First Exposure by John Rettie
Craigs Actions: Accomplished Photographers Photoshop Skills Available to All
For maximum detail retention, images are shot with camera tone set to low, all sharpening off, and exposure set to retain highlights.
Craig’s Actions used here: PortraitPopper, ShadowSoft Natural, Facial Enhancements, PorcelainSkin, DarkEdge Strong, Fashionizers
Strong, UnsharpMask Medium. Selective darkening was applied around the subjects and on bright areas, with local lightening applied to the subjects as well. Edge details were enhanced with Fashionizer’s built in masks.
HOPEFULLY, as the years go by, many readers are becoming proficient at Photoshop.
They are the ones who can take a so-so image and almost magically turn it into a wonderful portrait that elicits a big “wow” from the client.
Before the advent of Photoshop, photographers would have to enlist help from a makeup artist and then spend time carefully printing in the darkroom to get a great portrait.
Even then, retouching would often be required—a skill few photographers mastered,
since it was never really the domain of most shooters—and it invariably had to be contracted out to a professional retoucher.
The advent of Photoshop has revolutionized the way a photographer can work. It’s become easy to be a master photographer,
printmaker and retoucher, all using the incredible features in Photoshop. Okay, perhaps “easy” is the wrong word, because it does take some time to learn how to get the most out of Photoshop.
Anyone who has seen Photoshop demonstrated at WPPI will realize how much it takes to master the complexities of this program. Reading books and using third-party plug-ins and actions can go a long way to facilitate the process.
Craig aims to capture the widest range of detail in his images, which allows for more creative flexibility in Photoshop
Actions Used: Portrait Popper Light , Facial Enhancements,Porcelain Skin (Opacity at 60%, subject details brushed back in).
Craig Minielly, an accomplished photographer in Canada, is someone who has definitely mastered Photoshop. Just take a look at the photographs on his website (www.auraphotographics.com) to see for yourself. It’s obvious that even before the advent of Photoshop, he has always put a lot of effort into creating great photographs.
“I’ve always had an interest in having the image tell the story, and never accepted any compromise in reaching the final result,” Craig says. “Time was always at a premium, and the responsibility in delivering the final image was always my own, so I always made sure that my processes and suppliers were as sound and responsible to me as I needed to be to my clients.
“Digital brought a whole new world of possibilities, but along with it, the need for new methods of production and workflow,” Craig says. He continues, “The hardware was rapidly improving, but the solutions for addressing the look of the image were just not to be found. So, I created my own processes, which were designed right from the start for customization and efficiency within their operation. Further, they were intended to be used by others working for me in such a way that they could easily produce the looks that I wanted, in a simple, reliable and repeatable manner.”
Just take a look at Craig’s other website (www.craigsactions.com) and you’ll see the fruits of his labors.
The beauty of today’s networked world is that any of us can also benefit from his expertise in Photoshop, since many of the actions he has created are available for sale.
Over the years I have used numerous plug-in filters and actions from a variety of sources. Many of them are good, but now that I have tried just a handful of Craig’s Actions, I have to say they are among the best. In particular I have taken to using the PorcelainSkin action (available in the Productivity Essentials, Volume 1) on many images for models I photograph.
All in all, Craig offers more than 150 actions in eight different volumes. Some of them are best suited for advertising and commercial photographers, such as those who have to supply CMYK images for printing. Other actions are aimed at those who want to produce sepia-toned or colorized images. Among the eight volumes there are certainly plenty of actions that can be used by just about every photographer.
Craig’s website provides plenty of information, and once you’ve purchased a set of actions, informative instructions and samples are included.
Rather than describe how I use some of the actions, I think it would be best for you to understand how Craig uses them. In his own words, here are two of his workflows.
Simple Portrait Workflow An original image, when first brought in, would typically need to have color, tonality and sharpness adjustments, in addition to whatever enhancements I would choose to do. These adjustments are necessary because I have my camera set up to provide
the widest tonal range available, with minimal sharpening applied to the original images.
Typically, I would start with the ImagePoppers actions (PortraitPopper) to color-correct the image and perhaps add a hint of warmth (PortraitPopper Warm). From there I use the Facial Enhancements action, which allows me to bring out details in the eyes and teeth. I am also able to enhance the lips by using the “Eye Blacks” adjustment
layer to paint on the lips, and also bring out additional hair highlights on the “Eye Whites” layer.
Then I de-emphasize any wrinkles and eye bags by using the Clone tool and setting its blending mode to lighten and opacity to about 30%. I prefer to do this in a very subtle manner, so as not to change the look of the face, but to flatter it by diminishing the intensity of these details.
The PorcelainSkin Action is always next, and I typically set the opacity of the diffusion layer at about 65% for a woman’s portrait and at about 40% for a man’s portrait. The new high-resolution DSLR images (10–15MP) work best with the Gaussian Blur set to 25–30, while lower resolution images use the default settings of 10–15. Personal preferences are easily programmed in for enhanced operation.
Details in the eyes, facial structure, hair highlights, clothing highlights and edges are all brushed back in on the mask layer, and then the image is saved twice—once in its layered state, and once flattened. Saving prior to flattening allows me to readjust the degree of softness at any time with a simple slider adjustment to accommodate the client’s wishes, or my own preferences if I have an assistant working on the image.
The Edgers are then used. I tend to use the DarkEdge Weak once or twice to lend a subtle impact to the subject and darken the edges of the image.
Now I have my final source image; all output derived from this file. Any prints or other output would see the image cropped and sized as needed, and then the appropriate UnsharpMask action is applied as the very final step. The USM action incorporates a luminosity blend, which avoids color noise introduction by sharpening. It’s not rocket science, just one more step automatically included that might otherwise be forgotten. Total time for all of the above is about three to five minutes.
John Rettie is a photojournalist who resides in Santa Barbara, CA. Readers can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail-mail c/o Rangefinder