DIY Portrait PhotographyDate: 03-15-12 1:40PM | Category: Tutorials - Photography
This latest blog entry will offer some tips and tricks for creating a professional portrait in an amateur setting.
I do alot of video shooting, and the latest series of Canon DSLR cameras offer some incredible video features in addition to the still photo capabilities. So I do have a nice "pro" level camera, but I'm certainly not a photographer, and this blog will still be focused on what you can do in Photoshop to take an amateur photo and make it look like it was shot in a professional studio.
Obviously, shooting the photo itself is the first step. You'll want shoot against a blank wall, which will allow for the most versatility when your compositing elements in Photoshop. You'll also want as much light as possible, so I'd recommend taking it in the day, in a room that has some natural sunlight. Try to avoid using the flash, and just set longer shutter speed so you'll get some nice even lighting.
Now that you have your photo picked out, lets bring it into Photoshop. I know it just looks like a boring old photo now, but this is where the magic happens. Here's what my photo looks like straight out of the camera:
Ultimately we're going to be manipulating the foreground and background elements of the photo, but we need to do that separately. So the first step will be to create a mask layer using the Quick Mask tool. This step is certainly the most time consuming, but will also be the most important, so take your time.
So now you have your mask layer created which should look something like this:
Now we can start to edit the photo itself. Our first step will be to slightly adjust the brightness & contrast of the entire photo, just bump each one up a bit. (This is a pretty standard initial technique, that I do to almost all my photos.)
Let's sharpen up the photo a bit using the Smart Sharpen filter. For your typical portrait you'll just want to add a subtle sharpness to the photo, but this filter can produce some great results if you want a gritty, high contrast black and white photo.
The next step will be to enhance and even out the lighting in the photo. This step will attempt to replicate the effect of those big, soft lights you see in photo studios.Ctrl-Click your mask layer and create a new layer, solid white. Then, use the Gaussian Blur and really crank it up. The result should look like a large white blur, that just spills out over the subject. Set that layer to Soft Light (transfer mode) and adjust the opacity as needed (mine was at 50%.) That should add a nice soft lighting over the image, but its a bit too washed out. Ctrl+Click your mask layer again, but now we'll use that to copy from the photo itself. Apply the same Gaussian Blur to this masked photo layer, and again, set the layer transfer mode to Soft Light. Adjust the opacity (mine was at 35%) and this layer should add some contrast to the white layer below, should look like a nice, natural light. Here's an animated GIF file showing these layers.
We're almost there, but we're missing that all important layer, the "studio backdrop". I did a Google search and found a few that I use in all my portraits, here's a link to the one used in this tutorial. Paste that layer into your photo, then Ctrl+Click the mask layer again. In this case, we actually want to invert the mask (so only the background is affected) so choose Select > Inverse then click the Add Layer Mask button on the bottom of your layers panel. Now that studio backdrop should only be visible "behind" your subject. Scale and position as needed, and feel free to add some color.
Our last step will be to add a vignette (pronounced "vin-yet") layer to the photo, which is a very common effect in portrait photography. The vignette is the circular shadow that occurs on the edges of the shot (which is created by the flash and studio lighting). Naturally, there are a ton of ways to create this in Photoshop, here's how I did. Create new layer and fill it with black. Then create another new layer, and draw an ellipse in the middle of the photo. Because we're going to blur and expand this layer, you only want to fill about half of the photo. Use the Gaussian blur tool, and once your happy with the blur, Ctrl+Click that layer and delete from your black layer. Then just adjust the opacity to your liking (mine was at 70%).
And that's about it! Here's my final portrait photo:
Feel free to give me a shout if you get stuck or have any suggestions for improvement. Thanks!