Perfecting My Portrait Retouch Workflow

Discussion in 'Graphics Programs and Photo Gallery' started by therealalexsays, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. therealalexsays

    therealalexsays TPF Noob!

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    In an effort to do two things - ensure quality and consistency in my photos, and decrease the amount of monkeying and time spent on photos - I’ve been working on developing a workflow, a template so to speak, to help guide me through the process and ensure that I’m not missing things that will help me get great photos.

    I don’t know it for certain, and I’m happy to be told otherwise, but I feel like this is my “next logical step” in my growth as a photographer and retoucher, to develop a process. I know I can deviate from it, and leave steps out here and there if I deem they’re just not necessary, but I know that when I’ve edited previously, I do one photo, it looks amazing, I do another photo, it also looks amazing, and then I compare them perhaps as part of a series and remember that in the second photo, I didn’t do half the things I did in the first, and now comparing the two together, they look great on their own but very inconsistent one to another. I realize part of this is process and the specific techniques, and part of it is color, too. A lot of it has been color, and it’s been a process to find what I think looks good consistent from one photo to the next.

    I’ve really tried to learn from as many different sources as possible, but I’ve focused mainly on learning retouching through Aaron Nace’s PHLEARN Pro tutorials. There’s lots of great resources, I know, but he seems to have so many high quality tutorials, and any time I’ve had a problem, I’ve been able to find a solution with his stuff almost instantly.

    I’m a big ball of clay. I’m ready to be formed. I’m open to any and all critique, advice, and recommendations to grow in my ability. Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to follow a non-destructive flow as much as possible. It really bugs me when I get to a step where there’s something I can’t go back and change, modify, or re-do, without affecting other stuff. I’ve been creating and using actions to speed all of this up.

    LIGHTROOM

    WHITE BALANCE / EXPOSURE / HIGHLIGHTS / SHADOWS / HSL / PERSPECTIVE

    PHOTOSHOP

    1 - GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS - objects that shouldn’t be there, etc - spot healing brush

    2 - LIQUIFY - judiciously, just to fix clothing problems, eliminate weird shapes, fix a droopy eye, just normal, realistic improvements.

    3 - BLEMISH / REDNESS REMOVAL - blank layer above with spot healing brush, HSL adjustment layer to remove blotchy redness - if it’s all over redness, correct it later with color balance

    4 - FREQUENCY SEPARATION - to smooth out skin texture and color judiciously... always tend to do it, then turn opacity to 20-60% depending on look I want

    5 - SKIN CORRECTION - use color balance adjustment layer and masks to fix differences between different areas of the body with different colors

    6 - DODGE AND BURN - have been using white and black brushes with soft light / overlay

    7 - ENHANCEMENTS - fix eyes, enhance hair color if need be, etc.

    8 - COLOR TONING - if I have a “look” I’m going for, it gets done then

    9 - FRAMING - crop the picture to whatever I want it to be


     
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Seems like a logical flow to me; one thing I would suggest is cropping as one of your first steps so that you're not wasting time cloning out something in a background that's going to get cropped anyway. The other suggestion is investigating "Portrait Pro" software. I use this in about 95% of my portwart work, and as long as you pay the extra for the "Studio Max" edition and DO NOT let it go auto on you, it does excellent work. I can do with it in <3 minutes what it takes 15-20 minutes to do "handraulically" in Photoshop.
     
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  3. therealalexsays

    therealalexsays TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the quick reply! I see what you’re saying on the background. Usually I look at the image and just think “ok what would my ideal crop be” and only tackle things within that area. I leave it on there just incase I change my mind later and want to go back and keep something.

    I’ll have to see if I can find a demo of that software. I have been told by SO MANY people about the software they use and that “nobody uses photoshop to retouch” anymore, and I’ve had less than stellar results with all of them. Never tried this one though. For me, it’s kinda like the difference between stick and automatic - I want to know how to do all of this so I can have complete and ultimate control. I don’t mind if it takes a little more time, but not a tremendous amount more. I want finished work I could blow up and put on a billboard and it would look just as phenomenal as it does on an iPhone. Quality over quantity for me, and I know that means a slightly different clientele. If I can find software that will do that, that would be great. I will give it a try.

    Thanks!
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think some of this stuff is a sign of the times,and reflects what many younger people expect from "professional photos" in 2019...
     
