Flickr Photo of the Month – March 2014

alien skin photo of the month march 2014

We’re pleased to unveil the Flickr Photo of the Month for March. It’s been another month of fantastic submissions, but this great photo by DhkZ caught our eye for its quiet, minimalistic simplicity.

Sometimes less is more, and that is certainly the case with this image showing the after effects of a snowstorm in Ontario, Canada. DhkZ has done a great job of composing the image well using the rule of thirds and the B&W treatment in Exposure successfully knocks out any trace of colour to minimise distractions. The subtle hint of the flowing horizon line leads the eye to the copse of trees. The whole image comes together to evoke a feeling of tranquility and silence.

DhkZ wins a copy of our Photo Bundle along with a t-shirt for his efforts. Along with our other monthly winners, he also becomes a favourite to win a Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 L or an EF 85 f/1.2L lens in our Photo of the Quarter competition. We’re still a week away from the end of March though, so hurry to get your entries in to have a shot at winning one of these great lenses yourself! Check out the details here.

Congrats again to DhkZ and good luck to everyone as we look to wrap things up and draw the first winner.



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Flickr Friday

Just a few more hours until freedom, peeps. Carve a minute out of your busy schedule and feast your eyes on these beauties from the Alien Skin Flickr group.

We’re getting close to the end of the quarter. You’re running out of time to submit for the Photo of the Quarter Award. Free glass will go to the winner! Check out details, here.


Switch Morgan

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Client Education


A real life example of an unauthorized retouch. Click to view the original image. Provided by David Mecey.

Let’s say you’re running a successful photography business, or you’re just shooting other people for the fun of it. Maybe you’ve just bought a camera, or maybe you’ve been shooting as a hobbyist for years. It’s the same drill, more or less. You break out your painfully-expensive equipment, dress in your comfiest flats, and prepare to crawl around on your hands and knees just to get your job done. At the end of the day, you’re exhausted, but nowhere near finished.

You put the kids to bed, administer an unhealthy amount of caffeine, crank up Pandora, and say your positive thought mantras to prepare for a long night of click, click, click. By early morning, you’ve updated your blog, shared on FB, made a few #photomaster tweets, and you have finals ready for delivery. Soon enough, they get into the hands of your client, and…

Let’s stop here for a moment. Let’s say your client purchased the images from you, hypothetically. They own them and so they can do whatever they want with them, right? Nope. Do they know that? Nope. Should they? Yes! They need to know what they can do with them, and what they can’t.

Back to our story, the images make it into the hands of the beautiful, gushing bride or promising model. She frantically posts more shots to FB, even the ones you aren’t happy with, but she tags lots of friends, so it’s permissible. That could help you get more business!

I take that back. The images she shares are sporting new crops, badly-done photoshop re-retouching, and some super bright, over-the-top coloring that makes your stomach turn. Well, those are her images, after all. You should feel privileged that you have another happy customer.


This is a remade example of an actual re-retouch. Click to view the original image. Provided by Halftone Studios.

It dosen’t matter. It’s a problem and it could be bad for business. Your name and the future of your business could be on the line. You have to say something about it. It’s not that you want to rain on her parade, even though her mother acts like an angry dinosaur. You are better than that. So, you have a sticky situation on your hands. Best thing to do? Never get there in the first place!

One of the hats you wear as a photographer is a teacher. Sure, you can copy and paste something in a forum and tack it on at the end of your contract. But, it’s legaleze and no one really reads that stuff anyway. Take the time to explain. Even if the contract is signed, you’re still not good. You need to take an extra step. Lead the horse to the water, so to speak. Your clients need to know what’s permissible and what’s not, and it’s up to you to tell them why. I’ll reiterate for emphasis. It’s up to you to educate them.

I’ve turned to a friend of mine, photographer David Mecey to ask his thoughts about this new paradigm in photography. Let’s hear his thoughts about what we’re now seeing.

There’s a common misconception regarding ownership of images purchased from a photographer. Which includes not just your bride or novice model but the owners of small businesses who hire a photographer to shoot a catalog or ad photograph for their company.

