An Inside Look into Post-Processing with Photoshop

Or the more aptly named…How Heather spends the majority of her days. No really!

Most folks are familiar with photoshop, but unless you have to use the program every day, you may not realize how versatile and vast of a program it truly is. I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with photoshop – I love her but she is a cruel mistress at times. I decided to write this post to show you some before & after shots from some of my edits so you can see just what my post-process entails. Photoshop is so exhausting extensive, it literally has a MILLION options as a program, so each photographer can develop their own post-processing style. Here’s a little glimpse into mine. 🙂

before&after_02

I’ll start with me. This is my headshot that I use for all professional-type things. This edit probably took me about 20-25 minutes. First I adjusted the overall color and contrast, applied a slight vignette (I try not to go overboard with those – just a little darkening of the edges). Then I fixed the little crinkle in the backdrop and proceeded with the fine retouching for my skin and some of those stray hairs. For those of you with Photoshop Elements (a simpler and much less expensive version of the program!) – all of this would have been possible in elements. It makes such a difference!

before&after

Here’s another great example of an everyday edit I do for a family or children’s photoshoot. This one took me about 35 minutes. I wanted to give this photo a warm tone so I applied a “Sunny Day” action. For those of you new to photoshop, actions are your VERY BEST FRIEND. Actions allow you to save commonly-used processes in one quick step – you just press play and it repeats all the steps for you at once. (This doesn’t work for everything, but it’s super helpful!) After that I did all the fine retouching for stray hairs and to even out the skin tone, and then I added a gaussian blur filter around her to give it a little softness.

before&after_03

Here’s a fun one – this edit took me about 20 minutes. Ever work with multiple kids and you just can’t get them all to smile at the same time? And you know in a group shot, SOMEBODY is always blinking. Story of my life. No sweat. Photoshop allows me to pick and choose from different shots to get what I need. In this photo, I loved the expression of laughter and wanted to keep that, but since the little one on the right was blinking in that shot, I searched through a few other shots I had from this scene to find one with her eyes open. Then I just selected that part and replaced her blinking eyes with bright, open eyes. Soften around the edges, make sure it fits just right and Voila! Then I applied a couple actions and slight vignette to get the tones looking warm and vibrant.

Moral of the story? Always take multiple shots. ALWAYS.

before&after_04

Alright, last one – I promise. This was a more involved, artistic edit so it took a good bit longer – and I tried a few different things before settling on what I wanted. I probably played with this shot over 2-3 hours total, with breaks so I could regain my sanity rest my eyes in between.
As you can probably tell with this one, I wanted to give it that vintage 1920’s look that the model reflected in her style (and just so you know, that girl is amazing). I did all my retouching first (fixed the splotchy backdrop and edited skin tone, stray hairs, etc.) and then saved it so I could proceed from there. Then I adjusted the color a thousand different ways, desaturated a bit to give it that slightly faded look, and then gave the contrast a boost to give her a glow.

I’ll admit – I agonize over these edits sometimes but it’s a lot of fun. I’ve spent a lot of time developing my style to the point that it is now and it took years. Years! Photoshop is not a program to learn in a day, but with every new discovery you get that rush of feeling like you’re the master of photoshop – and then you realize you haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s never-ending.

For those wondering, an average 1-hour photoshoot will take me about 8-10 hours of editing time – sometimes more if there’s extra retouching or special edits to do. And I don’t batch edit (though it’s totally possible) – I guess I’m way too much of a perfectionist for that. I spend way more time on photoshop than I do having a social life, which…..might explain some things about me as a person.

Either way, if it’s something you’re into, photoshop can be a seriously fantastic tool that’ll give your photos some extra oomph. For those looking for a jumping-off point with photoshop, pick up the latest version of Elements and let’s get started! You can even book a workshop and I’ll guide you through your first couple of edits. 🙂

To learn more about post-processing or to schedule a workshop with me, feel free to shoot an email to heather@heatherclemons.com!

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