Yesterday I worked with a family for a portrait session, and I was working though the images. Above is the final image, but it did not start that way. There is a notion that you can only cobble together shots so far along before you have to upgrade equipments, set ups etc. Not the case. At least, not completely. It takes remarkably little equipment, and some photoshop skills to do just about anything.
What you see here is the image straight out of Adobe Camera Raw. There’s a couple notable edits the most important being the edit on the hair along the back ground, as well as the suit edges. Careful placement of edge and hair lights would eliminate this problem. Unfortunately I did not see this and had to touch it up in post.
Next we have a very subtle curves adjustment. Some contrast, as well as tightening up the blacks. Especially with all white or all black backgrounds, I like to start with a curves adjustment to clip these values. That way, you do not have to worry about matching colors or tonal variations across the background. We do lose some data towards the bottom of the suits. I am not too concerned with this. It was lit this way and it will act like a subtle vignette in the final image.
Here we start blocking out the black in the bottom. This was all done with the pen tool to build selections and then fill them with black. The high contrast between the suit and lighter background really highlighted the chromatic aberration of the lens. As a result, the selection was a bit more aggressive than it had to be naturally. A small feather, based on the relative sharpness of the lens, helps blend the results.
Finally we’re tracing around the hair, there’s a couple ways to do this. Since the background was such a radically different color, I found that the select color range option worked just fine. Inverted the selection and painted around the edge. The refine edge tool tends to work with backgrounds that are closer in color to the selection I have found, though I did give that a try to little success. This additional effort was another mistake by me. Typically, I make sure that the background is behind the head, as other parts are easy to touch up. While as I did initially have this covered, I changed position slightly to give the image a more “heroic” feel and did not adjust the background accordingly.
We have one final set of adjustments here, some minor retouching–removed dark circles, and one final curve adjustment to even out the skin tones across the image. The subject on the left is obviously in closer proximity to the light source, as a result, the exposure value on him is higher than that on the far right. So left, got a decrease, and right got a subtle bump up to bring them all closer together.
All in all, the point being is work with what you have. There were a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided, that would have saved time in post. On the other hand, a different set of equipment would have allowed this to be done all in one step. A larger background would have meant I would not have had to touch that up, and a larger light modifier means I could have moved it further back, gotten a more even lighting across the subjects with out sacrificing the softness of the light. Regardless, here we are with an image that overcame the shortcomings of the equipment with some easy Photoshop work.