutshell. STOP! But I do a step before anything else, and it does adjust the contrast as a side effect. I know, I tried em all! Fact is the only expert in the game of portrait photography is the client. Here's how.
3-Enhance the skin tones: For all you nature and scenic photographers this step may not apply. In the good old days of retouching by hand, we used to finish the print off with a layer of red. That's it! Assuming you have a good exposure and good white balance, this is the only color "enhancing" you will need to do. Highlight the Radius number and start to increase that number (I use the "up" arrow on my keyboard) one step at a time until the image slightly "pops".
5-Burning and Dodging: Over and over, I see it all the time. I don't even touch the other two settings. In the real world, where real clients pay the bills, and making them happy on a consistent daily basis is critical, getting the job done as fast as possible is essential. On location each scenario requires a custom white balance. It has both. See how it removes the haze? Cool uh? And it just beefs the image up a bit. Sometimes we slightly "tweak" the file in levels, but you can easily get carried away here and 'over process' the image. For prints smaller than 11"x14", we use the crop tool and simply crop and save as required. Without a properly exposed file and good color balance, you are in the "taking corrective measures" mode. Do this until you have reached the size you want.
6-Sizing: Almost done. All she cares about is great looking images. When you select burn, the control bar accross the top will allow you to set the brush options. First, select a soft brush. When you do that, there's no turning back. It's amazing! Virtually no deteriotion at sizes up to and beyond 40 inches. Make sure Constrain Proportions and Resample Image options on the lower left are clicked on. I don't want the camera doing any of these important steps for me, since every image requires a different amount in order for it to be optimum. If it pops too much, bring it back one number in the radius. You will never hear about this in any digital photography course or book. You don't want to be there. You will notice that the red channel is the default chanel. The rookie mistake I see over and over is either not using enough (or none at all), or using too much.
Here are the seven steps to digital photography workflow:
1-Good capture: This is the starting point. Only do this on the top "witdh" option: replace 100% with 110% and click okay. Here it is: In Photoshop go to Filter/Sharpen/Unsharp mask.
. Now burn around again, careful not to over do it. Way back when I started out in photography, my mentors and early instructors were well versed and skilled in the ways of this traditional application.
4-Adjust the saturation: When I shoot I turn the cameras' sharpening, contrast and saturation features off. Here's how: On the toolbar in Photoshop, click on the dodge/burn tool. There are more technical and highly advanced ways of getting these steps done, but frankly, in the end, you won't see the difference. Try it. How do we do this? Simple. As a matter of fact, they will ("they", being the "experts") likely frown upon this step. My sharpening approach is not something you will hear about in any course or book.
Funny thing is, I've come to realize that the learning curve is quite small when you do only the things required and when you use only the essential tools. Nothing has High Mast Light changed, except the media, the turnaround times (faster, much faster!), and, of course, the huge learning curve. She doesn't care if I shot using RAW mode (which I don't by the way, always JPEG). It isn't easy to master however. The idea behind it is to bring out the reds in our skin tones, for all skin types. Next, bring your exposure down, way down to about 20. But try it anyhow, it may help. In Photoshop go to Image/Adjustements/Selective Color. Master this and you are 90% of the way to success. Apply the following settings: Amount 60 Radius 20 Threshold 0. From the trenches. If it's too obvious, then you've over done it. So be careful here. In time you would go crazy if you had to "fix" every file, so you need to master these two basics. Again, less is more. Remember, less is more. The levels should show you most of the data in the middle, or very close. Using the right amount of good old fashioned burning or dodging and you will take your images to whole new level. You should know that all the stratgies we've created in our studio are not new. Burning is by far the one you will use the most. Why do I do this? It gives the image a slight texture, a little bit of "love". Your white balance should be neutral, with no color cast. Good photography and fast, painless workflow starts with good exposure and good white balance. How can you check this? Shoot a grey card, and check your histogram of that grey card image in Photoshop. This works very well on scenics and underwater images as well.4 MP. It helps if you enlarge your image so you can really see this effect and not over do it. Too late, once it's cooked. Here's how: In Photoshop go to Image/Adjustements/HueSaturation and pull the middle saturation slider over to the right.
The saturation will add a whole lot of life to your images, if done properly. They are essentially the same as when we shot film. Try it anyhow.
Our studio has been around for about twenty five years, and it is busy, so creating a digital workflow that made sense was essential to not only our sanity, but our bottom line as well. If any of the RGB numbers are way off, you have a color cast in that direction. The images that come off the camera tend to look a little flat, dull and sometimes not sharp. Now this filter is also used to sharpen image, but this step is not a sharpening step.2, and Threshold 0
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