The photo below is published in the "Inspirations" section of the September 2019 issue of Shutter Magazine. Shutter Magazine is an industry-leading portrait and education magazine that comes out of Sal Cincotta's empire of photography, products, and education. This is my third photo to be featured in the magazine, and I thought I'd walk you through what it took get this photo ready for publication. Want to learn how I polish a photo? Follow along...
Straight Out of Camera
Here is the photo almost straight out of camera, no edits or anything except a slight contrast boost. When I import into Lightroom, I have a preset applied to my photos. The preset doesn't do much except correct any lens distortions and add a little contrast (in this case, a medium contrast curve in the Tone Curve panel).
The pose and the expression are so amazing--Makenna just nailed this look into the camera. And her hair? Perfect.
But this photo is far from ready to share. The afternoon was a little cold, so you can see the splotchy skin color as a result. The photo is also a little underexposed. While her hair has great texture and volume, it just doesn't have the punch and pop that I'd like to see. Her eyes could also use a little more brightness to bring a little more life.
Out of the camera, the photo is good, but it lacks life and polish.
Initial Edits in Lightroom
The first thing I did was crop the photo square. The background was plain and not adding to the photo anyway. This photo is all about her stare and her hair. I wanted to pull in the focus, so a square crop felt best.
Up next, I increased the overall exposure and warmed up the temperature of the photo. With an adjustment brush, I painted on contrast to her hair. I wanted to give more pop to the shadows and highlights.
The bulk of my work came with her skin. First I evened out the tones with an adjustment brush, dodging and burning to get rid of slight shadows or bright spots. I mostly dodged away shadows.
I added some color to her hair, brushing on a temperature increase to make the yellows more vibrant.
Finally, I used my go-to preset adjustment brush for her eyes, which slightly increases exposure, saturation, clarity, and sharpness.
Here is the result of my first round of edits:
Edits in Photoshop and Color in Lightroom
After the first round of edits, I wanted to give more attention to her skin. Lightroom's ability to work on skin just doesn't match what you can do in Photoshop.
Using the healing brush tool, I removed small blemishes and imperfections. Then I used a technique called frequency separation to smooth out the tones in her skin while keeping the skin's natural texture. (Should I do a quick tutorial on frequency separation? Comment and let me know...)
After the skin work in Photoshop, I came back to Lightroom to do some color work. I desaturated the overall photo and used the blue channel in the Tone Curve panel to add blues to the shadows and yellows to the highlights. Essentially, I'm creating my own "filter," but with much more control and nuance than is available in a preset or an app like Instagram.
Compare the image below to the initial edits. You'll see a difference in the skin and the overall color.
Black & White and Ready to Publish
For a while, I loved the look of the photo above. A year or so later, I came back to it, thinking that a black-and-white version might be even better. I wanted to really see her gaze and focus on her hair, and the color version felt like it was still distracting from the essence of the photo. Would black-and-white be the best version?
I converted the photo to black-and-white in Lightroom. Next, I made some adjustments to the tone curve, working on the overall contrast of the image. I also increased the black clipping to create a slight matte style. (Look at the darkest blacks--they're not pure black. That's the matte style.)
I added a touch more clarity to her hair to get just a little more texture, too.
Below is the final image, ready to submit for publication in Shutter Magazine.
This photo is my third photo published in Shutter Magazine. I am honored and humbled to be published alongside industry leaders. Submitting images for publication pushes me to be better. I encourage you to do the same.
Want to learn how to use your camera and work with editing programs to create photos like these? Check out my mentoring details. I love teaching photographers how to better use their cameras and how to use Photoshop and Lightroom. Send me an email today and let's start your mentoring journey!