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Week 1 - I made it. Editing Portraits

S o I have survived the first week and do not feel bad at all. I feel better in so many areas, and am happy to say that I achieved week 1's target. I will also be cheating a bit in today's photography chat and not be presenting any new pics or setups I took, but specifically try and answer some questions regarding editing. This is not an editing tutorial, but specifially aimed at trying to explain part of my workflow for portraits.    


So week one of the Diet is finished, and I am reasonably happy. I have lost 2.7 kg, and feel a lot better and fitter than I felt a week ago. It feels like an eternity, but I realise that I have to find my groove. That groove where I am in the habbit of eating the correct stuff and listen to my body and respond to it. So here is to a second week which has alreay started as I am typing this.

The last day of the week, I was definitely not to hard on myself. I had my normal breakfast of yogurt and oatbran. I was the cook for the day, and so made breakfast for the kids, and also lunch.

High-fibre Bolognese

For lunch I prepared a pasta Bolognese (happy kilojoules)with some variation. I did not want to make it overly tomato-based, and tried to see what I could do to make it more healthy, even though it might not necessarily be more slimming. My ingredients for 4 people were as follows:

- 750 Gram lean beef mince

- 300 Gram High Fibre Macaroni ( I used Fatti's & Moni's Wholeweat)

- 2 medium sized tomatoes - diced

- 1 medium union

- Two cloves of garlic - chopped

- 1 packet of fresh button mushrooms

- Garden Herbs (1 teaspoon)

- 1 cup of boiling water

- 1 packet of light instant tomato soup (I used Royco Cup O'Soup)

- Olive oil

- a bit of Cayenne Pepper

So you will notice a few things. Firstly, the incredients are all avoiding fat, are high-fibre etc with no salt.


While he water heats up to boiling, fry the chopped unions and garlic till lightly browned in a frying pan.

Add the tomatoes and mince.

Brown the mince

Add the herbs and Cayenne pepper to taste (light on that for the kids - I prefer it to just create a bit of a tang for Bolanaise)

Empty the packet of soup and add the boiling water. Stir it with a fork till dissolved and add to the pan.

Let the contents of the pan simmer t medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes.

While our mince sauce is simmering, Bring a pot of water to boil and add the macoroni. I normally add a tablespoon of Olive oil to the water for pasta.

Strain the macaroni and dish the Bolognese onto a bed of Macaroni.

I dished up reasonably small portions with a greek salad on the side.

We found that we could safely have reduced all the ingredients by a third since we had enough left for dinner.


For Dinner, my wife took the initiative and used the left-overs and made Jaffles. 8 Jaffles came out of it with some of lunch still left over, which went to Nugget our little Foxterrier/Jack Russel couchpup. As you can imagine, she was delighted.

I had one of the jaffles, and some wholeweat crackers with Olive Tapenade and Cottage Cheese for dinner while the kids had a field day with the jaffles.


Editing Portraits

Editing of photos is a very interesting and sometimes contentious discipline. If you as my opinion, I firmly believe that there is a place for editing, and there is a place for as-is photography. Do I edit photos? Yes I do. Normally just to enhance what we took or to get a specific look. I often correct little flaws in a person's look or just have to rotate a picture slightly be cause I did not quite get the horizon straight in the heat of the moment when doing the shoot. In order to illustrate this, I will take the coverpic I took for day 5 with the compact camera, and edit it to give what is the coverpic for today. Same original photo with a totally different workflow. I will look at it step by step, to show what I did.

The editing was done using Lightroom 3, and of course the photo was taken as a RAW pic, because that way I have more control over the photo.

The Workflow

Photo 1 is the original photo as it came out of the camera. No editing, just converted to RAW, resized for the web, and with my watermark placed on it.

Photo 1 - UneditedThe outcome we want to achieve, is to get a grungy look that would be an interesting pic for a cd cover or poster for a alternative band. Not that I would necessarily be a great subject for that, but this gives you an idea of the workflow anyway.

Step 1 - Crop

Firstly I am looking at cropping the photo. There are two reasons for it. I took the photo centrally, but if you compare Photo 1 and Photo 2, you will see that the composition is greatly improved, by creating space on the one side of my face. It also gets rid of the clock, which is causing clutter in the picture and creates a distraction form the subject - the portrait. There might be reasons to leave clutter in a photo as part of the composition, but in this case, I will leave it out. A second part of composition that is really a great technique, is the so-called Rule of Thirds. I am not going to spend too much time on it at this stage, but a definition from Wikipedia states that: "The rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb in visual arPhoto 2 - cropping the photo and adding clarityts such as painting, photography and design. The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would."

So for Photo 2, I cropped the portrait to exclude the clock and offset the face to the right third line.

