Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Natural light portrait retouching, part of Photo Tools Weekly.
- Hey, this is Chris and welcome to another episode of Photo Tools Weekly. You know recently I launched a brand new course which you can find in the library, and it's all about how to create and capture better natural light portraits. Well in that course I really focused in on the capture, but I thought it'd be fun in Photo Tools Weekly to talk a little bit about the post production process as well. So this week's episode will be working with portrait that was lit by a window, and it's a photograph of my mom.
My mom's a wonderful person, one of my heroes. She's a three time cancer survivor, an artist and many other things as well. So with this portrait, we'll take a look at how we can begin with something which is decent or good, and explore how we can make that great. We'll start off in Lightroom, there we'll crop and recompose and then we'll quickly hop over to Photoshop and do some other work as well. Alright, well let's dive right in, here goes. Alright, so here we are inside of Lightroom, this is the portrait that I captured of my wonderful mom, and what I want to do with this image is I want to change it's composition so I'll go ahead and tap the R key to select the crop tool, and I'm going to click and drag this down, now eventually I want to change the crop to a square, but I'll need to do that in Photoshop, so I'm just going to get it roughly close first, then double click to apply that.
Next I'm going to zoom in a little bit on this image here, let's see if I can zoom in a little closer, maybe something lik that so we can see some of the details that we have here, and what I want to do with my basic panel, is I want to bring my highlights down a little bit, and also bring my shadows up, I want to even out the exposure there a little bit, I do like having contrast so I'll bring that in a little bit and be careful that it's not too bright, I going to need to fix some of the exposure issues later in Photoshop so I'm just going to make a few minor adjustments at this point.
Also color temperature, might as well nudge that up a little bit, so I'll hover over this and just tap my up arrow key, that's a great way just to make small incremental adjustments, up increases the warmth, down decreases it, because if you drag the slider it's almost too dramatic or too strong right? If you double click that, it will reset it back to the default setting, and then from there you can just hover over it and then tap the up arrow key a couple times. Alright, well this is really all that I'm going to do in Lightroom, some really basic adjustments, the image is in pretty good shape, I'm ready to go to Photoshop.
So next we go to Photo, edit in and edit in Photoshop. Here I'll select that option, it will take this big raw file, apply all the adjustments we made in Lightroom, send it over to Photoshop. Inside of Photoshop, I want to begin my working with exposure, and we're going to do this in a really unique way, what I mean by that is, actually scratch that. What I'm going to do first is crop, then I'll work with exposure, ha ha, I got ahead of myself, so with the crop tool, my vision is to go to a 1:1 ratio, so I'll choose that 1:1, want to turn content aware on, and then I'm going to extend this out past the edge of the frame, because what I really want is a square crop of the image, so I'm going to try to find just the right spot for that, and because I have content aware turned on, what it's going to do for me is it's going to extend that area, and of course I'll need to do a little work on the background, but that's okay I can do that, here I'll press enter or return to apply that, and essentially what it will do is it will fill in the gaps in the background, so that the background now is looking a little bit better.
This side over here is a problem, so let's go ahead and fix that, we could use a rectangular marquis to make a quick rectangle section there then go to edit, fill, in the fill dialogue we'll use content aware, and what that will do is it will just say hey, figure out how I can fill in the area in the background so that now really we have a much more neutral background. Now I'm going to darken that and make it more of a pure black later, but for now I just wanted to have a decent, decent backdrop there and I think this is pretty good, one last adjustment, I'm going to grab the crop tool, and I actually want to make a little bit more space and it's going to be easier for me to do that now 'cause the background's fixed, so I'll go ahead and just press enter or return, feel like I needed a little bit more negative space, or breathing room around my mom there.
Okay, cool I'm liking this, I'm digging the composition that we have, next let's work on exposure. This will be a little bit more advanced, probably something you haven't done before, but stick with me on this, I want to brighten up the shadows on this side, and then the highlights I want to darken on that side. So first the shadows, bring up my black point in my curve and bring up the midpoint too. Now this is going to be exaggerated, we'll scale it back in a little bit, but this will help you see what's happening, so black point up, midpoint way up.
We'll need a little bit of color, so go to the red channel and bring in just a touch of red there, then go into the blue channel and drag down, bring in a little bit of yellow. Okay so now it's everywhere, doesn't' look good, that's okay, go to the icon for the mask and click on color range. Now with color range what we can do is we can sample different areas and have this adjust those areas. I want it to affect the shadows, and so what we can do, is let me zoom in really close so you can see this, I can click into a shadow and say hey that's the area I want to work on, I don't want localized, I want it everywhere, so that's unchecked and then I can increase the fuzziness, and you see how that's broadening the reach there? Or we can drop the eyedropper with the plus icon and say hey will you reach into the shadows that are nearby and that's what I'm trying to do, it looks strange, odd, over done, that's okay just stick with me here, next up click okay, what we'll do is we'll change our feather value here and as I change the feather value here, it's going to soften or smooth out that transition edge, looks like it went a little bit too far maybe right there, then we'll go back to the curve and we'll bring this down and the reason why I had that so high was just so that you could really see.
