Pimp My Pic #2

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.

Step 8: Color Pop

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.

I find, however, that when editing young kids, I prefer the soft light blend mode to the overlay blend mode.

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.

Eh voila:

Pretty glorious, right? It even made a lovely black and white image too:

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!

  • Sheila - Wow, Liana – that is fantastic! It was a lovely shot to begin with, but you have really made it come alive. Well done – and hope you feel better soon ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Tara - Wow!!!! I love it!!!! I’ll have to pay more attention at some point to the tutorial, but for now I just love the finished product of my baby! ๐Ÿ™‚ You are so very talented. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Krista Cozart Gipson on Facebook - Oh wow! That is impressive indeed. ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Julie - Stunning!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Michele - Beautiful! Both the subject and retouched photo are adorable!!!ReplyCancel

  • Barb - Beautiful subject and beautiful work! ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Bunch - Awesome job!! I love this idea!ReplyCancel

  • Renee nelson - Amazing work! I am a beginner photographer and just purchased PS. It is overwhelming to learn but this helped a ton. Can you tell me how you sharpen in PS? Also, I would love you to pimp one of my photos. I am not sure how to send it to you. I dont see an email. Thanks so much for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Liana - Hi Renee!

      Welcome to the EJP blog and I’m so glad you found this little tutorial to be useful!

      When I sharpen in PS, I cheat and use two great free actions from Jodi of MCP Actions called High Definition Sharpening (good for print) & Crystal Clear Web Resize and Sharpen (when posting to the web). You can find them here. But when I have done it manually, I duplicate the background layer, change the blend mode of this duplicate layer to overlay, and then use the high-pass filter. It is the same method as described here: Sharpening with High Pass filter.

      I’d love to Pimp your Pic during my next go-round. Feel free to e-mail me at liana (at) eclecticjourneyphotography.comReplyCancel

  • Regina Marie - Ok, that’ pretty fabulous! No, I take that back… it’s REALLY fabulous! The before and after are like night and day! Thank you for sharing this. I might need to “borrow” ome of my friends pictures to try this out.ReplyCancel

  • Joy W - As adorable as your subject is, and as nice of a job you did on improving this photo, I cringe hearing the word “pimp” used lightly or casually. I understand that it IS used in shows like “Pimp My Ride” (and maybe others), but with what we of modern sex slavery and the disgusting tactics used by pimps to ensnare, keep and sell women and children (link removed) is one place to start to learn about the awful things pimps do, another is (link removed) and honestly, both of those are a bit tame in their descriptions), I really think we should not make light of those people or the word.

    An alternative doesn’t immediately come to mind (I prefer not to be a person who criticizes but doesn’t suggest a solution), but almost anything would be better than “Pimp My Photo”.ReplyCancel

    • Joy W - Oops, “Pimp My Pic”, I meanReplyCancel

    • Liana - Joy,

      Thank you for your feedback. I find it to be a bit unexpected and reductionist in your assessment of word meaning and intent, however.

      I am concerned with some assumptions you seem to have made in your comment. First, you seem to assume that I know nothing of sex trafficking and need you to enlighten me. I’m afraid that I need no such enlightenment. I know quite a bit about this horror without needing to view the links you have provided. Second, you have decided that “pimp my pic” seeks to make light of sexual slavery. Again, that is absolutely inaccurate.

      I am sorry that the word “pimp” makes you cringe. It does not have the same effect on me.

      According to the definition of the word proffered by Google, the second and informal definition of the word is the following:

      “make (something) more showy or impressive.”

      It is this definition that I am using in my photo series and I am comfortable with it for my purposes.

      Thank you again for your feedback.ReplyCancel

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