Unlike nearly every other product that you ‘purchase’ then ‘own’ (including cameras, TVs, automobiles, cell phones, etc), photographs are not the same thing. Photographs are what are known as ‘intellectual property’. An item which is owned by the person who created it, artistically and intellectually per their skill and talent. Even after they’ve ‘sold’ those photographs, believe it or not, those photographs still belong to the creator/photographer. (This is the case unless the client pays a very large sum in order to ‘buy out’ the images from the photographer in order to own them forever, use them forever, without restraint. But that is something that is growing more and more rare in current economic times)

What you don’t receive with your purchase is the right to change, alter, retouch, damage or any other adjective that describes the manipulation of the photographer/artist’s work. Which is probably the biggest misconception by clients worldwide. They feel that since they just paid all this money to this photographer that they now own all those photographs he/she shot. Which includes the ability for them to do whatever they darn well please with those photos. Wrong.


This is a remade example of an actual re-retouch. Click to view the original image. Provided by Halftone Studios.

Those photographs were created by the artist. They are his/her intellectual property, their art, their creation, whatever you wish to call it. But the main point is, the art forever belongs to them and that’s not only by law (but more, out of respect for the artist). Which means that due to that fact you, the client, are not allowed to change those photographs. Even if you feel you can make them ‘better.’ If you wish changes to be made, discuss those with the photographer.

Now this last statement I’ve written shouldn’t even need be written if people would simply respect a photographer’s imagery. To know that they, the creators of the images, felt that what they produced for you were the photographs that best depicted their art for you, the client as the subject, or you the client as the end user. That you will respect that work and not infringe upon it in any way, out of respect.

The problem though, as we’ve entered into and completely become engulfed by the digital age, everyone now sees themselves as ‘retouchers’. What with all the software available for novices, even such simple ones such as Instagram, anyone can now be a retoucher. A person capable of changing an image into something totally different from what was the original. Yet all without the permission of the photographer.

So, with all this I’ve written, I can only implore all you would-be retouchers to consider this: If you created something, something that you felt was absolutely wonderful, so very special and exactly what you felt was the best you could produce, then, give it over to a friend and a few days later see it completely changed into something totally different, how would you feel? Sad? Hurt? Frustrated? All of these?

Well, that’s exactly what we photographers feel every time you do that to one of our photographs we’ve spent years learning how to produce to be stellar. But worst of all, without even a ‘may I?’ So please consider that next time you’re thinking about adding a ‘filter’ or some other software manipulation to a photographer’s work.

David has been on the blog before. Check out this article to read more. We’ve also used his work in one of our video tutorials. Here’s a link.

If you’re interested in learning from Mr. Mecey, check out his website. While you’re there, his blog, Mecey’s Morsels, is a great resource for inspiring photography and great advice.

The example images in this article were provided by Jenn Ann with Halftone Studios. Thanks for sharing, Jenn!

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Exposure Workflow Video with Parker J Pfister

parker j photo alien skin

Avid readers of our blog will probably recall a recent barnstormer of a post from master photographer and all round good egg, Parker J Pfister.

Now we know Parker J is pretty handy with his mad post-processing skills, so we asked him to record a series of video tutorials on his finishing process in Exposure.

To kick things off with the first video, Parker outlines his workflow from beginning to end using one of his recent iconic images. As you’ll see, many of Exposure’s features are combined and used together to spice up the shot. Parker’s innate understanding of his gear and what he wants his images to say flows directly into his technique in post. We think you’ll agree his inspiring photography and comedic timing make for an entertaining learning experience.


YouTube Preview Image

Anyone wishing to learn more from the man himself should check out Parker’s upcoming workshop running from May 5th-8th in Asheville, NC. Definitely recommended for those who want to improve their photography and post-production skill set!

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Femina Photo + Design


Femina Photo + Design is a photography and graphic design team comprised of two women: Nicole Dimotsis and Noelle Andrews. Based out of NYC and Philadelphia, Nicole and Noelle specialize in wedding and portrait photography while also incorporating in-house design services such as album and stationery design.


We recently chatted with Noelle about Femina’s photography workflow and post-production process. Here’s what she had to tell us:


“For our current workflow, we use Photo Mechanic for sorting and culling, before importing the RAW files into Lightroom for color and exposure processing. The vast majority of our work is done in Lightroom, but we also use Photoshop for a small percentage of images that may need retouching and skin finishing.”


Exposure brings a whole new level of stylization and finishing to our collection of work. While we love that our digital cameras can perform flawlessly at higher ISO’s, we do like that Exposure allows us to bring back some of the grain and textures you get with film. We also have the ability to fine tune filters just the way we want and incorporate our style into them.”


