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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

{photography with lei} adding depth to your portraits

Hey guys!  I've got a quick sun flare photo to share with you from my post 2 weeks ago.  


Thanks for sharing, Jessica! I think the flare could be even more prominent in this photo - so maybe this would be a great photo to work with on today's post. :)  Cute kid, by the way!

Today's post in our series of how-do-yous is going to take your pictures to the next level, by helping you add some depth to your portraits. 

What does it mean if your photo looks "flat"?  Well, a flat photo lacks dimension.  The shadows aren't there; if you didn't know you'd taken a picture of an actual 3D person you might think the photo looked rather 1 dimensional. 

We tend to get flat portraits when we don't have proper lighting to enhance the details (and shadows) in our subjects.  As nice as it is to not have to contend with harsh lighting or flash, we sacrifice some of those perks when we forego using them.  But have no fear, there is a way to bring back that dimension and detail to your photos.

Most editing program have dodge and burn tools.  Dodging is used to lighten areas, whereas burning is used to darken areas.  Your dodge and burn tools look like this:


They can be found in the vertical tool bar on the left side if you're using Photoshop.  You may have to left click and hold down find it, depending on which tool is currently your default.  The sponge/dodge/burn tools are all grouped together so you will select which one you want from the drop down.

Next select the brush you want to work with.  I recommend soft over round, because it will blend better.

Here's a photo I'm going to play with to show you the effects of dodging and burning.


{this image is SOOC, in other words - Straight Out Of the Camera - minus edits}

First I'm going to find areas of interest that I'd like to bring out, such as this little cuties eye area... see the shadows cast by her forehead and flower?  Well, I want to brighten that up a bit.  So I take my dodge tool and reduce the exposure to 20%.  (Remember - you can always add, but you can't take away.  So it's best to start with just a touch and then add to the effect if necessary.) And I swipe it over the area I want to brighten.  Again if I want more effect, until I am satisfied. (P.S. - keep brush size to the size of the area you are working on... shortcut to enlarge/reduce brush size on my Mac is the bracket buttons - [ and])  Here's the before/after close up:



The difference is subtle, but it's there... especially on the full length shot:


  {TIP: Don't know how to adjust your exposure/opacity?  It's easy.  With the dodge tool selected, you will find a slider on your tool bar up at the top where you can bring it from 100% down to whatever you decide. And keep your brush set to mid tones for now.}

Then I'm going to go into where some of those shadows should be a little more prominent with my burn tool.  Like so:


{I burned in behind the grass, the flowers, on her headband, ruffles and overexposed portions of her sweater}

Here's the before/after:


See the difference?  The whole idea is to be able to fine tune your image - not transform it into something it isn't.  Just find small areas that may need to be enhanced a tad.

Now go have some fun!

3 Comments:

Blogger Tami said...

Thanks for showing this tip!

April 18, 2012 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Lei said...

You're welcome, Tami!

April 19, 2012 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Thanks for the tips. It might be a little too much for me. I'm lucky to get pictures taken at all. I do make the effort to do all pics in the daytime, though. Thanks, Linda

April 19, 2012 at 9:50 PM  

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