Category: Retouching

Making of “Big black dress”

The following video is a timelapse of the editing I did on the Big black dress photo. The photo consists of a background (hdr) photo I took in the “De Rotterdam” building. I combined this with a studio photograph of model Nisa. To make the dress I had my sweet assistant Vera hold and move a large black sheet in the studio while I took the photo’s.
The result image:
[singlepic id=282 w= h= float=center]

The making of video

Do you want to try such a project for yourself and you are interested in a bunch of hi-res images of the black sheets I used for this photograph then download them here. Non-commercial use only and a link back would be appreciated.
This file is a psd file for use in photoshop and contains different images each on its own layer. I have already made the images transparant, but that was a quick and dirty way, so you might want to finetune the masking here and there.

Another before/after

This image will show you the before and after retouching of the photo “Flagged” with model Anne.
The steps involved are:
– double RAW (see the tutorial on my website)
– Softening and retouching skin using frequency seperation
– dodge & burn two passes (see the tutorial on my website)
– toning using Nik’s color efex pro 4.

Flagged before & after retouching

Cleaning up (white) seamless background

Everyone that shoots using a paper white seamless background will recognise the problems cleaning up spots and stains on the paper while retouching. Especially the floor will become dirty very quickly. Changing the paper very often is a way to avoid the stains and spots but can become an expensive task.
Take a look at a shot I made during a recent shoot. I cropped the image to only show the floor of the seamless background.
Seamless background dirty floorThis can take a long while to clean up by hand using the healing brush or clone stamp tool. I know I have been doing that for hours and hours in the past. Not a great way to fill up your day.

Another option to make life easier is to blow out the white background so the spots and stains won’t be as visible. But blowing out the background also means changing the image. Maybe you don’t want a blown out background, maybe you want the shadows to be visible. A seamless background that is completely blown out on the floor doesn’t really look good because your subject/model will seam to be floating in mid air.

My solution is very simple and super fast!
First of all I made a copy of the layer and in the filters menu I selected blur/surface blur.
surface blurPlay around with the radius and threshold until you can’t see the spots and stains in the preview. I used a radius of 20 and a threshold of 25 for this image.
Rendering the surface blur might take a couple of minutes depending on the performance of your computer.
Now all the spots and stains are gone, but so is all the detail. Time to add a layer mask and fill the mask with black to hide the effect. This way all the detail is visible again.
Now with a soft white brush with opacity set to around 60% paint (on the mask) on the floor. Don’t worry too much if you hit the shoes for a small bit because you won’t notice it when you go over the edges a small bit. Paint the harder spots and stains for a second time to make sure you can’t see them anymore.
maskAnd there you go. All the spots and stains are gone but shadows and detail in the shoes and pants is still there.
tut_seamless_postHope this trick will save you some time editing the seamless white backgrounds so you can spent your time on being creative.

Lost at dawn

This week I published my latest work called “Lost at Dawn”. It is a composite I made from a background photo I took at the port of Scheveningen and studio shots of models Melissa, Nick and Vera.
As usual I published on my 500px page also. On images that get a lot of likes will receive pulse points. The more pulse the populair the photo becomes. With this photo I saw the pulse skyrocket up to finally a 99.4 score which is a new personal best for me.
Of course I am very proud an thankful for all the attention this gave me. I received over 130 comments on the image and it got over 3100 views. This is of course great exposure for me and the models in the photo who have all worked on this on a TFP basis.

The background image is a HDR shot made out of three exposures:
Mid-exposure shot
background mid exposureHDR tonemapped:

At first I visioned this composite with a female model in a black dress that would look out of place or lost after a long night of clubbing. During a couple of photoshoots I took photo’s of models for this composite but never really found the right one until model Melissa showed up with her pink dress. At that moment I knew I had to try her photo in this composite.
The visherman/robber with the knife is my girlfriend posing in a coat we bought for this composite and a kitchen knife. I took that photo last sunday when I was nearly done with the composite.
The other fisherman/robber is model Nick who had posed for me last year. I won a price with one of the shots from that shoot a while back. I never planned on a second robber in the image but when I tried it, it looked really nice so I left Nick in the composite.

The three models Melissa, Nick and Vera:

modelnick modelveraCompositing was relatively easy. The biggest problem I encountered was turning the cloudy middle of the day photo of the background into a believable dawn photo.
The photo of Melissa was the only model photo I had to do some skin retouching on and the photo of model Vera needed some adjustment of the sleeve. I did that using the liquify filter and some heavy dodge and burning.
After placing the cut-outs in the scene I color-corrected all of them to fit the scene by adding a solid color adjustment layer on top of them with a brownish/orange color (sampled from the concrete of the docks) in the blend-mode color at an opacity of around 20%. This way the colors are more believable.
Melissa and Nick needed some shadows on the concrete and I used some hand-drawn fog around Nick for some extra atmosphere.

When all editing was done I used Nik color effex pro 4 for some extra tonal contrast and the image was done.