“With Exposure, we have much more control when it comes to processing because we can tweak various parts of a filter, such as individual color tones and saturation, exposure, grain strength and texture within a specific tonal range (i.e. highlights, mid tones, shadows, etc). We also like the fact that we can scale back the overall intensity of a filter if we simply want to enhance the photograph without completely altering its original look.”


“Some of our favorite Exposure presets are Polaroid Fuji FP-100C, Polaroid Polachrome, Vintage Kodachrome II, Ilford Delta 100 and Vintage Daguerreotype.”


“Our process for building personal presets usually starts with finding filters that we know work well with our overall style and then we only need to tweak them based on the environment and type of shot. This usually includes fine-tuning individual color sliders and saturation until we feel that the skin tones look most natural given a particular lighting situation and finding a grain and texture that lends itself better to certain types of images (i.e. getting ready and portraits vs. outside ceremony or inside reception).”


“Typically we save more than one version of a preset based on these scenarios, so next time we want to use it for inside getting ready or portraits, all we need to do is apply the preset and continue working without any major adjustments.

We’re excited to see what you guys have in store and how we can really build upon this process!”


Thanks Noelle! We’re looking forward to showing you guys what we have in store! Be sure to stay tuned for some very cool updates soon!


We appreciate Noelle from Femina for taking the time to share her feedback and amazing images with us. If you like what you see, you’d like to add Exposure to your toolset, don’t forget we currently have a sale on in the store, so you can get Exposure 5 for 30% off through the end of the day Friday!

Hurry over to the store and take advantage of the savings while they last!



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Adding “Punch” Through Exposure With Dustin Abbott

Dustin galavanted out into the frozen tundra in hope to return with some amazing images. According to him, the shoot was successful, but some of the shots he got weren’t exactly what he had in mind. He explains what he did to them in his article below.


There are some people who make a very good living by buying somewhat rundown houses, renovating them, and then “flipping” them for a large profit. Not everyone can do this. Some people try it and discover somewhere during the renovation project that they have made a terrible decision. But those that are successful often share a certain quality:  they can see the “bones” of a house. They can look past the clutter and disrepair and visualize what the house could be.

This little article is about applying the same principle to photography. As a professional photographer I take a lot of pictures, and most of the time I at least think I’ve taken a great shot when the shutter clicks. Some photos are amazing all by themselves, but others are a lot like those rundown houses–they have good “bones”, but they are lacking a bit of punch. I have enough experience with both photography and software that I can look at a photo and pre-visualize how it will look when I’m finished. Experience has taught me how to achieve that vision most of the time, and a big part of getting the vision of the finished product out of my head and into reality is through the use of Alien Skin’s Exposure.

Case in point is a recent series of wildlife shots I took with a long lens that I had in my hands for review purposes. I went to a wildlife reserve in Quebec, Canada, because it was January, the temperature was below zero, and there wasn’t much wildlife stirring in my “neck of the woods”. I needed subjects for the long glass. I got a number of really great shots of different types of animals including a number of bison (buffalo). In my mind I had a vision of how a series of the bison “portraits” would look. I visualized a very bold and punchy monochrome with high contrast and high sharpening. Experience told me that Exposure could make that happen. I’ll share two of those photos today, starting with the “before” of where I was with them in Lightroom.


In this first shot, I had already converted to monochrome and eliminated a couple of distracting marks from the high key area around the bison. This shot is at 600mm, so the animal is highly compressed, giving this a unique look that I liked. It has good bones…what it needs is punch!  This is where Exposure makes all the difference. If you struggle with visualization, Exposure simplifies the process by showing you a thumbnail of each preset and how your shot will look with it applied. It can really help to either discover a look that you want or find the look already in your mind. In this case I chose an Ilford Delta 100 B&W film and then made a couple of minor tweaks to it on the right hand panel.

I wanted the textures of the fur and the snow on the muzzle to “pop”, so I increased the sharpness. In a matter of seconds, I had the look I wanted. I think you will agree that the finished product is much more punchy.


I’ll briefly show you another example. I had another shot of a bison in profile that I knew would work with a similar look.

04 Bison Portrait Original

The degree of contrast between the dark fur of the bison and the extreme white of the snow made for a natural high key setting. It is often very beneficial to have a specific “look” for a series when sharing or displaying your work, and so I had already saved the modified preset with my specific settings (you can download that preset here). Exposure easily allows you to do this, and it means that your modified preset can be applied with a single click. One click later, here is the exact look I wanted:

Bison Formal Portrait

If you have photos with good “bones” but are lacking punch, I strongly encourage you to give Exposure a shot. Renovate those shots into something special!


