Fine Art Retouching
Updated: Apr 22
For my fine art sessions, the editing process is quite extensive. For me, the most important part is to have an image that looks good straight out of camera and that has a lot of potential. While there are a lot of options to digitally manipulate and edit images, it's important to me that the overall photographic technique is as good as possible. In my heart, I am a photographer first and an editor second, and I love working with images that were shot correctly. Aside from that, it makes the editing process much easier of the RAW file is already looking good.
In camera while taking the portraits, I underexpose slightly for fine art sessions. After putting all the images from my session on my computer and running both a physical backup on two external hard drives and an online backup, it's time to edit! I open all my Raws ( unprocessed, straight out of camera images) in Lightroom.
From there, I make a series of adjustments.
My first steps are usually applying lens profile correction and slight overall sharpening. Then I decide if and how I want to crop the image and what image ratio I want to go with ( I always stick with printable image ratios, so that when it's time and you want a photographic print, there won't be any bad surprises). Next step in Lightroom is adjusting the overall white balance and tint, then possibly some minor exposure corrections.
After that, I open the image file in Photoshop (PS), which is where the magic happens. PS is a great tool, but when you're first starting out, it can be very intimidating. And there is not THE one way of doing portrait retouching in PS. There are so many different options and so many different ways to get to where you want to be. Once I have the image opened in Photoshop, I get started on skin retouching through Frequency Separation. This is a lengthy process but the results are very natural looking- I don''t like the look of skin that has lost all texture, and I am also not a fan of alien like looking skin. After I edit blemishes, redness, dark circles under the eyes, the occasional snotty nose and all of that fun stuff, I adjust localized redness on the skin and work on giving skin a beautiful glow. Then I touch up possible wrinkles on the backdrop ( I use fabric backdrop and/ or seamless paper, and with fabric, there usually are at least a few wrinkles that need to be taken out). After the background is cleaned up, I focus on other things that are distracting for me ( like in this image, there are a few wrinkles on the dress that I took out). Then I selective bring shadows up or down and the same with highlights. If needed, I change the hue/ saturation either overall or locally, do a possible split toning-that can be warming out the shadows or midtowns, etc). Then it's time for some dodging and burning ( where I locally accentuate parts of the image by brushing on darker and brighter tones- you can think of this as a way of doing digital contouring). For this particular image, I also worked on the model's hair a little bit, since my wind machine had blown a strand of hair up that was a tad bit distracting in the straight out of camera image) and in addition to that, I masked off the model and the chair she's sitting on and added a background texture to give the image an overall more painterly look. I adjusted the background texture's hue and saturation to compliment the chair and dress, selectively sharpened the model and voila, the image was done.
In this crop, you'll be able to get a good idea of the extensive retouching. The SOOC ( straight out of camera) image is already looking great, but side by side with the edit, you can definitely tell a big difference. I did my signature fine art skin retouch to even out her complexion and to smoothen the transition of shadows and highlights, I changed the more yellow hue of her dress towards orange, did some dodge and burn to accentuate her bone structure, added a brown background texture from the same color palette as her dress, did a very slight liquify to soften up her expression and applied some localized oil paint brush effect on her hair for a more painterly overall look.
All these images were taken at my photography studio in Cameron, NC. It's just a short drive from Pinehurst and Southern Pines and about 25 min away from Aberdeen. If you love what you see, feel free to get in touch with me so that we can start planning yours! As of right now, I am still not taking on any studio sessions, but we can always start planning! I have a variety of outfits for both boys and girls up to age 10 and a ton of different backdrops and props that I can always email you images of- that way, you can pick what you like! Before scheduling, I email you my fine art brochure, which has a lot more information about styling, setup. the booking process and all my different packages.