Final result:

[singlepic id=246 w=640 h=480 float=center]

Portrait retouching

Below a splitscreen showing the difference between the original photograph and the retouched version.retouch splitscreen

Techniques used in this retouch are:
– Double RAW converting
– Frequency separation
– Skin smoothening
– Two pass non-destructive dodge & burn
– Eyes highlighting
– Liquify shaping

Photographers who lack the time of skill to do this kind of retouching and want me to do (part of) the retouching can contact me.

If you would like me to give a one-on-one workshop teaching these techniques, feel free to contact me to discuss the possibilities.
In a workshop with a duration of about two and a half hours we will retouch a portrait you bring yourself or use one of my photo’s. One-on-one workshopping of course means all of my attention goes to you and we can focus on areas where you need teaching in. Basic photoshop knowledge is needed for this one-on-one workshop. Also you bring your own laptop with a working copy of photoshop.
I am located near the city of Rotterdam in The Netherlands.

Another recent retouch comparison photo:
Portret 1920 style

Something different

This time I was asked to edit a photo that the client herself had shot and make something nice of it. The goal was an image that could be printed on canvas to be displayed on the wall above a fireplace in the house of the children’s grandmother.

This video shows the editing:

And the final result:
Three Little Giants

Skin softening using dust & scratches

One of my first steps in retouching a female face is to soften the skin and remove blemishes without losing too much detail. A very simple way to do this is by using the “Dust & Scratches” filter in the filters menu in Photoshop under the category “noise”.
The best way to use this technique is to use it at a 100% zoom level to be able to really see the skin pores etc. Then select the “Dust & scratches” filter and drag the radius slider up until you see that the detail in the skin is lost.
softening skin 1Next drag the Threshold slider up while watching the preview until you see the fine detail in the skin again.

skin softening 2


Click on OK to apply the filter on the image. Of course we now lost a great amount of detail in areas like the lips and eyes. The filter should only be used on the skin so let’s create a layer mask and fill it with black to mask out the effect.
softening skin 3Now select the mask layer (the brackets must be around the layer instead of around the thumbnail of the image as seen is the image above) and paint with a soft brush set to white at 50% opacity on the skin parts where you want the skin softening effect.
Zoomed in you can really see the effect in action:
skin softening4 ds_ss5


After you are done the layer will look something like this:skin softening 6Next step is to remove blemishes in the skin. I always use a new layer for this part to be able to fix mistakes I make. So start by creating a new layer on top of the other layers and give it a recognisable name. I retouch a lot using the healing brush tool. Make sure you click “current & below in the options bar.
skin softening 7

Take your time to go over all the blemishes. This part may take you a long time. It’s a dull task that has to be done.
To make your life a little easier finding the blemishes you can add an “Black & White” adjustment layer as top layer. Drag the red an yellow sliders a bit to the left to really make the blemishes stand out.

skin softening 8Use this layer as a helper layer just to help you find all the blemishes you will want to remove. Just make sure the sample option in the options bar isn’t set to all layers while you do this. This way working on the retouch layer will retouch the image using the data of the layers underneath the retouch layer and not be affected by the black and white helper layer.
Afterwards remove the helper layer. and your retouch layer will look like this:
skin softening 9And the final result



Dodge & burn two passes

dodge & burn tutorial before and after
This time I would like to demonstrate my technique for dodging and burning when I retouch a photo. Typically I will come to this part of the retouching after removing blemishes etc.
To dodge & burn you can of course use the dodge & burn tools within photoshop and even when you click “protect tones” generally it will be a destructive way to edit the photo and the tones will change eventually.
To be able to dodge & burn in a non-destructive way makes fixing mistakes really easy. Also it becomes possible to adjust the opacity of the dodge & burn and you can apply a layer mask to it to mask out parts of the editing. I do this by making two different passes with two partial different ways to do the doge & burning.

First pass
I add a new layer on top of whatever layers you already have when you come to this point of the retouch and I fill this layer with 50% gray and set the layer style to “soft light”.
new_layer_pass1Then set the brush tool to white for dodging or set to black for burning.  Make sure you set the flow to around 05 (or use a pressure sensitive tablet) so that the dodging and burning is really subtle. Don’t worry if the effect is not enough, you can easily add more of the effect by making multiple strokes over the same area.
As you can see in the befor/after shot I moved the place the light hit the face of the model using this first pass.

Take your time doing this and don’t forget to walk away from the retouch for a few minutes (a few times) to make sure your eyes don’t adjust to the image to much.

Second pass
Above the first pass layer we add a new layer also filled with 50% gray, but this layer style is set to “overlay”
new_layer_pass2Now this time around I use the photoshop tools for Dodge and Burn. With the exposure of the dodge tool set to around 5 and the exposure for the burn tool set a little higher around 8 I fine-tune the dodge and burn to add highlights in the hair, eyes and so on. I also use this layer to make small color adjustments by using the eyedropper tool to select the right color and with a brush on very low opacity paint some of this color on the image. In this example I used this to add a little bit more color to the hair of the model.
The second pass I use for fine-tuning the whole dodging and burning effect.


