5 Steps to a Digital Portrait

My concept for this digital image was to use four or more different digital manipulation techniques on a single portrait. So let me start by introducing the “20 minute rule.” It’s my opinion that if within 20 minutes you can’t make the image on the monitor look like what you originally saw in your mind, chances are you never will.

Step 1: Capture An Image. This portrait of Andria was made on an outdoor movie set near Phoenix using a Canon EOS D60 (not a 60D) and EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens. Exposure was 1/250 sec at f/3.5 and ISO 200. All existing light was used, with no fill flash or reflectors; consequently it‘s a bit underexposed and I’m not happy with the reflections from the adobe building.


Step 2: Image Enhancement Digital power tools help me keep within my own 20-minute rule and more often than not, produce better results than doing it “manually.” There are lots of ways to tweak a photograph’s color and density, but one of the easiest methods is a onOne Software’s PhotoTune. My last tweak for this portrait was using the Burn Tool to darken the part of the adobe building in the foreground.

Step 3: Draw Some Invisible Lines Because I wanted to divide the portrait into equal sections, I had to define those parts. Make sure Photoshop’s Rulers are active. This is accomplished by selecting Rulers from the View>Rulers menus. Click the vertical ruler with your mouse and drag to pull out a “non-repro” blue line onto the portrait. Don’t worry: These blue lines are just guides and will not appear in the final image.

Step 4: Apply Filters Using the Rectangular Marquee tool I selected the area covered by the first strip. I wanted this first strip to be dramatic and chose the Pop Art filter from the Nik Color Efex Pro. I wanted the next strip to be different from the first and decided that a strip with a lot of colors should be followed with one that has no color. I started by using the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the second strip and applied the (now defunct) Convert to B/W Pro plug-in. To add to the effect, I placed the black and white on a separate layer using the Option-J keystroke (Layer via Copy) and erased Andria’s left eye on that layer only, allowing her normal color to show through to the viewer. Since I wanted to follow black and white with color, I left the next strip as it was. For the final strip, I wanted something with grain and desaturated colors and chose the Monday Morning filter from Nik Color Efex Pro.

Step5: Dawn Some Visible Lines Rather than having these disparate elements bumping up against next one another, I used the Paint Brush tool with a fine (4 pixel) thickness to draw a thin white line on top the guide lines created in step 3. You won’t need a stead hand if you hold the Shift key down after you place the brush at the top of the photographs and drag down. This technique guarantees a perfectly a straight line. Just remember that when creating digital portraits there are no rules except have fun!



Author: Joe Farace

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