My Beauty Retouching Workflow: Before Retouching Even Begins – Part III
In the first part of this article I wrote about the things that I am convinced are very important to keep in mind before you even consider to invest your time into retouching an image. In the second part I talked about my organization and rating system, which may seem like an unimportant part of a retouching workflow, but the truth is, most likely it’s not your best images that the world ends up seeing it you don’t have a proper rating, comparing and selection process in place.
Today I want to share with you how I prepare my Raw files for retouching, and, again, while it may seem like something easy to dismiss, trust me, if you’re not doing this part right, you might as well just shoot in JPEG.
There is a good reason why we shoot in Raw format, and it only makes sense to take the best out of Raw files before you begin retouching in Photoshop and discard all that visual data that was recorded at the time of the capture.
ADDING VOLUME AND 3-DIMENSIONALITY IN A RAW CONVERTER
Personally I prefer working in Lightroom, but you can do all of this in a Raw Converter of your choice. What I am sharing is more important to understand as a concept.
Let’s call these manipulations the RPP – Raw Preparation Procedures – for brevity, and there are a few notes I want to share before we move on:
- Not every photo will require the RPP and different photos may require different amounts of it. If your lighting and colors are spot on in your original capture, you can skip all of it and go right ahead into Photoshop. What really important is to understand WHEN your image requires the RPP.
- There are many things that can be corrected and pulled out of the Raw files before you take your image into Photoshop for retouching, but my main areas of concern are Luminosity and Colors as all of the pixel-pushing activities are best done in Photoshop. My goal is to go through the RPP within a minute and move on to Photoshop with all of the necessary data where I will be able to manipulate it further and dispose of what I don’t need.
- As a final result, when I create a Beauty image or a Portrait, what I want is to have a well-pronounced separation between the midtones and highlights on the skin. Most of the skin values on the face and the body should fall into the midtones category rather than the highlights. That’s the goal that I keep in mind throughout the entire image creation process: when I’m setting up my lighting, preparing my Raw files and retouching my images in Photoshop.
One of the most common mistakes that I see in beginner photographers’ and retouchers’ work is the lack of that separation between highlights and midtones. It’s often all skin is just midtones without highlights, or slightly overexposed face with a lot of highlights and very little midtones, and in both scenarios the face and the skin end up looking flat. The Basic sliders in Lightroom are the best tool to fix that, and this procedure can actually often save an image that wasn’t properly lit.
One of the important things that I use in my work and Julieanne has not mentioned in her tutorial is the difference between the Whites and Blacks sliders vs. Highlights and Shadows. It’s important because often by pushing all four correctly you can “refresh” and add volume to matte, flat-looking skin, or, the opposite, minimize overly shiny, oily-looking skin when needed.
In short, the Highlights slider will affect the narrower range of the brighter pixels in the image, and the Whites slider will help adjust the white point of the image and affect the brightest pixels based on that white point. The Shadows and Blacks sliders work in a similar fashion.
So, let’s see how we can actually use this in practice.
Basically, the photo is correctly exposed and I could simply take it to Photoshop and proceed with my retouching, right? Well.
There are a few things that I normally will get corrected at this stage:
- While the overall exposure is correct, Oralia’s skin reflects more light than I’d like, so we basically see more highlights than midtones on her face. And midtones is where the beautiful skin texture and color are, so I want to see more of that.
- The red glitter eye makeup can use some more saturation and contrast.
- This was one of the last looks in the shoot and the pigments of the lipstick that we used before this stained Oralia’s lips and, even though, it wasn’t apparent during the shoot, now we can see that the color of the lips is a lot more magenta then the hues of the rest of the makeup (skin tone, blush and eye makeup).
- I don’t mind the darkness of the background, but maybe a little more separation between the edge of the hair and the background will make it look a little more 3-dimensional.
Initially I wanted to create an illustrated text-based tutorial but quickly realized that it will be way more helpful if I show my process in a video, so here goes:
I hope that after watching my video you realize how beneficial the Raw file preparation can be. It’s very quick and very convenient with the tools of a Raw converter and the great amount of visual data that a Raw file offers. If you now plan to start using these steps to get the best out of your Raw files, begin with getting familiar with the Highlights and Whites sliders first and expand your Raw adjustment toolkit from there.
If you enjoyed this article and video and would like to know more about how I retouch my images, check out my free 5-part Beauty Retouching with RA Panels video course here.
And as always your questions and feedback are very welcome in the comments!