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Portrait processing

February 5, 2010

(seems to be some weird color space issue, as always.  trying to figure it out)

This is just one example of how I  process portraits.

This is the picture without any adjusting.  I always shoot RAW so that I can make basic changes in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), the most crucial being the white balance.

Above is how it looked when I was done in ACR.

1) I adjusted the white balance because the original looked too red to me.  In this case I used the White Balance dropper tool and clicked on the whites of her eyes (I tried different places until it looked good to me).  Generally clicking on something that should be white gets you close ~ I then adjust the sliders manually until it looks good.

2) I took the exposure down to -.30 because it seemed too light.

3) I reduced the brightness to +41, again because it seemed too bright.

Above is my final version.  What I did in Photoshop:

1) I ran my “Light Brown Sugar” action and turned of the “vibrance” & ” tones” layers.

What that leaves is a “punch” layer, which involves:

~ going to the Channel palette, clicking on the green channel, going up to Select and choosing All, and then going to Edit, Copy
~ going back to the Layer palette, making a new layer, and pasting a copy of the green channel
~ set that layer to luminosity
~ run an “unsharp mask” filter on it, high on the radius and low on the amount
~ take the opacity of the layer down, in this case it’s at 50%

and a “drama” layer, which is:

~ a hue/saturation adjustment layer, with the colorize box checked
~ set to soft light
~ opacity taken down, in this case it’s at 30%

and a “darken” layer, which is a levels adjustment layer with nothing done to it, set to multiply, with the opacity taken down to 20%

The punch layer desaturates and adds contrast.  The drama layer adds more contrast.  The darken layer, well, darkens it all a bit 🙂

I straightened the picture by dragging the ruler tool along the side of the door and then going to Image, Image Rotation, Arbitrary.

I then cropped it square.

And that’s it!  Let me know if you have any questions.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. Miriam permalink
    February 5, 2010 8:07 pm

    Thank you! Ihave just the picture to try this on.

  2. February 5, 2010 9:31 pm

    I like the final result. 😉 it has a nice contrast, without it being overbearing.

    One suggestion… while the recipes are good (and perhaps that is what most people want), it would be nice to know what you are trying to do with your photo, if time permits. As in, what does each process do towards your “vision” of the final one — if the step does that. Like the green channel has the most luminosity, though the least edge detail (usually in the blue channel), it is a way to brighten and soften the photo, though it can be “punched” with the unsharp mask on the layer from that channel.

    I say this for two reasons: one is that there are so many ways to do things in photoshop/lightroom, that a person may already know a way to do some parts and can do a segment in their way and others your way… which offers more enthusiasm. 😉

    The second, and more important, is that your photography is well differentiated from other by its vision and feeling of what you want it to be, and good if you can make that the gist of the blog entries and the “recipes” a side effect.

    The crop you did is quite effective, so it would be nice to know why you liked it that way — though sometimes, it just “is” and there are no words to say it… and people just have to deal 😀

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 5, 2010 9:49 pm

      Thanks Fefe 😉

      I will try and include the “why” though I often have a hard time figuring that out ~ for you I will work on it 🙂

      And yeah, as to cropping that’s really hard to articulate. “Cause it looks good that way” tends to be my reasoning 😉

  3. February 5, 2010 5:46 pm

    Really interesting to read all that processing detail, especially when it’s so different from how I work. Thanks for sharing.

  4. February 5, 2010 8:48 pm

    I am so glad you are sharing your skills and wisdom with us processing plebs. Thank you Lauren! This is awesome!

  5. Ken Robinson permalink
    February 5, 2010 9:05 pm

    Excellent explanation of your technique. The results are amazing. Looking forward to more! Thanks Ken

  6. Ram permalink
    February 5, 2010 9:22 pm

    I have subscribed to your rss feed , I have loved your photography for a very long time!

  7. *Olivier permalink
    February 6, 2010 2:51 am

    There is always something to learn in each one of your images. That’s about angles, placement in space etc…
    This tutorial does not derogate from the rule ! That’s just talent.

    But i agree with fernando … We want to know more ! (joke…).

    Thanks a lot for all the things you give …
    And have a nice day.

  8. February 6, 2010 5:54 am

    So glad you provided a link to your blog. I am now a follower and look forward to seeing your photo tutorials. I have been a fan for sometime. You work is so lovely and full of emotion.

  9. February 6, 2010 6:51 am

    Okay, so I am a bit of a dullard. I am trying this, but I can’t work out how to copy/paste the green channel? The copy function is grayed out. Help anyone? Love the pic!

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 6, 2010 7:29 am

      I’m sorry, my fault ~ you click on the green channel and then go up to Select, All. Then you copy.

