In this article, I will show you an example of how I process portraits (before and after) and what my portrait editing workflow is like. Many of our readers ask how I post-process my images for my wedding blog and I decided to put together a quick example. Obviously, every image is different, so while some photos take very little of my time in Lightroom, others might take a while to process in Lightroom and Photoshop. This image in particular is from our recent “Bridesmaids Photoshoot”, a collaborative effort by many talented individuals in Colorado.
For any portrait work, it is best to shoot RAW. First, because the skin tone is very important and any white balance issues can be quickly taken care of in post-processing and second, because you can recover a lot of details from a RAW file. For me it all starts in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If I cannot get something done in Lightroom, I import images to Photoshop for further processing. Both Lightroom and Photoshop are very powerful applications – you can get a lot done without using any plugins or other third party software. Do not be afraid to experiment with either Lightroom or Photoshop, as it will only help you broaden your knowledge and build up your post-processing skills.
The close ups usually require a lot of work, due to the abundance of details and features. But the amount of time you put in all depends on the type of look you are trying to achieve. Here is the original image SOOC (straight out of the camera):
Camera Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G
Studio Lighting Equipment: Elinchrom Ranger RX with 53″ Elinchrom Octa and 39″ Elinchrom Softbox.
Camera Settings: Manual Mode, 1/160, f/7.1, ISO 200, RAW, Auto WB
Very simple steps in Lightroom going down from the right menu bar in the Development Module:
- Set White Balance to: Daylight
- Increased Exposure: +0.50
- Increased Blacks: +14
- Decreased Saturation: -5
- In Color sub-module Boosted Blues: +34
- Boosted Reds: +10, as shown below:
- To make the frame a little more pleasing to the eye, I slightly tilted and cropped the image as shown below:
- Next, I imported the image into Photoshop to take care of the blemishes. For this purpose I usually use the spot healing brush and/or the patch tool.
- Next, I took care of the darker spots under the eyes with the clone tool. I selected “Lighten” from the menu box and carefully fixed the dark spots.
- The next task was to brighten up the eyes a little.
- Sometimes you will need to even up the skin tone to give the portrait more of a glamorous look. Evening out the skin tone also smoothens pores and blemishes to some extent. There are many ways to do this and a few presets you can use. Or, you can do it manually by utilizing the masking tool along with Highpass and Gaussian blur filters, as explained in my how to smoothen skin and get rid of blemishes article. Also, Nik Software has a plugin called “Dfine”, which not only does a great job at reducing noise, but also for evening out the skin tones.
- For this particular image I also used the Liquify Filter to give my model’s neck a little more curve.
- After that I boosted the contrast a little via Image->Adjustments->Brightness/Contrast.
- Lightly sharpened the image with Smart Sharpen under Filter->Sharpen->Smart Sharpen.
- Saved and closed the image to go back to Lightroom.
- Exported the image with default settings and set “Sharpen for: Screen” and “Amount: Standard” in Lightroom Export window.
And here is the final result:
Click the “Next” button on the image to see the before look. You can toggle between the first and last images by pressing the Left and Right arrow buttons on your keyboard as well, once the large version of the image is opened.
Please let me know if you have any questions!
P.S. Here is a crop of the above image to better examine the effects of the post-processing. As you can see, skin texture and pores are preserved. You can always back it off and apply the process lightly to your liking.