With tis technique for dodging and burning it’s really easy to fix mistakes. Just change the blend mode to “normal” and paint the mistake in with 50% gray to fix the mistake. Or you can use a layer mask of course to mask out parts of the layer.
If the effect is to hard you can dial it down a bit by lowering the opacity.

Making of “Troubled Road”

This won’t be a tutorial, but I will will show you how I made “Troubled Road” by doing a walk thru. This image is part of “The Road” project. A project where I will make use of a piece of road and tell a couple of stories that take place on that road.

The road itself is a photo I downloaded from A really great website for getting images you can use in your own projects. You can find the photo here.
Also the power poles and the Ford Mustang came from that website.
The sky (also used for the mist) and both models I photographed in the studio.
troubled road blog sky

First of I started work on the road. Adjusted the contrast and made the concrete a lot darker.
Troubled Road Blog RoadThe next step was adding the mist. I used the sky photo for this by duplicating the layer a few times and flipping it both horizontal as vertical. Put the blend mode on screen on all the layers. This way only the lighter parts of the sky photo will be visible. I finetuned this part by drawing with a soft brush and low opacity with a white color on the parts where I wanted the mist to be a little thicker.
Troubled Road Blog MistThis will not be all the mist, because I will be adding more mist later on that needs to be on top of the layers with the car and the power poles and cables.
Next I added two layers withe the sky image. One of those layers is flipped, just to add some extra highlighted areas in the image. I adjusted the color balance to add a bit of blue in the whole image and added some more mist/fog by adjusting the exposure of the mist.
troubled road blog sky addedBy now the background is done, so let start adding some of the foreground parts by starting with the Ford Mustang. I manually added the part of the hood that is missing in the source photo, adjusted the size, made a cut-out and placed it in the left corner of the image.
troubled road blog white mustangNext I changed the color of the car with a gradient map on the color blend mode and made the orange a bit deeper by using an exposure adjustment layer. Also I painted a bit of the same orange color on the road as a very light reflection with a low opacity soft brush.
troubled road blog mustang orangeNext I added the pwerpoles on the right on blend mode “darken” to only use the dark parts with an hue/saturation adjustment layer set to desaturate to loose all the color. I made a few copies of the layer for the second and third pole and used different parts of the layer by masking the rest out. The cabled where drawn by hand by clicking with a hard brush set to black on the first pole then while holding the shift key clicking on the second pole to create a straight line. With the warp tool I pulled the cables a bit down in the middle and with the perspective tool I made the cables thinner in the distant. Also I adjusted the opacity in the distance to make the cables and poles a bit more realistic in the mist.
troubled road blog power poles

Next I hand drawn the power cables and used blending option bevel and emboss to give them a 3d look. Also I added some more mist but this time allowing it in front of the poles and the car to give the mist some more depth.
troubled road blog start cables

Now we need some models to let the scene come to life! So let’s start with adding Nick in the image. I already did all the retouching and the cut-out on Nick before bringing him over to this image. I added lot’s of detail to him, cleaned up the skin and used dodge & burning to highlight his muscles, eyes, etc.
troubled road blog NickNext I want to jumpstart cabled to spark. I did that with a custum brush and added some flares and light effects on an overlay blend mode.
troubled road blog sparks

Next I added the other model Kimberley. I also did all the retouching and the cutout before bringing her over to this image. Sadly Kimberley did not fit the height of the car So I used the puppet warp tool to make her lean onto the car as you can read in my previous blog post.
troubled road blog KimberleyNow all the parts are in place, so let’s start with the final part of the composite by doing the final touches. I added some tonal contrast (plug in), darkened the whole image with an exposure adjustment layer, added a gradient map (blue orange) on multiply blend mode to give the color an overall mood. This also helps to get all the pieces glued together better. And finally I added some vignette to the image

The final result:

[singlepic id=227 w=320 h=240 float=center]

Hope you liked seeing my workflow on an image like this. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or leave a reply on this page.

Puppet Warp

A small and fast tutorial to show you how to use the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop.

When combining elements in a composite photo, not always everything fits exactly like you want it to fit. For example the model in this image is shot in the studio. I can’t fit a car in my small studio, so I made a cut-out of the model and made a composite with this nice car. As you can see this doesn’t really fit.
Puppet Warp StartLuckily the model is a cut-out so I can adjust her pose using the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop.
First select the layer where the cut-out of the model is on. Then from the menu select “edit” and then “Puppet Warp”. You will see a wire-frame like this:
Puppet Warp WireframeNow we have to add pins on the joints of the model. I want her to lean over against the car so I want to adjust her from her hip.
To make sure her legs won’t be adjusted I place a pin on both her knees. Then I place a pin on her hip. The exact location is important since this is the spot where most of the adjustment is going to take place. A little trial and error will probably give you the perfect spot.
Next I place a pin on her hands so I have a pin to pull down towards the car.
Puppet Warp pinsIt’s a little hard to see the pins in the image, but if you look closely to her hip, hands and both her knees you see a small black dot on all the places I put a pin.

Next you pull down the pin on her hand until her pose is adjusted to your liking.
Puppet Warp pins adjustedPress “Enter” to finalise the Puppet Warp and you’re done!