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Thread: Retouching Workflow

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    Retouching Workflow

    After spending a fair amount of time retouching a portrait of a friend and his wife it occurred to me that I don't really have a well defined workflow for making my edits which can (and in my case did) lead to a lot of added time and effort. Typically I'll make some adjustments in the RAW converter... exposure, highlight recovery, shadows, white balance and then take it into CS3 for adjustments like curves, hue/saturation, spot removal, eye and teeth whitening, sharpening, etc. It's this second stage where I think a good roadmap of what to do first, second, third, etc. would be helpful. Anyone have this part down pat and want to share???

    David

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    Re: Retouching Workflow

    David,
    I will offer up some of my thoughts, since I am doing some of this now. I do the conversion also, but keep sharpening and noise reduction turned off. It then depends upon what workflow path I plan to take. If just doing quick touch-ups, I will spend a bit more time on the RAW conversion getting things tweaked a bit more. First is always WB, followed by exposure, black point and and any highlight recovery needed. Then I shift to curves in the ACR module to boost contrast, or reduce it a bit in the lows, mids and highs, depending on the target look I am shooting for. If you do not have those adjustments in your RAW conversion, you will wind up doing them in PS, which is fine, but my mantra is to get as much adjustment made in RAW as possible. Then it is a bit of a dance between saturation and brightness, just nudging each a bit for balance.

    Once pulled into PS, I usually either a "RAW sharpening" with tools like Nik Sharpener Pro or PhotoKit Sharpener. Not severe, but enough to define key edges. If it needs it, I will run a light pass of noise reduction, gently, and mainly to pull out any shadow and background noise, but not to change the skin, nor destroy details in eye lashes. I am using Nik Software Dfine 2.0 right now, and like it a bit more than Noise Ninja, though both are good, once you learn the controls and use brushes or regional applications over entire image applications.

    From there, it all about removing spots and gently lightening areas around the eyes if they have deeper tones. Also a good time to gently lighten lines and creases. You do not want to pull everything out as that takes away character, but it nice to just lighten the deeper lines with a very small brush tip and the Dodge tool set at about 15% opacity. I then create a layer that imparts a skin softing look, very much like a Softar filter. I create a mask for that layer and "erase" the areas around the eyes, lips, hair and any jewelry or important things, blending the edges a bit. I come back and do a localized contrast adjustment around the eyes, eyebrows, lips, and jewelry to increase contrast and tone a bit.

    The last step is to apply any sharpening, and to mainly do that around eyes, lips, hair and jewelry, with a bit more aggressive approach, and done on a layer so that it can be brushed on only where you want it to go, and also to control the opacity of that layer.

    It sounds like a lot of work, and at first it is, but the results can be quite dramatic. It creates lots of pop and sparkle and life in the eyes and important facial features, while letting other stay softer and drop away more. This is mostly for women, as men tend to look better with a bit more contrast, no skin adjustment except blemish removal, and about a half stop underexposure also. Just my tastes, but the objective is to always have the eyes pull you into the image, unless the subject is looking away.

    Just some ideas to start thinking about. My workflow may be more involved, but then I want my clients to buy several prints, not just one ;-)

    LJ

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    Re: Retouching Workflow

    LJ,
    Thanks for sharing. My workflow isn't all that different but sometimes I get lost along the way. I sometimes get confused with the order that layers need to be in so that the changes I want to make show up. For example, on more than one occasion I've tried to heal some blemishes only to find that the healing brush doesn't work on that layer or that I have to reorder the layers to get the healing to show. Kind of hard to put into words but maybe you get the drift.

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    Re: Retouching Workflow

    Hey David,

    Remind me to show you my retouching tricks next time we get together.

    Here's my basic workflow:

    1) Get my exposure, WB, sharpening all done in C1 to my liking and output as JPG (gasp), highest quality, sRGB (gasp, gasp).

    2) Open file in PS.

    3) Create a duplicate layer of the background by dragging the bg layer onto the New Layer icon.

    4) Use only healing brush, preferably with Wacom tablet. This allows you to use a broad brush and press lighter when you need a small brush size.

    5) Take out all blemishes without regard to whether you are making someone look like a manequin or not.

    6) After that is done, slide the opacity of this layer down to about 65%. This will allow the subject to look better but still look like themselves.

    7) To lighten eyes or teeth, create a Curves adjustment layer and bumb up the middle till you get the desired effect. Hit Shift+Backspace (on a PC) to fill the layer and select Black. Now, select the layer mask and change to a paintbrush tool. Select white and paint in the teeth/eyes with a hard-edged brush. If you mess up, just touch it up with black. When all done, apply a mild Gaussian Blur to the layer mask. This will melt away the transition.

    8) Save as PSD.

    9) Save as JPG copy.

    10) That's it. You're done. Don't blur, don't sharpen. Don't use dogde/burn. Don't pass Go....

    11) Send file to me for printing.

    You've seen my own pictures first hand at 20x30. That's all there is to it. I don't go crazy with lots of steps. Post production should be fast and non-destructive. I never blur. I never sharpen. I just get great big prints by magic.

    David F

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    Re: Retouching Workflow

    David,
    I'll take you up on that offer. I've been busy restructuring my files along the lines you showed me last Friday. BTW, no gasps from me with either the jpg's or srgb color space... I've seen the results. As far as your printing goes, please don't show me any more of your work... I was happy with my Epson 7800 prints till I saw yours. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since your printer cost a little bit more than mine

  6. #6
    wbrandsma
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    Re: Retouching Workflow

    Excellent workflow David. Regarding step 7 you can make things even easier. Instead of hitting Shift+Backspace and then filling the mask with black just press CTRL+I. This way you invert the mask (it will go from white to black). After that press B and select the size of your brush.

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    Re: Retouching Workflow

    Thanks. You just shaved at least 10 seconds off of my wokflow.

    Every little bit counts when you're working against a deadline. It's funny how I've been using Photoshop for 16 years and I never thought of that shortcut.

    David

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    Re: Retouching Workflow

    Or hold the alt/option key as you select the mask and save another 1/2 second

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