Monday, January 23, 2012

Losing the Crutch

I admit it, I use Photoshop actions as a crutch.  I do not use them to minimize my workflow.  I use them because I have no idea what I am doing in a program as complex as Photoshop CS5. 

Well, I am trying to learn.  Slowly but surely I am learning.  It helps that I am also trying my hardest to get things right in camera, so I can just tweak and then add artistic adjustments. 

I had a family shoot two weekends ago.  After the shoot I tweeted how fast my edits were going.  By the way, you should totally follow me on twitter.  I am extremely dorky.  Now back to the post…  Here are my shots absolutely straight out of the camera (but formatted as jpeg, since I shoot RAW).

blog example

Don’t even get me started on how mad I am that I cut off her foot.  She was moving so fast and that foot was tucked in next to the other one, then poof not any longer.  I have been trying to line up my shots knowing I am going to have to crop some off to fit standard frame sizes (8x10, 5x7, etc.).  So that is why there was excessive space to the left. 

I opened this shot in Adobe Camera Raw.  If you have Photoshop or Elements I highly recommend you use ACR.  It is a free plug in.  It has intuitive sliders that make adjustments easy to see and control.  I increased my black levels, brightness, vibrance, contrast, and clarity to adjust to this.

blog example 2

Then I added a texture.  Yep, I have been experimenting with textures in portraits.  Who would have thunk it?


So this was the ending shot after a quick crop to make it fit the standard portrait sizes, and sharpening for web with a watermark placement.  The entire process took me about 3 minutes.  I talked with her mom when we were lining up the shoot and she specifically did not want any skin smoothing edits.  She wanted her photos to look as natural as possible.  Which I am all for (as long as it isn’t my photograph, then photoshop the snot out of it!)

Now after looking at it, I want to clone out the shadows from the trees in the background.  How did I not see that until just now?  Oh well, off to do it because it is bugging the crap out of me to see now. 

So now it is your turn, honest critiques.  Go ahead I have thick skin.  What would you like to see in this shot?


  1. Cut little doggies and puddy tats.

    I'm trying to decide if I like it better without the texture or not. Well, that and I'm still trying to figure out what the heck texture is on a photo.

  2. I love the last one. Bright, colorful and she is super cute!

  3. I think it is a cute shot! I also like that there is no skin smoothing. She looks like a kid as she should.

    My only suggestion: I think the texture gives her a bit of an orange color. Maybe if you removed the texture from her skin. Or perhaps lower the opacity of the texture. I do like the warmth the texture gives though.

    I even don't mind the shadows in the back ;)

  4. A free plug-in? I have no clue what that means but now I want to know! I'll have to google it.

    Great edit! Love the color pop. I would leave the trees...I didn't notice until you mentioned it.

  5. Oh I keep meaning to ask you...have you thought about using Lightroom? I've seen other bloggers mentioning it and Amazon has a student version for $89. It's supposed to be easier and quicker than Photoshop, but I'm not sure if I want to learn a whole other program all over. Just curious if you've researched it?

  6. Oh I didn't know there was a plugin. I'm still SO behind in learning PSE. I know there's already a new version out and I still have PSE9. Sigh. Ok, how do you make a watermark?

    I do like the intensity of the colors, esp on the shirt. Very nice.

  7. Great shot, good edit! Very natural! I like the texture on it. Also I don't mid the shadows, they look natural, since the girl herself has a shadow.

    I also use actions as a crutch, a starting point to see what someone else more experienced than me thought the image might need. Now I'm also trying "my own wings" - every time I use an action, I go through it layer by layer and see what the effect is and do I really need it and at what opacity. Learning, learning...

    One thing what I've done a lot with my portraits, is to add a new layer at 50% gray (soft light), and then lighten the whites of the eye with a white brush (very low opacity) and darken the pupils with a black brush, also eyebrows if needed - not saying this picture would've necessarily needed it, but just an idea :-)
    Here's and example of my pictures:
    This picture also shows how I've used textures on portraits, to give a different look on the edges. I must also try them the way you used here, to give the whole image some spark!

    And here the effect on the eyes is very intense - overdone on purpose..

  8. Okay- not really sure how on earth I wasn't following you on twitter already- I swear we have already had discussions there. But I'm following you there now :) I love the shot- I hear you on the foot thing & I really wouldn't have picked up on the shadows since I was just enjoying that there was green in the background. (Yeah- we don't have a lot of green here so it was nice to see) so anyhow- the only thing I would have done was the skin- it would have been so hard for me to not touch it up a bit even with the mom asking not to. But that's just my own little quirks that I need to work through :) Beautiful job my friend!

  9. Great job with your edits--I may be coming to you for advice soon as I'm going to have to learn how to operate without my personal crutch of picnik, now that it's closing in April. Insert sad face. Looks like I'm going to have to buy photoshop!

  10. You did great! Very natural, and I like the pop of color the texture adds! The foot thing did jump out at me but only because I do it all.the.time. I don't mind the shadows, although now that you mention it I guess I would be curious to see if it makes a huge impact. I would also like to see it as maybe 1 5x7 (it is 8x10 now, right?) with a little more off the top. But all of that is nit-picking (because I am used to critiquing your photos... making me miss our flickr group!!). I think it is adorable the way it is!

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