Behind The Retouching | John Ross – Celestial
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Running Time: 23 minutes
Welcome and thank you for visiting. In this Behind the Retouching session, I sit down and take you through what goes on when I work an image. As commissioned by Advanced Photoshop Magazine for issue #126, I will show you some basic retouching combined with advanced compositing techniques in order to give everyone a wonderful opportunity to better understand the rationale behind what I do and which tools I use.
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So, for passionate and elite retouchers like yourself who want to master the Art of Retouching, check out my pointers below on how I came up with this final image, and I guarantee that your time invested here will be worth your while.
Let’s go behind the scenes, and explore these creative elements:
- Know your client’s needs, and make them happen. After giving Advanced Photoshop Magazine an archive of images to choose from, I was given a landscape photo to work with, while the requirement for the magazine was for a portrait image. To do this, I had to use compositing to string pictorial outtakes together. This is why you should always keep an archive of all your outtakes (even take extras); you never know when you might need them.
- Think ahead. This image was taken on a 36-megapixel camera, and while I could have scaled it down, I didn’t want the image to lose quality in case the editor wanted to zoom in or crop the image. You wouldn’t want to represent your work with poor detail, right?
- Find the best image that fits your needs. After scouring my archives, I found a complete image of the model’s full body figure, and arm, and a hand.
- Get creative. I found different poses of the model where I could simply composite the hands and arms. Check to see if the positions look natural before you proceed.
- Always work with Smart Objects. This is because a Smart Object allows you to go back to your raw file and make changes if you need to. This is important when masking, blending colors, etc. in order to make your composited images look natural when strung together.
- Avoid clutter. Compositing means using a lot of images and layers that you’re trying to combine together. To make sure you don’t get lost in an avalanche of layers, group them together in a folder so that you know where to go in case you need to go back and make changes.
- The eyes are the doorway to the soul. When you can, always add in a catch light in the eyes to open them up and add punch.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your client. When I sent over the first image to the magazine editor, it wasn’t very interesting for them. I had to specifically ask them what they wanted so that I could give them what they wanted. Because the concept was outside of my comfort zone, I never would have made the image that way if I hadn’t asked. Don’t hesitate to clarify things with your client. This will save you both a lot of time and effort while working.
- Take a break. Because the required image was not something that I regularly do, I had no idea where and how to begin. So I took some time off to mull things over, and then I sat myself down and focused. It helps to gather up some inspiration online, but never forget that these are just to get you going. Once you’re hyped up and ready to go, concentrate on the task at hand and make it your own.
- Again, always work with Smart Objects. I selected all my base layers and converted them to a Smart Object so that I can go back and edit them at any point in time. This will provide you with a non-destructive workflow and the most flexibility in your task.
- To select certain areas in your image, manual masking is the way to go. While the magic lasso and the magic wand are both available for you to use, always opt for proper masking when you need to select specific areas in your photo. Masking is the professional way to doing so, and it gives you more control over your selection no matter how tight you want to go.
- Know how to match the tone and color of your images. This is one of the key elements when compositing. In this case, I had to make sure that the tone and color of the model on the foreground matches the one on the background. This just makes your composite look more natural. In this case, we had bright colors that matched the model’s face and dark colors that matched her clothes.
- Be mindful of your file size. Because I had to add in vector layers and vector effects to the photo, saving it took a considerably long time. What you can do is to right-click on your Smart Object, and select “Convert to Linked”. This will save the original base image you were working on with all the layers insideof it, into a separate file, allowing you to work on a linked Smart Object.
- Make sure your model looks naturally placed onto the background. Because we’ve already composited two very different images together, we need to make the combination look natural. In this case, I added some glow effect to the model in order to make it look like she truly fits in.
- It’s important to draw a viewer’s eye in. In creating a glowing vector background that sort of acts like a halo around the model’s upper body, it provides viewers a focal point that focuses on the model’s face rather than letting the viewer’s eyes wander.
- Trial and error is still a valid work process. Initially, I had created a mountain range effect in the background of the image, but even though I did spent some time and effort into creating that effect, in the end, it just didn’t work for me and I had to edit it out. What I came up with eventually was even better, so it pays to experiment and see what works best.
- Use lighting to your advantage. I used Curves to darken the lower parts of the image and lighten the central part so that once again, I have control over where I want my viewer’s eye to go.
- To reiterate, keep an open communication with your client. You may be tirelessly working on a project only to find out that when you finish it, it’s not quite what your client had in mind. Keep your client updated with your progress, so that they can give you feedback on what you need to revise.
- If you haven’t figured it out already, I am all about the ultimate non-destructive workflow. As you can see, all the elements are made up of Curves, Smart Objects, Adjustment Layers, or linked Smart Objects to my raw files, allowing me to come back and edit in case I change my mind or need to work on an adjustment I had previously made. The key takeaway here is to always work non-destructively and never use pixel data to damage your photo permanently. You never know when your client wants something changed or edited, and you need to go back and make revisions.
Thank you for taking the time to watch how I work behind the scenes. I hope that I was able to shed some light into what goes on when working on an image non-destructively. And if you’re eager for more of these in-depth lessons on how to master the Art of Retouching, you can head on over to my website and check out Emergency Retouching for Beginners, as well as the Portraits, Camera Raw, and Smart Objects for the more advanced users.
There are also loads more other incredibly awesome tutorial videos on the right sidebar, where you can learn about Cloning, Masking, Photoshop Tools and Palettes, and so much more in my full Photoshop Basic 1, Photoshop Basic 2, and Photoshop Intermediate Courses.
Until then, keep the creative passions burning and I hope to see more of you as we work together on your path to becoming a better photo retoucher.