Retouching And Skin

Quick answer to an email question regarding the photo at the top of yesterdays post. "What was my retouching process for the women's skin on that image". Interesting question but possibly a surprising answer for some of you. Others maybe not so much.

Ummm short answer is my re-touch process for that image amounts to none. Just the way I like it. Longer answer follows of course.

As you can see from the Aperture 3 screenshot at the top all of the adjustments are listed one by one. I didn't even bother to mess with the white balance on this series of shots. Truth be told I would probably go a hair cooler on these give the context of the scene. As for the rest of the adjustments here they are…

  • A tiny bit of recovery just to get a smidge more detail into the curtains before I hand them over to VSCO presets which will compress the crap out of where they were rendering. Not critical.
  • Black point of a whopping -3. Yes that's negative. This is critical. First off this is my standard goto setting for VSCO presets because of all the contrast that they add later down the pipeline. Way too much with the default black point. Second because I tend to use something around 0 or 1 no matter if I use VSCO or not. Aperture 3 just has WAY WAY too high a contrast for my taste for people. Black point is a really quick way to deal with making the image more neutral.
  • The reset of the stuff is VSCO fuji 800Z except for the really mild edge sharpen that I do as a quick and dirty for small JPEG's coming out of Aperture 3 - they tend to look a little soft by default coming off a 24mpix camera. Really wish Aperture would get output specific sharpening as part of the export presets.

Here's the whole photo again for reference…

The reason Mika's skin looks good is primarily the way it was shot. Specifically the lighting and actually more importantly where I decided to place the skin values which are probably a heck of a lot higher than you might. The secondary reason is that lowering of black point hence contrast hence saturation. Contrast and saturation go hand in hand. This amount of contrast reduction at this stage of image processing even allows the VSCO presets in Aperture to do their thing which adds a ton of saturation on the 800Z preset without a big need to tame it.

Even a one hundred percent and a crazy sharp lens Mika's skin looks pretty good. If I were printing it large or delivering it I would definitely spot it a bit. Actually I would have had all that crap taken care of by a makeup artist. This was foundatio free with a quick model provided makeup job. For my purposes it's fine and I rather a natural look anyway.

As an illustration of how much "how you shoot it" contributes to how skin looks here's an image from that series that has two slightly different things compared to the previous images. First is a slight change in the angle of light - same light just a tiny change in angle relative to Mika's skin. The other thing is a more moderate exposure and placement of skin values - not under-exposed just a different rendering choice…

Same exact processing - actually lift/stamped. Yes skin sometimes needs work. I rather minimize that work as much as possible when I am shooting if it's my choice….

RB

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