Welcome to the second edition of Pimp My Pic!
I’ve had such a cruddy holiday week off with my blood pressure being elevated, the kidlet being a major pill, and my dear husband practicing throat clearing and snorting as if he were preparing to compete in these events during the next Olympics. Even though I did receive my coveted 105 2.8 Nikon micro lens and a battery pack for the Precious, I’ve felt so awful that I haven’t done much in the photography realm. I had such big plans to get the 2012 kidlet and client calendars done, as well as finishing a product guide for EJP. Sigh… It did not happen.
But today on Facebook, I saw an image so adorable that I just had to broach my friend Tara about Pimping Her Pic! She had a fantastic shot of her daughter, Kaia, that needed a little pimping to bring out its full glory. So after I put The Pill to bed, I got to work.
Here is the original image of this adorable cutie pie:
Step 1: Importing into Photoshop
The first thing I did was to import the photo into PS. Initially this brings up the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) dialogue box. ACR allows you to make adjustments before the file is even opened in Photoshop proper.
What we notice here is that Kaia’s face is underexposed while there are blown (overexposed) areas in her hair where the sun hit (red highlights). Were I to venture a guess about why her face came out underexposed, I would say that the most common culprit is matrix metering. When you use matrix metering, the camera balances the exposure choice over the entire frame rather than knowing that you’d prefer HER to be adjusted for. And in a back/side lit situation like this, the camera usually gets it wrong. Using spot metering and metering on the skin of the subject is a way to get the subject’s exposure right in camera, though it will still take some manual adjustments in many cases.
Step 2: Adjust White Balance
Adjusting white balance in this photo was very tricky because there were few neutral color items that I could click on with the WB dropper tool to adjust the white balance. You look for neutral gray, or you can use white in a pinch. I ended up using the whites of her eyes, but still didn’t feel certain that I got the color correct. I knew I would have to do more skin correction later in PS.
Step 3: Adjust exposure
My goal here was to adjust the exposure for her skin tones and not worry about the background or the blown areas in her hair. As you can see above, I ended up increasing the exposure by a full stop (and I still wasn’t sure she was bright enough).
Step 4: Recovery
I used the recovery slider to get back as much of the blown areas in her hair as I could. I also added a little black for definition. I then opened the photo in Photoshop.
Of course when you fix underexposure so dramatically, you end up with a lot of noise in the image. I discussed this in the last PMP. So to fix this, I ran Noiseware at a low setting to reduce the grain that now appeared when you viewed the photo at 100%.
Step 5: Levels Adjustment
After running Noiseware, the first thing I did was to adjust the levels using a levels adjustment layer. If you look at the histogram above, you see that there was almost nothing on the far left (blacks/shadows), so I moved the black slider to where the histogram data started on the left (indicated by the blue arrow). This then made Kaia a little too dark, so I adjusted the midtone (middle) slider toward the darks (indicated with the red arrow), thus giving more room to the light side of the histogram (the right). We were looking better already!
Step 6: Brighten/lighten with Curves
I still felt that her face was not bright enough. So I added a curves adjustment layer and selected a point on her forehead to be the reference point for brightening. I pulled up the point slightly, but didn’t like what this did to the grass. So I ended up inverting the mask (making it black) and using a soft white brush to paint in the brighter area on her skin.
Step 7: Skin Color Correction
I’ll be the first to admit that skin color correction drives me mad. But if we look at the CYMK numbers from the spot on her forehead above, you will see that her cyan is 31%, magenta is 34% and yellow is 41%. That is not an ideal ratio. Yellow should be highest, and magenta less than yellow, but the cyan should be 1/4 to 1/3 of yellow’s value. As you can see we were way off.
I added a color balance layer and added more red to the midtones and highlights to get the cyan down. But I would have had to truly dial up the red in order to get the cyan down to 1/3 of the yellow. This led to a judgment call. I opted to settle for cyan being 1/2 of yellow rather than making Kaia the incredibly red girl.
We ended up with a cyan of 16%, magenta of 28% and yellow of 31%. And now she looks more alive! But the skin color correction did something very odd to the grass, so I masked that back with a black brush.
One of the most fun tools you can use to give your image a little pop is to duplicate the background layer (or just use an unadjusted curves or levels layer) and set the blend mode to overlay, soft light or hard light. Overlay adds contrast, darkens your darks and lightens your lights. Soft light is a softer adjustment than overlay.
Above I wanted to show you where we started after color correction, and then after adding an overlay blend mode layer. As you can see, the overlay layer at 100% opacity is too, too, much! She looks neon colored. But when we pull the opacity down to 45% we get something more reasonable. So don’t let the 100% image scare you. You can adjust for as much or as little pop as you would like.
Above I added a curves layer and set it to soft light blend mode. I left the opacity pretty high at 80% because soft light isn’t as dramatic as overlay can be. I also used a technique to get rid of the yellow patches in the shadows (neck, chin). And now we are looking pretty darn good!
Step 9: Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain!
The last bit of editing is slightly more advanced, but it took us a little beyond where we landed after the color pop. I brightened and sharpened her eyes a teensy bit and then also got rid of that dark blob above her head that was distracting. I removed a couple of facial ditzels and then sharpened for web. Sharpening always improves how your image appears on the web. It adds a hint of crispness.
There you have it. Kaia’s picture is all pimped out!
This may all be a lot to take in, but feel free to pepper me with questions about anything I did in editing this image. And if you are interested in submitting your photo for Pimp My Pic, just send me an e-mail!