This is a shortened version of a recent article over on Dustin’s blog. Head over there for the rest of the story.

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Superkids Photo Composite Video – Part 3

SuperBoys-part3-blogHere is the last installment of the Superkids photo composite tutorial series. If you missed out on the other videos, check out parts 1 and 2. This video covers the last few steps of compositing in Photoshop and then we get to the good stuff: The effects.

Bokeh and Exposure are used to enhance the feel of the final shot. In the end, there are a couple of variations. Let me know which one is your favorite.

The content moves fast in the video. You may want to keep the pause button handy.

YouTube Preview Image

Below are the final versions.

Delta-blog Portra-blog Ektar-blog

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Flickr Friday

Welcome to Friday! Let’s kick the day off right with some beautiful shots from the Alien Skin Flickr group. Sit back, grab a cup of Jo and take these in.

The Photo Of The Quarter Contest will be ending soon. Take this opportunity to share your best shots with us. Who knows? It could win you a new lens. Check out the article for details.

johnathan brandt


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Winter Shoot Edit With Exposure & Joe

Jimmy recently posted an article talking about his post-processing workflow for a series of winter-themed images I shot with Sonia a few weeks back. As Jimmy mentioned, he tends to spend the majority of his time post-processing in Photoshop, whereas I am more of a Lightroom to Exposure guy.

Outside of Alien Skin, I am a wedding and portrait photographer normally working through anything from 40 to 3,000 images per shoot. With such a high volume of images to edit, I simply don’t have the time to go through and tweak every single image in Photoshop to the Nth degree. Conversely, Jimmy comes from more of a fashion photography background, where only one shot makes the cover, so he is more than happy to spend time fiddling about to make the “perfect” image. Given our different approaches, we thought it might be a fun exercise to compare our post-production methodology to show how we get from A to B. Let us know in the comments below if you agree. We’re keen to make the most useful content possible for you guys!

As always, workflow starts in the camera itself. For this shoot, I used a Canon EOS 1D-X and Canon EOS 5D Mark III firing RAWs into the first card and JPGs into the second. This provides me with an instant backup in case of the dreaded corrupt memory card. I shoot primarily weddings, so this is really important area given that you only get one chance to get the shot. If my RAWs go belly-up for some reason, then I always have the JPGs to fall back on and I only need one 16 GB card to back up an entire wedding in-camera.

With regard to lens selection, I knew this was going to be a portrait shoot, so I brought along a few of my prime lenses that I knew were going to get the job done. These were the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM, the 85mm f/1.2L USM, the EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, and just for a bit of fun experimentation, the Lensbaby Composer coupled with a Sweet 35 optic. The goal here was pretty simple: to use the 135 and 85mm for the tighter head shots and the 35mm for more environmental shots to bring in the snowy setting or to provide a woozy, dreamlike effect for some variety with the head shots.

For this first series of photos, we’ll be looking at images made with the 85mm f/1.2L USM, which is one of my favourites; with its super fast f/1.2 aperture combined with a medium telephoto focal length of 85mm, the shallow depth of field it produces for portraits wide-open is just amazing. Incidentally, you can win one of these fab lenses (or its Nikon or Sigma counterpart) by entering our Flickr Photo Competition (check out the details here).

Here’s the first shot, SOOC using the 85mm f/1.2:

Joe Payne Photography photo

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200

As you can see, the file is looking pretty good straight out of the camera. At f/1.2, we’re working with a razor thin depth of field, so it’s really key to ensure that at least the eye nearest the camera is in focus. Simply focusing using the centre spot and recomposing will adjust the plane of the sensor and throw both eyes out of focus. To avoid this, I use the joystick on the back of the camera to move the selected focus point over that nearest eye, lock focus, hold my breath to keep my body as still as possible, and shoot the frame. Focusing in this way is really key to the success of the shot, so let’s zoom in and take a look to see how the eyes look:

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200 (crop)

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200 (crop)

Both eyes look in focus to me (phew!), but you can get an idea of the shallow depth of field of this lens wide-open by the fact that Sonia’s nose and the two stray hairs in front of her left eye are out of focus. That’s just a few millimetres in front of the point of focus, so for the eyes to not be soft, technique here is really important.

