Friday, January 7, 2011

Why I love post processing [Behind the scenes of my self portrait photo shoot]

I was thinking of letting you guys in my self portrait photo shoot tonight. This is what I do whenever I'm bored and want to cheer myself up by creating something cool.

I don't have any fancy apparel for studio type of photography. This is my studio; a white wall, lamp and a tripod. That's all I need to make the magic happen. Oh well, I don't know about magic, but I usually do most of the work with my laptop in post processing so I don't need the SOOC photo to be all ready to be published.

I don't use so much time on PP only because I have to (although that obviously is one of the reasons) but because I really love it. I read all these debates on online forums about whether post processing is 'cheating' or not and I'm baffled. I guess I can't create what I create just with a camera, but so what? Don't tell me that my photographs aren't photos just because they might be heavily processed.

To me, processing is half the fun. Actually, when it comes to SPs, it's more like 80% of the fun, because the actual taking the photo isn't all that interesting to me. Partly because I usually get very frustrated with my not-so-good looks, but eventually I (may) end up with a decent shot. And that is when the true magic starts to happen, so buckle up!

Everything starts with doing the make up and finding the proper outfit. Tonight for some weird reason I ended up with an orange face...Seriously, I look like one of those bleach blond "fashion" teens who have orange fake tans. But I have come to notice that 'normal' amount of make up doesn't show on a photo the way it does in the mirror. So if you want a dramatic make up in a photo, and you don't have all that fancy studio equipment and lighting, you need to go the extra mile and look like a clown in the mirror.

So here's the "real me" :D Just to enhance the 'magical feel of this post'. (This is after taking the photo and I already wiped some of the make up off. So not that orange anymore...)

Then the photo snapping starts and loads of bad shots have to be taken before the decent one.

So this one here on the left ended up being the one I liked the best.
First I started by using a Florabella Photoshop action called Vintage Summer. I first felt a little guilty after purchasing the vintage actions (quite a long time ago), but I admit I do love them.
So, after that I started using layer mask techniques to do different things. The action left my hair looking a little flat, so I copied the original photo layer and placed it above the action layer. I started going over the different layer modes and found a mode that made the hair look more vivid. Then I clicked the Add layer mask while pressing down Alt, and I got a black layer mask and the action layer showed again. I chose a big blurry round brush (no sharp edges) and put the brush opacity in about 40% or so. Then I just brushed over the parts of the hair that I wanted to be more vivid and highlighted. When I was finished, I just right-clicked the layer mask, chose Apply layer mask and merged the mask layer with the action layer. This is a technique I first learned from this video tutorial.

My skin isn't all that perfect so I used the technique I demonstrated in one of my previous posts and made my skin look a little smoother. I also used the patch tool here and there to get the most distracting spots off.
After that I duplicated the  action layer (I always keep the original photo on a bottom layer in case I need to go back to that or copy it) and I used the dodge tool (just highlights and midtones) on my eyes. Then I used a layer mask again to add just that eye effect to the actual picture.

There is a chapter about how professionals sharpen their photos in the Digital Photography book by Scott Kelby so I digged that up and did the final sharpening according to his tutorial. First I had to flatten the image and then go Image > Mode > Lab Color. Then I went to Channels, chose Lightness and then used the Unsharp Mask filter. It basically just sharpens the details of the photo, not the colors.

And that's it! Well I did do some little things in addition to the ones mentioned, but they're not that important. I think the end result is pretty neat. What do you think?



  1. oon lukenu monesti ht.netistä että tekisit bannereita ja nyt sitte ite tarttisin banneria, mutta en oo nyt nähny, että oisit ilmotellu asiasta, nii jos voisit sitte käydä mulle heittään kommenttia tuonne mun kommenttiboxin puolelle? Niin värinä käy mikä vaan mikä sopii siihen taustaan ja tekstin fontti semmonen kauno tai vastaava.