Wedding & Portraiture
Not Ready For Digital Yet?

Photo 1.

After
Photos © 1999, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

So, you think that the timing still isn't right for you to get into digital? Well, wake up. You're only fooling yourself.

You have all sorts of excuses why you haven't gotten around to it, don't you? The truth of the matter is, you may be a little scared. In addition, you probably think that you can't relate to digital in your area of photography.

I felt the same way, for a while at least. Now, I don't know how I could still be in photography without the help of the little digital manipulation that I do to my portraits. Take a look-see at some of my applications of Photoshop to the images that I created in my recent Sarasota portrait/wedding workshop.
The pictures looked pretty good to begin with. There was a time when I would have been satisfied with what I got back from my lab, but not any more. I'm sure that you'll agree with me after reading this article. I'll walk you through some of the steps that I took with each of these images to take them from regular to what I think is pretty spectacular.

Photo 2.

After.

The guy in Photo 1 with his female companion needed just some simple corrections from start to finish. When I put my photos into Photoshop the first thing I do is Image/Adjust/Auto Levels. That sort of picks up the color, usually warms the skin tones and does some fine-tuning that I don't trust my eye to do. I do this with all of my images once they're scan-ned and in my computer.

The next step is to adjust the contrast. I do this with my own contrast mask system that I learned from a friend. This opens up the detail throughout the picture. I can't begin to tell you how excited I get when I see everything that's lurking in the shadows and highlights.

For this first picture, my next basic change was to crop it from a square into a 10/8 horizontal format. I did that to take the attention away from his hat and to place their eyes above center in the composition. Then, it was simply a matter of getting rid of some of the distracting areas in the photograph. In particular, I cloned out the bit of his arm that was in the bottom of the picture. Then, I attacked the highlights in the background on the left side of the picture. Finally, I brightened their eyes and teeth a little.

Photo 3.

After.

None of these alone seemed like much. Putting them all together made quite a difference, didn't it?

Sometimes It Can Be So Subtle, Until You Compare. Then, there's Photo 2 of the mother with her two children. Not much to do here over and above doing my regular routine with color and contrast that I do on all my photographs. Or is there? Why not clean up the sidewalk? Get rid of that line that's going right through the boys' heads. And while we're at it, it wouldn't take more than a few moments to clean up some of those lines on the mother's neck. They're not there ordinarily, it's just the way I've got her posed.

Just A Few Minutes, But It Sure Helps, Doesn't It? How about bridal portraits? People think that with digital you don't have to have much to begin with. I couldn't disagree more. But there are some things that can be easily corrected and you'd never know, except if you were to compare them with the originals.

Let's take a look at Photo 3, for instance. That curl coming out from behind her neck was something that I missed when I made the portrait. Hey, no problem. Just "select" that area of the picture and clone in some of her veil from the other side. Not bad, huh?

At the same time, why not smooth out some of those facial lines? What I did here was create a soft focus layer over the entire portrait and then erase some of that layer to reveal the original sharp version of the picture. By doing that I was able to keep sharpness in their eyes, lips and other defined areas of the image. I used to try to accomplish the same thing with special lenses and filters. Now, I can see exactly what I'm doing and know just how far I want to go with the softness and sharpness. No surprises.

Photo 4.

After.

A Magician? Not Really. But Magical Powers, To Be Sure. Always have the "ideal" bridal couple? Everyone can be "ideal," if you know how to handle them. Digital, of course, can be a big part of that. I know that when I truly flatter people who are not model-type brides and grooms they're forever grateful. Take a look at the couple in Photos 4 and 5.

Great smiles. Great people. They deserve the best for their bridal portraits. With the help of Photoshop I can give them more than their best. I can take their dreams and make them a reality.

For starters, I cropped Photo 4 into a vertical composition to create an optical illusion of taller and thinner. That wasn't enough for me, however. I wanted to flatter them even more. Digitally, it was simple.

I drew a straight line down from the archway to the bottom of the picture and cloned the brickwork down to cover the edge of her gown. Then, I simply followed one of the folds of her gown from beneath her arm to the bottom of the portrait, "selecting" the area of her gown and veil that I wanted to erase from the portrait. I then picked up some of the dark color beneath the arch and filled it into that area at 100 percent. Of course, I had to soften the edges of my work with another Photo-shop tool. Simple and quick.

Photo 5.

After.

Darken a little of her chin and neck? Why not? Every little bit helps, doesn't it? Of course, you don't want to make it look artificial. If you didn't see the comparison, side by side, you probably wouldn't even suspect that anything had been done at all.

The same couple inside the church (Photo 5) has a combination of things happening. First of all, posing them within the pews of the church was a great beginning. Then, the first specific thing I did to that picture was to crop it horizontally to get rid of some of the unnecessary foreground. After that, I noticed that the book beneath his right hand was a slight distraction. That vanished in seconds.

The fun part of working with this image was shaping her body. By "selecting" that part of her that I (and she) would have preferred not to have showing in the picture. It was then another easy process to bring over some of the pews from the other side of her arm and fill in the area that I wanted to cover. Difficult? Not at all. Effective? Do we have to even ask.

Photo 6a.

After.

Once that was done I began looking at other small things I could improve. How about cutting out a little of the tension from her right hand? Sure, so I shaved off the tips of her fingers in seconds.

While we're at it, we may as well clean up the spotlights in the ceiling and the heating vents. Even the microphone on the dias left. Anything else? Once you've started having fun this way, you can keep going just as long as you keep it subtle.

I Didn't Part The Waters. One of the fun things I just finished is when I was experimenting on the beach with the couple in the final series of pictures. These pictures were made so late in the day (into the night) that I had to use a flashlight to set the exposure on my lens. I used a flash that was 2 f/stops over the ambient light to make the background go still darker and side lit the first picture.

I really liked the lighting on the man's profile in Photo 6a. I also liked her dark profile against the light sandy background. The main thing that I didn't like was the bright sandy background on the left. It was created by the flash for his profile lighting.

Photo 6b.

After.

The sand on the portrait that immediately followed the first picture (Photo 6b) was much better. The flash was behind the couple. What to do?

I know. How about cutting the bright sandy part of the picture out completely and then moving what was left onto the second picture. It was that simple. Then, just softening the edges where they were blended together.

Fun? Exciting? Now, don't tell me you couldn't get into stuff like this. I know you could. And if I can do it, anyone can. Don't forget, I'm the "old retired guy." The one who just keeps going and going and going and going.

No batteries here. Just excitement, determination, and a desire to keep up with the changing times.

Still think digital isn't for you? Oh, yes. Sure, you're still waiting. For what? I don't know. Do you?

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