When I’m editing a shoot, I first load my images into Photo Mechanic to be able to go through and quickly check each image for things like this. I select the best shots in Photo Mechanic by tagging them and then export the keepers to be uploaded into Lightroom for some basic editing. I tend to underexpose my images slightly as it’s easier to pull back detail in shadows than it is to recover highlights, so if there’s an exposure correction needed, I’ll do that and maybe do some light dodging and burning using the adjustment brush, radial and graduated filter features in Lightroom. Sometimes, for portraits, I’ll need to do some softening of the skin (using the adjustment brush (K) with clarity and sharpness dialled down) to remove wrinkles and the spot removal tool (Q) for small blemishes. Sonia has pretty much perfect skin though, so for this shot I’ll just tweak the exposure slightly using the Tone Curve panel, and then a couple of dabs with the healing brush (Q) before hitting Command+Option+E to open it in Exposure. In actual fact, for this shoot, I went through all the images to make a few fine adjustments in LR before launching them in Exposure as a batch (you can do this from the Library module in LR by selecting the images you want to edit in Exposure and then hitting Command+Option+E).

Once I get into Exposure, then I find I tend to play around with a couple of images from each location to see what looks best and what kind of feel I get. Such experimentation often leads me to obtain multiple looks just based on something as simple as the expression of the model or the colours they are wearing. In this case, I really wanted to bring out the colours of Sonia’s face and eyes against the vibrant red of her shawl and subdued green of the background. For this image, I found that the “Kodak Ektachrome 100GX” filter in the “Color Films – Slide” presets pretty much got me where I want to be in terms of colour and grain. It provides some colour punch, whilst also warming up Sonia’s skin slightly.

I sometimes add a vignette to my images, but in this case the 85mm f/1.2 L wide open is already doing that for me (fast glass like this has a pretty heavy vignette built-in), so I’ll call this one done as far as Exposure is concerned. After I pull it back into Lightroom, I’ll go in and use the adjustment brush again to dodge her eyes a little to make them stand out, and done. Here’s the final image:

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2 L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200 w/ Kodak Ektachrome 100GX

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200 w/ Kodak Ektachrome 100GX

Here’s a detail of the face in the above image. You can see how Exposure has added some warmth to the skin tones and we have lightened the eyes without overcooking them:

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2 L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200 w/ Kodak Ektachrome 100GX (detail)

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200 w/ Kodak Ektachrome 100GX (detail)

Now this is the sort of level of work I would provide for a proof. If Sonia came back to me and said she wanted this image as a large print, I’d then go into Photoshop and clone out the stray hairs over her eyes. In fact, I did just that in this next image where more of Sonia’s face was filling the frame:

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2 L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200

Upon closer inspection, I could see a stray hair had blown across her lips and, as it was in focus, it was more distracting than in the previous example and so required an edit right off-the-bat:


To fix this, I took the image from Lightroom into Photoshop by hitting Command+E. I then hit Command+J to create a new layer mask and then used the clone stamp tool to carefully cone out the stray hair. My tip for this is to hit Command+1 to zoom in on the area of the image you want to work on and then adjust the size of the stamp as you go. Work in small sections and hit Option often to resample the area next to where you’re working into order to avoid streaks and have a smooth blend, like this:


If I’m already in Photoshop, I’ll make the most of my time there and, in this case, I want to soften Sonia’s skin just a tad to blend out the lines I cloned. For wrinkles and such that you just want to dial down versus removing completely, you can do this by just pulling back the opacity of the layer containing the clone stamp. For something like this though, where I want to blend in the edges of the cloned areas, I use a great action by Jeff Ascough called “Botox Baby”, which allows me to selectively soften the skin and then adjust it to my tastes. With this the of action, you can effectively go from a china doll look to pretty natural looking results by just dialling back the opacity till you get the look you’re after.

Again, if I’m in Photoshop and want to go out to Exposure, I’ll click on the “Filter” button in the navigation toolbar to export out to Exposure directly rather than going back into Lightroom and doing it.

With this image, I want a very subtle look, so I select the “Kodak Kodachrome 25″ filter in the “Color Film Slide” section, bring it back into Lightroom and, again, use an adjustment brush to just give the eyes a little pop. Here’s the final image:

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2 L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200 Final

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200 Final

Here’s another image from this series, with a slightly different look SOOC. All I did here was recompose in portrait versus landscape and have Sonia stand face-on to the camera versus with one shoulder towards me as in the previous shot.