  7. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yep, they've made some huge improvements. I'm still running (I think) V15 simply because it does everything I need. You can easily turn someone into a plastic doll with it, but as long as you don't let it make any decisions and adjust the various sliders as appropriate and use the local correction tools you can do top-notch work. I've NEVER had a client complain about an image I've processed in P Pro.
     
  8. Rinderart

    Rinderart TPF Noob!

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    When portrait pro was Brand new they asked me to test it for them Because I go back shooting women for The Eileen Ford agency during the Mid to Late 1960's and my first ever Job at 15 was with the Best Of the Best Glamour Hollywood Guy George Hurrell. my Job was to retouch His 8 x 10 Negatives Of every Glamour queen In Hollywood. I had a huge magnifying Glass. a glass top with Lights Under. A razor Blade and 3 Bottles Of spot Tone. He called me "The Pimple Man." I took the pimples off of everyone. don't know How they found me But when PP was Born they goyt in touch. I thought It was a Brilliant Piece Of software. In My time I've done every darkroom trick and Every soft ware trick Portrait pro Nailed it. Best of the best In My Book. I retouch for a Lot of other shooters here In Hollywood. Photoshop and PP. Is My choice. don't wanna bore ya. sorry. theres 1000's and 1000's in every style. and It's not just for Glamour. I do Very hard hitting seniors also.
     

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  9. therealalexsays

    therealalexsays TPF Noob!

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    Interesting to hear so many people recommending Portrait Pro and nothing else. That’s good, I think. I have tried Perfectly Clear, Portraiture, and a couple others I can’t recall right at the moment. They all had a cheap looking interface - doesn’t matter if it works though - and they all seemed limited to “presets”. You could go in and edit each of them individually, but it seemed like out of the 20 adjustments, you could slide 7/8 of them all the way from one side to the other and it did nothing.

    I am looking forward to trying out Portrait Pro. Thanks for all the recommendations!
     
  10. Rinderart

    Rinderart TPF Noob!

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    Great...pls update after. small Moves My friend.
     
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  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    It is interesting to see that PP features the new-ish "cat's eye" eye liner effect for outer eye treatment, should a customer like that...
     
  12. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Interesting thread as I've been questioning and tweaking workflow from start to finish. My most recent tweaks involve cleaning house on my files. I'll be the first to admit I've gotten sloppy on file maintenance. I'm switching to a new method where my file folder structure includes two different main files one Personal and one Client/subject. In the Personal file there are folders by category (Family, Landscape/cityscape, Travel, Pets, etc) within each folder are further subcategories (Family>Kids, Parents, Me&DW, Grandkids, etc). Each of those is broken down in a folder as required. Once at the bottom folder of category I put three more sub folders - 1-Raw, 2-Photoshop, 3-Finished. Putting numbers in front of the file name keeps them in order. The client/subject main folder is similarly divided.

    When I import from an SD I do a file copy dump into a backup external drive. Then I import into LR, placing the raw files in the 1-Raw file of the proper category. I have a preset that applies specific adjustments like exposure, tone curve, and other slider adjustments that work well with my camera, on import. From there I do my first cull evaluating all the images in the series, deleting the ones I know won't make the cut, flag the ones I really like, and leave the maybes untouched. Then I filter using the Flag attribute, because there really is no need to edit anything that isn't worth the effort. From there I adjust the WB first to a target included in the series, then sync all the photos in the series to that WB. Now comes the 2nd cull. I can either uncheck the flag or delete the image entirely. Once I have the keepers I have a choice I can either process further in Lr or dump them into PS. I've found that unless there is heavy editing involved I generally stay in Lr, because once one image in the series is done it's easy to sync everything else (except local adjustment) to it.

    Once in Ps I try to use standardized methods and techniques. I use an action that loads all the layers I normally use for the type of image I'm working on. I also maintain a data base of specific looks I like that includes color samples that I use to set a gradient map layer, a corresponding sample file to set highlights, midtones, and shadows, and a custom LUT that tops off the stack. Once I've completed all editing and satisfied with the image I use Save as to save a PSD in folder 2- Photoshop.

    I try not to crop until I'm ready to export to print. In Lr I'll create a virtual copy of the PSD file, then crop and make any additional adjustments deemed necessary. At that point I export it to 3-Finished. In the Finished folder is a sub folder for Web and Prints.

    All of my catalog and data files get backed up weekly (or daily if I've imported a lot of files).
     

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