Evolution of a photograph – makeup test shot

I’ve mentioned this here before, but I always take test shots as I am applying my makeup to be sure it’s going to appear as I want it once I start shooting. Sometimes I luck out and get an interesting photo out of those shots; in fact, I often discover that some of my expressions in those one-off shots are more interesting than my posed ones, and I regret that the makeup and outfit wasn’t complete when I took it. Sometimes I can still get a decent shot out them though, like this one:

Edited, of course

Anyway, I discovered one such shot Wednesday evening and played around with it a bit, so I thought I’d share its evolution. This is as close to an original as I have, but it was not shot in black and white originally:

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Same headband as in the first photo – it’s the one always I use when applying makeup for shoots

Obviously my makeup was not complete here, nor was it well-blended, as I discovered after taking the photo. But the extreme highlighting and contouring did make for an interesting look in its own right. However, one of my regretful side-effects of getting older is the sun damage that is starting to show itself on my skin, my neck in particular. I admit it is getting more and more difficult to disguise it in shots without it being obvious, and at some point I’m just going to have to embrace it or quit taking photos of myself (which isn’t likely). I doubt anyone notices, but it does bother me (more in photos than in day to day life, when it isn’t as noticeable but is slowly getting more so). The sides of my neck as well as my decollete are both getting red and splotchy; I used to try to cover it with makeup but just ended up with a red, splotchy neck AND a foundation-stained shirt, so I don’t bother anymore. But in this photo, the hyperpigmentation showing on my neck, as well as the crappy pajama t-shirt, were really bugging me, so I decided to try something new instead of just my usual softening and lightening:

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Problem solved

With my nominal Photoshop skills, I used the patch tool to blend the background into my skin and hair; I also blended out some of the harsher contouring around my hairline and softened the skin to conceal the fairly sloppy powder-blending job I’d done right before taking the shot (I also got rid of the headband I was wearing).Then I pulled the photo into Snapseed to sharpen and define it:

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To blend in some of the rougher edges where I’d blended the background in, I also added a texture to the background, keeping it very faint so as not to overwhelm the nice clean lines of the face (I did this in Paint Shop Pro, since I don’t yet know how to do it Photoshop). This was nice enough as is, but it was tempting me to give it a little Pixlr treatment to make it extra-special, so off we went:

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I also liked how my cheekbones started to look like mutton-chop sideburns somewhere during all of this

I added a vintage effect to add contrast, a space overlay for a ghostly feel, a tie-dye overlay for a little color, and an ink border for depth and visual interest. I still like the plain old black and white version too – but this one is probably going to get my top vote, ultimately.

I may look through my test shots and find a few more to work over this way. Blending the background into the subject in a portrait is something new for me, and I had fun giving it a go. As always, problem-solving when editing leads to new and creative processes and solutions. At least, that’s how it works for me.

Here’s a collage of the work in progess:


I May Have Gone Overboard…

…with Pixlr the past few days.

As you may have noticed, I changed my header recently; that image was a happy accident inspired by a very simple shot I took one weekend when I was taking some photos of a hairpiece I got in the mail, to show some friends who might be interested in seeing what it looked like in person.

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I used my good camera and set up decent lighting so I could take accurate photos of the color and hair texture, and although the shots were just me in a sweater with some fake hair on my head staring basically right at the camera, I thought I’d at least try to get a few photos out of them that I could share over on Flickr. I pulled this one into good old Pixlr, and since it really had nothing much going on to make it interesting on its own, I decided to go for broke. My new header was the result.

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I decided I liked it so much I used it here as well as on my cover page on both Flickr and Facebook. Then I decided I still liked it so much I’d take some other simple photos from this shoot and give them a go, as well. Here’s another original I chose to process:

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And yes, it’s a very nice hairpiece; I wrote a review of it that I’ll upload later.

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Sort of Mary Tyler Moore on acid.

That one went well, so I kept going. Here are the rest, along with the originals:

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Another nice hairpiece, but not a thrilling photo.

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Thrilling! That may be an exaggeration, but still.

Towards the end of my little hairpiece shoot, I got a wee bit fancy and started flinging the long one around a bit. Hey, I always have to do that a few times, especially when I’m sporting long hair. I had the lights and the camera set up, so you never know if you’re going to snap something you can really use. A girl’s gotta try, at least.

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I actually like this one as is too.

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I have a few more I may play around with, but towards the end of all this editing I started to feel like I was running out of steam. We’ll see if I do any more like this in the future. There’s really no end to what you can do with a photo, though. It’s a lifetime of fun for me. Even something as simple as a basic headshot can turn into a creative exercise. God bless photography; it really feeds my soul.

A few more shots

Just a few more from Sunday’s shoot that I’ve had time to process. As I mentioned earlier, I forgot to alter my lighting setup when I switched from portraits to full-length shots, so these suffered a little from that error. They weren’t nearly as crisp as I like them to be, and the light was blown out a little – so I used Pixlr to disguise these flaws a bit. Plus, I’m getting bored of the beige backdrop now – it wasn’t nearly as easy to transform into another color as I thought it would be, and was next to impossible to do in these full-length shots (you need a lot of contrast between the subject and the background – which is why people use greenscreens so often – and that mottled beige background did NOT contrast with what I was wearing at all) so without some Pixlr-ing they weren’t all that exciting to me. At first I wasn’t excited by them even after giving them the Pixlr treatment, but they’re starting to grow on me.

Can anyone spot the kitten in this photo? I purposely left him in the shot.

I always try to go easy with the Pixlr effects, because it’s a very popular free program and I don’t want my shots to scream that I used it. I don’t know why this matters to me; I guess I just want the edits to blend well into the shot and not have any one particular filter or effect stand out to people.

Clearly though, I like the scratchy textures Pixlr offers.

Love the movement of the skirt in this one.

I used some interesting overlays here – one was a space filter, and fire was another. I kept them subtle so you wouldn’t be able to recognize what they are; I think the end result looks rather ghostly.


There’s a great free program called Pixlr that I discovered about a year ago; I used to use it quite a bit but haven’t accessed it much in several months. However, with my recent light and shutter-speed experiments I’ve been getting back into it again, since working with those photos is a different animal from my usual work.

Photo pre-Pixlr

Pixlr has an easy user interface and loads of options to add visual interest to photos. I don’t use it to make major adjustments to clarity, contrast, brightness or anything like that since I do that as a RAW file through Photo Ninja, but I love the overlays and borders available there. I use the effects option on occasion as well, but mostly it’s the overlays and borders that I use. And no, Pixlr’s not paying me to say any of this (as if). I just pulled some photos into it this weekend and realized I hadn’t shared it with readers before.

Post-Pixlr; adding a border and overlay

Generally if I edit a photo with Pixlr now, it’s because I feel it’s a little boring and needs something extra to add interest. The downside is you can’t upload TIFF or PSD files so I have to edit them in JPEG format, which I really hate to do – but to use Pixlr it has to be done.

Pre-Pixlr; it’s fine but a bit boring

Personally I like using the “efficient” editor, but there is a “playful” one you can download and even put on your phone. The efficient editor allows you to control the intensity of the effects you add as well as move them around the image, so I much prefer that version as I like to disguise the “pixlr-ness” of the overlays as much as possible when I use it.

Post-Pixlr; added several overlays and a subtle border

Anyway, it’s a cool little free editor that’s well worth a look. Just click browse, upload a JPEG, and play around for awhile. Hours of fun!