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2 L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200

For this one, Sonia’s hair in kind of a straight centre-parting kind of reminded me of a 1970′s feel, so I gave it a quick bump to the mid tones in Lightroom and then jumped over straight to Exposure where I applied a Time-Zero Film preset from the “Color Films – Polaroid” section. I found this gave me the warm tones I wanted to evoke that 70′s feel. I tweaked the curves again slightly in Exposure before pulling it back into Lightroom to give the eyes a quick nudge, again using the adjustment brush set to Dodge. I do this at the end of the process as I want everything else in the image to be pretty much where I want it. If you adjust the eyes early on and then fiddle with the curves again, they can start looking a little supernatural in nature. We don’t want Sonia to have the eyes of the possessed – at least not in this image!

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2 L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200

As I mentioned before, I edit each image based on the feel I get from it. I think this is demonstrated pretty well by the final frame we’ll look at today. Here it is:

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200 SOOC

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200 SOOC

As you’ll see, the only difference between this photo and the last one is the fact I had taken a step back and changed the position of Sonia’s head; I asked her to raise her chin up so she would look down on me. I also asked her to breathe through her mouth so her lips were parted, which, to me, gives the image a slightly confrontational, aggressive feel. I also underexposed it more to give it a darker feel. I wanted to enhance this in Exposure, so I went to the “B&W Films – Vintage | Daguerreotype – Scratches & Vignette” filter. Upon selection, I saw the pre-selected scratches overpowered the image, so I went in and selected “Scratches 5″ from the “Dust & Scratches” panel, dialled down the opacity to 25 and used the “Protect Location” feature set at 33 in order to remove the distraction of having scratches running across Sonia’s face. I also wanted to add some detail to the shadows, so I selected the “Milky Blacks” preset in the “Tone Curve” panel. Done.

After hitting “Apply” and pulling the image back into Lightroom, I decided I wanted to enhance the imposing feel of the image by cropping it slightly; Sonia’s eyes were a third of the way down the SOOC frame so the image worked from that standpoint, I just felt that a tighter crop suited the aesthetics of this specific image better. I selected a 5 x 7 crop and moved Sonia’s eyes up in the frame to enhance the feeling of her looking down on the viewer.

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200 (Daguerreotype - Scratches & Vignette (modified) with LR crop.

1D-X with 85mm f/1.2 L @ f/1.2, 1/800 sec, ISO 200 (Daguerreotype – Scratches & Vignette (modified) with LR crop.

We spent about 2 hours shooting to make the most of the day and I ended up working on about 70 images for Sonia’s portfolio. We used all the lenses mentioned above, Sonia changed her wardrobe a couple of times and we also moved indoors to shoot some images using window light. You can see the rest of the shoot over on my personal blog. If there are any other images you’d like to chat through in there, let me know in the comments below and I’ll cover them in another post.



Model: Sonia Hittle
Make-Up: Radiant Beauty by Ashley
Accommodations: The Oaks at Salem

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Winter Shoot Edit With Bokeh, Exposure, & Jimmy

Mr. Joe did a wintry shoot during one of the recent blizzards here in NC. We chatted about the images and decided to do separate processing workflows with them. He is mainly a Lightroom guy & I mostly use Photoshop. Thought we’d both share our take on the images, and show you what we did. It’s not a competition, but make sure and vote for me anyways. ;-)

With any retouching or editing, I first take a step back and analyze the shoot. Basically, I’m looking for a story to convey through the images. A young maiden lost in the bitter cold of winter…Yeah, that was sappy, but you get the idea.

My feeling from the shots was that the model was shy at first. It probably took a little time for her to warm up to the camera and let her true self shine. Thinking of this, I chose to focus on emphasizing her confident side. A chat with Joe after the retouch revealed that my intuition was “spot on.”

Quick Retouch

Sonja-RetouchThe model has great skin, which makes retouching a lot easier. When in Photoshop, I always duplicate the base layer before performing destructive actions such as cloning, healing, burning, or dodging. On the copy layer, I’ll perform a couple of touch-ups with the healing brush [J]. I usually set the brush to Screen, Multiply, or Lighten depending on the skin tone, but it’s not always necessary.

Next, I turn on the rulers [⌘+R] and I’ll drag down a couple of guide lines for measuring symmetry. This gives me a mental map for any liquifying. There were few spots, but not many and they weren’t aggressive. Mainly, I adjusted the eyes to read as symmetrical as possible–not perfect, just symmetrical.


