I really love retouching photos. I find it quite therapeutic experimenting with curves and other adjustments. I decided to put together a blog full of before and after portraits to show the changes I make to each photograph.
The first thing I do is stare at an image. Evaluating it, working out what I like and don’t like. If there is something I don’t like I will remove it, whether it is in the background distracting me from the model or something on the model which is taking my attention. Then I will look at the skin remove spots and fly away strands of hair or make eyes look less tired. I don’t like to edit skin too much because I don’t want it to look like plastic. Natural skin texture makes an image look far more realistic and relatable.
After this I will look at the make-up, hair and clothes. Some times the make-up might look cracked or has come off slightly. To solve this problem I will colour it back in but bring down the opacity so it is not too obvious. Light might make hair look paler or darker so I will colour in the hair, just like I do with the make-up, to even it out. I do the same for clothes. By doing these slight adjustments, I make the colours bolder and it tidies up the model’s appearance.
The next stage is always different. I will (mostly) use curves, selective colour, gradient map, gradients and solid colour (some times others) to edit colours. Depending on the style of the shoot I will either do little to the colours or I will make them much bolder. I have a weakness for using blue, especially bringing it out through the darker colours. I’m not too sure why I like using blue so much. It’s not a favourite colour of mine. My favourite colour is red but I don’t think it is a good idea to make everyone look like demons! Blue is a versatile colour. Blue can either look serene and subtle or it can look strong and masculine.
I won’t use blue if I don’t think it is necessary. For instance, if there is a lot of one colour and there is to much of a contrast with another, I will either tone the main colour down or change the other to suit it more. I enjoy bringing out colours that are already in the photograph. By making the colours pop, the whole photo pops! Sometimes I like to add colours which aren’t in the photograph. I call these fun edits! I do this simply to create something fresh and unique.
Colours can dramatically change the feel of an image. I used dark, heavy colours for my Halloween shoot to give it a creepy feel. Lighter colours would not have worked for this shoot. For the photograph of my boyfriend I didn’t want to edit it too much. I wanted to edit it how I see him. Focusing on his bright blue eyes and keeping the colours neutral, but adjusting them ever so slightly so they feel brighter and happier (with a little injection of blue!).
The last thing I do is use dodge and burn just to bring out highlights and darken shadows. I believe this is essential to making a photo look 10x more impressive. It makes the photo look dramatic as well as giving focus to the highlights and pulling in the shadows. I love using dodge and burn to finish my retouching. I will then go through each layer turning on and off the visibility to see how that layer affects the image. If I think a layer doesn’t work so well I will look at changing the opacity, remove it or add another layer of curves or whatever I think would improve it.
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Charlotte Long sent me a message asking for photos for her portfolio. She wanted something quite edgy, using the colours black and gold. I replied with interest as black and gold is one of my favourite colour combinations! With a creative and narrative focused background, I wanted to transform black and gold into a story. So we created the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
We wanted to find a blonde model with a strong high fashion look. Something which was surprisingly difficult! Between us we messaged so many models but none of them quite had the right look we were after. It wasn’t until Charlotte mentioned her friend Ieva that we discovered the perfect model was someone we should have asked first! Ieva is so striking and her presence in front of the camera is out of this world!
I got in touch with the brilliant stylist Sydney Clark, who I’ve worked with on many different shoots, always brings something new and exciting to each shoot. I knew I had to get her involved in the shoot as I trust her to produce very high standard work.
On the day Ieva and Charlotte were the first to arrive. Charlotte set up an area to create Ieva’s make-up and I decided to do Ieva’s hair. When I was young I went on a beauty and hair day course and learnt quite a lot in a small amount of time. Since then I watch a lot of tutorials and experiment with looks on myself. I crimped Ieva’s hair, brushed it through and backcombed it to make it huge. Charlotte created striking black eye make-up and brought out her cheekbones. Whilst we were creating the look Sydney arrived and started setting up her clothes and accessories.
We decided to start with lighter colours of clothes and less make-up. To start, Sydney focused on shades of white and silver/gold, gradually bringing in darker tones, finishing on a black catsuit. Every two looks Charlotte would change the make-up. First adding gold lipstick, then gold leaves, gold eyeshadow in the inner corner of her eye and dark red lipstick. I changed the hair style several times to suit the outfit and make-up too. I brought the hair back, off her face, and with the help of Sydney, we put jewellery and feathers in her hair. I felt we had formed the perfect team. We worked so well together, bouncing off ideas and creating a friendly, fun atmosphere. I really loved directing Ieva, even though she needed very little direction, she understood and moved appropriately. She took time to look at her hair, make-up and clothing to decided what angle would look best.
I wanted to make the photos look good as a set as well as working as individual images. I like to write down the settings which I use in Photoshop so I know what works and what doesn’t. I wanted to bring out the golds and darken the shadows with a hint of blue in selective colour. I love using selective colour in Photoshop as you can do so much with it! I would never get rid of someone’s moles or freckles, make them look skinnier, because I believe all of those things make people unique, special and beautiful. I celebrate beauty! I’ve been thanked by models who like to see their freckles and marks, feeling upset that other photographers have removed them. I use Photoshop mostly to change colours, bring out details and dodge and burn.
I want to thank Charlotte, Sydney and Ieva for being so fantastic at what they do. They really excel in their areas of work and I would highly recommend them. I hope I have the opportunity to work with them in the future.
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