Evolution of a photograph

I thought I’d show the evolution one of my photos from Sunday’s shoot went through, because I personally found the process interesting. This photo didn’t end up at all where I thought it would, but I do like the results.

When choosing which shots to process, I decided to play around with this one in spite of its flaws, because I found the pose and facial expression to be compelling (if it’s not snobby to say something like that about myself; I don’t consider me “me” when editing my shots anyway, I’m just the subject of them).


I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do anything with this because of the makeup problem here – it was not applied THAT badly, but at this point in the shoot it had gotten a bit smudged, and that combined with the lighting I was using accentuated it. In this shot, I wasn’t using the softbox I normally use for portraits, because I’d already taken it off the flash and wasn’t interested in putting it back on (this was taken right at the end of the shoot). Without the softbox, I get a much softer light on the face, which is a prettier effect for portraits, but it creates its own problems – especially on a middle-aged face. For example, when looking in the mirror I do not see dark circles or major wrinkles under my eyes, but with the external flash attached to my camera and bounced off the ceiling, they are definitely accentuated (the bounced flash also creates a lot of shadows on the face, which on one hand adds a lot of interest, but can also highlight wrinkles and flaws, unless you’re a spring chicken, which I am not). So, when I choose to use the bounced flash, I almost always end up needing to use Photoshop to get rid of things it accentuates that are not appealing. This is why I normally choose to go with the softbox, as it hits my face with a lot of light, which erases lines and shadows, but it’s filtered enough that I don’t get that awful “hey I used a flash in this shot” light blowout that occurs with an in-camera flash.

Bit of a digression here, but this example to compare the two. This first one is using the softbox on my external flash (I shared this shot yesterday as well):


The softbox allows me to aim the flash right at my face – great for eliminating those dark eye circles and other wrinkles, but it’s definitely a “look.” I consider it a high-fashion look, but that’s just my little name for it. While the softbox won’t create too many shadows on the face, it does create a lot of background shadows that are very sharp and dramatic, which can work well, but it isn’t always what I want.

Now here’s another shot from the same shoot, taken without a softbox and with the external flash bounced off the ceiling:


TOTALLY different look. The overall effect is softer and more dimensional, I think, than the one using the softbox – but I did have to do more editing to my face to get rid of the dark circles that magically appear when using this lighting.

Anyway, back to the original shot. The bounced flash created a bit of a mess around my eyes, so I managed to use PS to edit most of that out. The end result was this:

I also got rid of the freckles on my arms, I don’t care one whit about them in real life, but in photos I find them distracting.

Much better, but still a bit of a problem. I pulled the shot over into Snapseed and gave it a go; I was pretty sure I’d need to go black and white with it, since all that color around the eyes and the smudged makeup on the nose was going to be bitch to even out without it looking weird, but on its own the B&W wasn’t appealing to me – it still needed more oomph to work. So I ended up using a red B&W filter on it, which gave it a crazy glow, then added a “Grunge” filter with texture to give it an antique-y feel, and well, here’s the end result.


Now I really love it. I don’t think I’ve ever used a red B&W filter before as it makes everything overly bright and glowy, and I’ve never known what to do with that. But it worked here to eliminate the problems of the shot as well as contribute to the tense mood I felt the expression created. It looks nothing like the original, but it fixes the flaws of that one while really ‘coming into its own,’ so to speak.

I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with editing photos and playing around with filters. It’s the same freedom and magic to me that coloring held when I was a kid. Now if only I didn’t get so absorbed in it that the kitchen stays dirty for hours and I get to bed way too late. But one thing at a time, I reckon.

A few more shots to share tomorrow!

7 thoughts on “Evolution of a photograph

  1. Of course this last shot is the most interesting – hope you will do this with other portraits too so we can see it and understand the common features. When you say filters, these are filters applied in the software, I take it, not put on the lens of the camera? I actually like the B&W effect a lot.
    One thing I find though, since I am very picky about pictures of me being out there (especially on my blog because I want to be free to talk about ‘things’ and not have some of the characters google and read what I am saying about them, raw and unedited), while I am careful only to post flattering pictures of me in public places, other people take candids and don’t care whether they are good or not, they just post them to FB or wherever. It is so annoying. But that is because I am so vain, LOL.

    • Yep – I have gotten to where I hate candid photos! Usually if someone asks to take a pic of me now I just decline. Then they think I’m weird because clearly I don’t mind photos of myself out there in the public – but I want to control how those photos look, dammit! I totally get now why celebs hate all the candid shots of them that get out. Not that I am comparing myself to a celebrity or anything 😉

      • Go right ahead and compare yourself to a celebrity. Seriously. What is the difference? They have agents and managers, that’s all. And those snarks who deliberately post ugly pictures get the same reaction from me and then get all innocent and judgmental. I had that issue at the recent party for one of my millions of nephews, the one with the physician mother. I was actually looking very good, but I told them point blank (yet again): No. I control my image. So, I am glad to hear someone else feels that way!

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