If I made this subtle in the beginning you wouldn't quite get what was happening there, but because it looked so horrible for a second, you saw yes, it's basically taking any shadow and just brightening that up, which is what we want. We can also control the intensity of this with opacity right, if it's just a little bit too much, we can bring that back, but I'm trying to make an image which has a little bit more even tone to it. Okay that's the shadow side, highlights it's the same way but the opposite, we go to curves, we bring our white point down and our midtone, let's exaggerate again, too much right, that helps us see how this works.
Then we go to the mask icon, then we click on color range, we click on a bright tone on the image that we think is too bright, probably down here on the sweater as well, so I'm just going to use the eyedropper icon with the plus on it to make sure I'm darkening up the sweater down there too, and then maybe a little bit more on the, no that's too much, I don't think I need all of that, I just need to increase my fuzziness, that's what I need to do, next click okay. It looks strange and horrible, crank up the feather right, and we know that feather kind of saves the day in situations like this.
Now I did something where I made a mistake which I forgot to bring in color to this, can you see how it's a little bit too, sort of dark there? So we want to go back to the curve and go to our red channel, bring up a little bit of reds. Go to the blue channel, bring in a little bit of yellow. It's not like we're just brightening or darkening this without the influence of color, we need to have color in there as well, so keep in mind if you feel like it's looking weird, you can always go back to those channels here in the curves and those can help you out, so here again we have the ability to take down those highlights, awesome and it's really specific and we can only do really good work like this inside Photoshop, it wouldn't work in Lightroom or other places as really specifically, so you can see what I've done is went from this, which was a little bit too harsh for me for my mom, to just kind of softening the overall light and evening things out.
Now, one of the ways we can keep modifying this is just to experiment with these values here, sometimes I find I get a little excited or carried away with Photoshop adjustments, and I need to scale them back, but I think this is looking good now. Alright well next step let's do a couple more adjustments, one more curves adjustment, here I'm going to brighten this up and add a little bit of contrast back in, I'm going to paint this into a specific area, so go to my mask tab and click invert, grab a brush and a paint with white, and I'm just going to paint this onto this area.
And I actually might want to warm this area up a little bit, hands are really important, especially artists hands, my mom's a painter so I want to make sure those look really nice, so if I need to warm that up, you know how to do this right, we go to the channel, say just need a little nudge of red maybe, just a touch, then we go to blue, up is blue down is yellow, so we're just going to bring in just a hint of color there, maybe just a little bit of yellow, looks like my red is too strong, I don't even need red I don't think, just a little bit of yellow there, then go back and we can paint this in, and what I'm looking to do is just warm this area up down here, I think her face looks great, but I really want to just have a little bit more color there, that's looking good.
Okay, we're almost done with this one, stick with me here, and what we have is a wonderful, beautiful portrait of my mom, natural window light, and next I want to work on the background, so I'll go to the background layer, grab the quick select tool, what we'll do is make a selection of mom here, and then we will fill the background with a solid color, which is black and we'll do that, it'll help us retouch away some stray hairs that we have in the image, some other little issues that we have too, so with quick select I'm just quickly painting around the image to get a decent selection, we will need to fix up the selection in selected mask, so we'll do that.
In selected mask up in the top, we can choose to have this on white, or we could have this on black, which would probably be better 'cause that's where we're going, we're going to a darker background. Use this tool here along the edges and what that will do is it will just make those a little softer and smoother, we'll see a little bit of the flyaway hairs, but not too much which is kind of nice, around the edge of the sweater, which should have a soft edge, it's not a really hard edge sweater we want it to be a little more organic, same thing down here in this area, so I'm just going along the edge here, this is improving all of my edge details, and I'm digging it, it's looking really good, and I like having a solid color on the background too.
So after we've done all that, what I want to do is I'll put this just to a selection, so I made a selection, refined it great, next step click okay, now let's fill that in with color but first we need to invert right, because right now we have mom selected, so if we go to select and choose inverse, now we have background selected, here we can click on the icon which opens up our option to select solid color, with solid color we can choose a nice deep black, and with this black, let me put it on the top of the stack here so you can see what we have, we have this color and I don't want it to be 100% black, so I'll drop my opacity down, I want to see a little bit of that grading that we had before, so I'm going to bring that down, I don't know maybe just a little bit there, it's not super noticeable, or another thing we can do too is we could double click this and choose a different color, if we wanted something a little bit less, like, let me move that out of the way, or wanted a different color altogether, as a little hint of color in there, that could be kind of fun, brown, actually that looks kind of cool with my mom, but I'm going to go to darker tones, I like darker ones, something like that right there maybe.
Alright, well there you have it, good workflow and improving a portrait using natural light, if we go back through it, here is the image after Lightroom, then when we worked on some exposure issues, shadows and highlights, warmed an area of the image up using curves, and then finally created a real simple and clean background to finish this one off. Alright well thanks for joining me in this episode, be sure to check out that natural light portraiture course because I think you'll really enjoy that one, and also make sure that you have a wonderful and creative day today, I'll look forward to seeing you next week, bye for now.