Step 2 - Set Clarity -

The second step after downloading the pic would be to  push the Clarity slider in the Develop window of Lightroom to the right. If you are using another editing tool, push the value of the Clarity slider in order to create a more etched look. If you move the slider to the other side, it will give a picture a more dreamy effect and soften features. Often for female models, this would also be one of the first things I do. It flatters the features and improves the way skin of a model appears without doing any hard editing.

In Photo 2, the effect of increasing the Clarity can be seen when compared to picture 1.


Step 3 - Desaturate

The next step I used to achieve the specific result, is to Desaturate the Photo 3 - Desaturate the photopicture, or turn the pcture into a Black and White photograph

This is done by clicking on the Saturation slider in the Presence section of the Develop tab and pull it completely to the left. That will remove all colour and turn the photo into a gray-scale photograph.

There are varius ways that you can play with desatureated photos which is very nice. You can for instance put it through a clour filter, which would have an effect on the look of the photo.

You could also change the colour intensity of various colours and look for the specific look that you want.


For our portrait, we are nog goin to do those, but it is worth while mentioning thoe for your own experiments.

For our pic, we are going to increase the contrast.

Step 4 - Increase Contrast.

A definition on loan from Wikipedia is: "A contrast effect is the enhancement or diminishment, relative to normal, of perception, cognition and related performance as a result of immediately previous or simultaneous exposure to a stimulus of lesser or greater value in the same dimension"

All that describes in photograhy terms is that the difference between darks Photo 4 - Increased Contrastand lights. So if there is a crack in a piece of wood with shadows, I can increase the darkness of teh crack by increasing the contrast. In Photo 4, we will increase the contrast, by pulling the contrast slider further to the right, till I have the specific effect that I want.

You will notice in Photo 4, that the wrinkles on teh face becomes more pronounced, The individual hairs becomes more pronounced, and the skin texture has increased.

Step 5 - Increase Blacks

This is already well on the way to getting the result we want. I want to now cause the dark areas to become darker make the photo more moody. I do that by increasing the Black level. You can find the Blacks slider in the Tone section of the Develop tab of Lightroom. Pull the slider over to the right till you have achieved the desired look.


Photo 5 - Increase Blacks

Step 6 - Apply Tone Curve

The Curves tool is  a very handy little tool to allow fine control over the various areas of a photo. The way it is implemented in Lightroom, it has four regions identified that you can manipulate. If you look at a histogram of a photo, you will see that the further left you move in a histogram, the lighter areas of the photo is represented, whereas if you move left, the darker regions are represented.


I can spend quite a bit of time explaining hstograms, but I suggest that you have a look at this excellent explanation at if you want to understand what a histogram is and how it influences photography.  Tone curves allow me to selectively increase or decrease the lightness or darkness of specific regions of the histogram.If I for instance increase the highlights (the far right or brightest region of the histogram), the highlights will be come brighter. If I want the darks to be less dark, I can pull the darks slide to the right and the darker areas would become lighter.At the same time if the light areas are too bright, I can pull the Lights or highlights to the left, which will then get rid of the greasy-looking marks direct flash often leaves on skintone.


For this photo, we want to increase the Highlights and lights areas to lighten the skin a bit and create more contrast on the skin.



Photo 6 - Applying CurvesYou will notice that steps 4, 5 and 6 were all centered around subtly improving the contrast and to create some "texture" that will help with the gritty look we want.


Step 7 - Dual-toning

The final and greatest change is that we are now going to selectively apply two colours again to the desaturated image. The first is orange and the second is green.


It is one of the best kept open secrets that colour affects mood, and in photos as in film or movies, colour toning is used to affect the mood of the picture. A very popular (currently probably the most prevalent) combinations of colours for affecting the look of a film or photo, is Orange and Blue, and Orange and Green. Orange enhances skintone and blue makes for a "brighter" mood' while green makes for a "darker" mood. In a series like Chuck, Orange and Blue was used extensively while in the television series Heroes, Orange and Green was used extensively. for our final photo, we want to apply Orange to the light areas and green to the dark areas. We do that by  Split Toning section of the Develop tab of Lightroom. You slide the hue slider to the correct colour, and then slide the saturation slide to increase the effect. The same is then done for the Shadows. Once you have decided and set the saturation of the two tones, you can also change the balance to get exactly the effect that you want. In my case I slid the Highlights slide to 20 (Orange) and teh saturation to about 20. The Shadows slide was slid to 136 for green and the to 20 as well. I pulled the Balance slide to +50 to get the balance just right for me, and our final photo, Photo 7 represents the result:

Photo 7: The final Result



So one last fun pic. I have also gone through creating a model look of the same photo. Different crop as well, but ideal for a headshot. I also messed around with eye colour. This is what we tend to do for magazine covers, female album covers etc. It is a more complex job than what I did during this blog, but gives you an idea what is possible with editing.

Photo - The Model treatment





That's it for me for today, folks!!




Gideon van Zyl Written on Monday, 07 November 2011 16:11 by Gideon van Zyl

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