I moved the left eye up a scosh. With the guides you can see how miniscule the adjustment was. I also added a little sharpening to the eyes and lashes in the after shot.

Back in the Photoshop playground, I added some highlights and shadows to the face. I wanted to sculpt the lighting and make her face appear more dynamic. Adding dimensionality to her face will reinforce the feeling of empowerment. In theory.

Next, I did a sharpening tweak to the eyes and lashes. Nothing crazy. Yes, I’m a hypocrite. I recently wrote an article about sharpening as a final step in the workflow. I stand by that, by the way. This was just a localized tweak to enhance the eyes. Sharp, defined eyes and lashes make them read stronger. I’ll use global sharpening when I save out the finals.

The Fun Part: Effects

I’d say the retouch is done here. Not too bad. 10 minutes? Effects come at the end, at least in my workflow. Usually, I’ll start with Bokeh. I really like grainy photos, so I will be introducing grain at some point. Bokeh has a grain matching feature which works really well, but I plan to introduce grain with Exposure, so there’s no need to pepper it with grain twice.



I used a full planar focus region to frame the face. The feathering edge was set wide with a low Bokeh amount. I wanted the blurring to become visible right at the hairline. As a bonus, it took care of a few flyaway hairs.

In Bokeh, I usually try a number of things in a specific order. I’m a creature of habit, what can I say? First, I do some basic experimentation with lens options. When I settle on blurring characteristics that work with the shot, I’ll hop over to the Bokeh tab and play with the focus region. This is where I spend most of my time.

I usually fiddle with a radial focus region, then I’ll move on and use a full planar. If I can’t get the look I’m after with that, I’ll use multiple half planar regions. When I get the region set, I make tweaks on the Bokeh tab, and on the Vignette tab to dial in the look.


I take advantage of Smart Objects in Photoshop whenever possible. They make tweaking effects easy. If you are doing a heavy retouch or a lot of comparisons, like me, you may want to skip it. Smart objects can add significant size to the file if you are making dozens of copies for experimenting. It’s just something to keep in mind. For comparisons, I’ll have a number of Bokeh layers, so I can grab from them and apply Exposure effects.


In the Layers panel, I color-code layers based on effects. Click to view a larger version.

In Exposure, I immediately drag the preview pane out a wide as I can. This makes the thumbnail previews as large as possible. Makes it easier on my eyes. I have a bunch of favorite looks in mind, and that’s usually where I start, but sometimes it’s best to go on a hunt. I’ll use the stars to mark the looks I like as favorites.

Then, with a small pool of favorite effects, I test them out on the full-sized image. I’ll shrink the preview pane and revisit each of my selected favorites with a critical eye. This is when I make any tweaks to the effect. Mostly the effects are image specific, so I’ve added comments in the captions below.

All in all, I’m happy with the way the retouch turned out. I ended up with a bunch of different looks that I like. I can’t decide on which versions work best. I’m open to opinions, so let me know what you think in the comments.


Bokeh: Canon 85 1.2@5.6 w/Oval Focus Region
Exposure: Kodachrome 35mm Skin Tone (Brown)


Bokeh: Spiral 10% w/Planar Focus Region, Horizontal
Exposure: Lith, Grainy


Bokeh: Sony 24-70 2.8@f/8 w/Oval Focus Region
Exposure: Kodak Technical Pan


Bokeh: Sony 24-70 2.8@f/8 w/Oval Focus Region
Exposure: Kodak T-Max 3200 w/Kodachrome Border


Bokeh: Canon 50 1.8@f/5.6 w/Planar Focus Region, Horizontal
Exposure: Polaroid 669 Creamy Blown Highlights +


Bokeh: Canon 50mm 1.8@f/5.6 w/Planar Focus Region, Vertical
Exposure: IR Fog White Out


Bokeh: Mirror Lens w/Oval Focus Region
Exposure: Polapan


Bokeh: Mirror Lens =, Boost Highlights w/Planar Focus Region, Vertical
Exposure: IR Fog White Out


Bokeh: Canon 85 1.2@f/5.6 w/Oval Focus Region
Exposure: Portra VC 160


Bokeh: Canon 85 1.2@f/5.6 w/Planar Focus Region, Vertical
Exposure: Daguerrotype Sepia w/Scratches, No Border

Posted in Bokeh, Exposure, Fun, Photography | Tagged | 3 Comments