  10. February 6, 2010 11:47 am

    Hi Lauren,

    Thanks for the tutorial and also, for starting this blog. My question is that have you ever used Nikon software for converting your NEF files (Capture NX 2 or the free ViewNX) or you always open them up in Adobe Camera Raw?

    The reason for this is that whenever I used the ACR to open NEF files – besides many things – I did not get the sharpness right. (I have a D700.) The images are kinda dull. In my experience and others confirmed it too, if you use ACR for opening NEF files, the programme is not using the settings you can adjust in the camera’s Picture Control.

    The Picture Control is in the camera’s Shooting Menu if I remember well and there are several types (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, etc.) which give you freedom to adjust sharpness, brightness, contrast, saturation and hue IN camera. This can be later modified in the Nikon softwares as long as your files are in RAW format. If you open your files in Nikon software you will get the same sharpness, etc. and normally my workflow is the following:

    Open NEF in Capture NX2 > adjust few things > save it in 16-bit TIFF format > open it for post processing in Photoshop (I love using textures).

    So I wonder whether my ACR is not set correctly? Anyway, I hope I wasn’t too long, I’ll try the steps you provided here. Thanks for sharing it!!!!!!!!!

    Take care,
    Inez 🙂

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 6, 2010 12:11 pm

      Hi Inez,

      You are correct. ACR doesn’t recognize the in-camera settings. From my understanding, which is limited, there are a lot of different types of .NEF files, and it’s only in Capture, which is Nikon’s product, that those settings can be stored and read. You can also save .NEF files in Capture, which you cannot do in ACR or Photoshop.

  11. Marni permalink
    February 6, 2010 1:14 pm

    Hi Lauren – thanks heaps for all your tips that you give out, they are appreciated sooo much. Just wondering where you get your actions from or do you create them yourself?

    Thanks again.

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 6, 2010 1:47 pm

      I own a lot of actions but I like to buy them so I can learn how other people do things. The only actions I use on my pictures other than my own are Lilyblue’s Chocolate actions for black and whites ~ I love her Standard Fudge action.

  12. February 6, 2010 2:32 pm

    Hi Lauren – delighted to see you’ve started a blog. I love your photos! I’m sure it will be an education to follow you!

  13. February 6, 2010 8:16 pm

    Thank you for posting the detail, it’s wonderful to be able to glimpse in to the steps you take…. now if only I could sit quietly beside you and watch the magic that you create in person 😉

  14. Ken Robinson permalink
    February 7, 2010 8:42 am

    Hi Lauren, could you make up a black and white tutorial? I realize that you must be terribly busy, but your black and white images are excellent. Thanks for all the help you share with everyone. Have a great Sunday! Ken

  15. February 7, 2010 11:25 am


  16. Elissa B. permalink
    February 8, 2010 9:47 am

    Lauren, just curious which picture control you use. Standard, neutral, vivid, etc?

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 8, 2010 10:31 am

      Hi Elissa!

      I just keep it on standard because when you shoot in RAW those settings don’t apply if you use ACR (they are recognized if you use Nikon’s Capture NX).

  17. A.Mosawi permalink
    February 9, 2010 8:58 am

    Love your tutorial and benefit from it so much 🙂
    Thank you indeed !

  18. February 11, 2010 8:06 pm

    Where does one get the Light Brown Sugar action?


  19. Raymond Bayot permalink
    February 20, 2010 4:05 am

    Found you on Flickr. thru my bayotrgrafix flickr account. Absolutely love your images. So I’m new to photoshop and just learning my way around it. So here’s a newbee question. Why did you pick green in the channels?
    Thanks in advanced

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 20, 2010 9:07 am

      I’ve been trying to find something to link to but can’t (if anyone has more info please jump in) but from what I can remember the blue channel adds the most contrast, the green a middle amount, and the red the least. I also sometimes use the blue channel, but it makes the picture very heavy and I tend to like a lighter look.

  20. Raymond Bayot permalink
    February 22, 2010 6:20 am

    Thanks. I guess I need LOTS and LOTS of practice to get the look and feel that your pics portray.

  21. LauraM permalink
    February 28, 2010 9:05 am

    Have followed your Flickr site for a while, and just found your blog from the link you posted. I love this information you share. Am wondering what you use to callibrate your monitor, and also if you have created color callibrations for your camera for skin tones. Your work is so beautifully polished, but more than that, beautifully expressive.

    • elycerose permalink*
      March 1, 2010 9:09 am

      I’ve tried using a Spyder thing to calibrate but didn’t see a difference. My prints match what I see, so that’s good enough for me 🙂

      I don’t have any skin tone calibrations ~ I shoot in RAW so my camera settings aren’t saved unless I work on Capture NX, which I don’t.


  1. How I Process II « Flimmerings

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