How I create portraits (part 1)

Here's a glimpse of my workflow:

I shoot everything in RAW and usually bracket my exposure.  Then I import my images in Lightroom 4 (LR4).  Out of the bracketed exposures, I choose one that seems right for me.  Here is a screen shot of the RAW image in LR4:

This was shot with the EF24-70mm f2.8 L ii mounted Canon 5D mk ii.  Focal length 70mm, 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400, no flash fired, aperture priority.  Not an ideal camera to have for portrait but since that was what I carried at that time - it would have to do.  As one can see, there are a lot useless space on the image.  Cropping out those useless pixels would compromise the quality of the image but I didn't have much choice.  (My EF70-200mm f4 would have been a better choice but I left that at home.)

In LR4, I tweaked the image so it looks a bit better:

Exposure +0.45, Contrast +22, Highlights -100, Shadows +80, Whites 0, Black 0, Clarity +18, Vibrance 0, Saturation -3, Tone Curve (TC) Highlights 0, TC Lights +9, TC Darks -6, TC Shadows 0, Split Toning 0, Sharpening 25, Radius 1.0, Detail 100, Noise Reduction 0, Enabled Profile Corrections, Everything else is 0.

Then I export the image to Photoshop CS6.  Here is the image cropped at 4x3 portrait:

Using Silver Efex Pro 2, the image is rendered in black and white:

Then I remove the background using layers.  It is much easier for me to remove the background when the image is already in B&W.

I used Analog Efex Pro to add some grit and dirt:

Viveza for selective dodging and burning:

On a new layer, I then tamed the highlights on the nose and the beard using the brush tool and copying the grey tones that are on the image.

Then I created a vignette using Color Efex Pro 4 and was able to easily remove the name tag with a brush tool.  We are almost there.

Then I darkened the entire image using Viveza but I masked the face so it would not be affected.

I added a film grain using Color Efex Pro 4 to smoothen out the gradation on the background.

The last step is to create a copy using Shift+Alt+Cmd+E on the iMac.  Then I applied the hi pass filter that is built into CS6.  I applied a Radius of 1.8 pixel.

Change the blend mode to Soft Light and reduce opacity to 17%.  Viola!

Hope this helps.  Next time I will write about how I get my signature shoe polish look on the faces of my portraits.  Cheers.



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