Question by bridge: How are models photoshopped in portfolio photo shoots?
recently, i have been looking at models photos in high-end agencies such as Viviens, Chadwicks and Scene models and noticed that they have all seemed to be developed in such a way where the shadow contrast is higher, skin is immaculate etc. Just curious as to how they do this? i know they do this in photoshop, and they use a good quality camera. But how? and what exactly do they do?
Answer by K_Alejandro
Yikes. You want a complete rundown on professional level model photography?
For camera work, yeah, most if not all pro’s use full on professional bodies. Some use something like a Canon 1Ds or a Hasselblad H3 or whatever. Of course, the camera is the smallest part of this equation.
The most important thing when taking the photos is the light.
They use studio lighting. There are usually 2-4 sources of light. Sometimes more. This is a HUGE topic and there have been very thick books written about this. You don’t need to read that much IMHO, but a basic understanding of light and shadows is important.
There is usually enough light that they are able to shoot at f/8 with an ISO of around 200.
The lights can be divided up into several functions. You have toplight (not used very often in model photography), side lights, backlights and catchlights/primary.
Side lights are usually the most important as they provide the bulk of the light. The main variables are position and distance. Position includes height and the angle that the light is with the model generally being the center. For most people doing model photography on a budget, distance is the most effective way to alter the intensity of the light. One side is usually stronger than the other by a specific amount. This is done very intentionally (learn about Zones for light values in print). This helps provide depth and sometimes texture. It is not generally necessary to do a lot of tweaking to contrast if this is done correctly.
All studio lights are usually diffused either with a softbox or an umbrella. Each photog has their own preference and the high end guys do different things each time.
The side lights are usually not seen as catchlights. The primary light usually does that. Sometimes you see this as a speck, other times you see the odd geometric pattern of the umbrella.
The primary light in this case is not actually the primary light source, but rather is usually used as a trigger for the strobes. In any decent lighting setup, it is possible to have the trigger fire before the shutter opens so the primary light isn’t even visible in the shot, but most studio shooters I know leave it visible in the shot for the catchlights. Alternatively, it’s also possible to work with the pc sync cable, but that’s generally for tripod mounted work like Sears Studios or something more mid-range to be honest. It’s tought to be spontaneous when you are tethered with a cable.
Other lights that are frequently used are ring lights or ‘beauty dishes’ which provide that round ring catchlight in the eye. These recently have become more fashionable as the primary light source and give a harsh ‘GLAM’ feel that often accompanies really strong make-up and wild hair.
Once they have taken the picture, the shot usually goes to photoshop specialists. Magazine work seldom requires PS work to be done by the original photographer.
In PS, there are a number of tools that are used and the people using them at this level are *extremely* expert.
Nevertheless, they are generally given a concept (or build a concept) of what they want before they begin editing. A background in art is more important than PS skills here.
Once you know what you want to get as a result, you can move into the editing and the editing becomes a lot more simple.
Tools that are frequently used are ‘blur’ and ‘sharpening’ which provide that dreamy surreal feeling. Regular photogs like myself also use things like Noise Ninja in the mix rather than just a standard blur (for time saving), but it’s not really necessary at that level for various reasons.
The editors will also use tools such as ‘healing brush’ ‘clone stamp’ or something similar to work out the imperfections in the skin. Some prefer to do this before the blur layers.
Then they will move on to specific edits that you hear a lot about such as proportion modifications with tools called ‘liquify’ and ‘free transform’ and occasionally ‘editing in perspective’. Sometimes they will go to different pics from the same shoot or similar shoots and grab better looking body parts, but this is often more trouble than its worth and I don’t believe that it’s done quite as much as some of those ‘expose’ vids on youtube would have you believe.
Once all that has been put together, they will work on the basics like contrast, color, and those things.
The final result may need to be removed and placed on a different background, so that’s a later step as well. That will usually be done with the contrast and color balance because that needs to be tweaked to match.
Each editor has their own ‘workflow’ and some people do certain steps in a different order. If I’m doing a huge batch, I’ll put noise reduction at the beginning and sharpening at the end. If I’m working on one shot, I’ll do noise reduction in two steps, one at the beginning and one at the end. Each has a different purpose.
It takes a while to learn those skil
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