Monday, 23 April 2012

Creating a gritty portrait with Photoshop CS5 and Color EFEX Pro

Over the last few months my son Ben has become quite an accomplished guitar player. For his 18th birthday he bought a Charvel Desolation Single Cut DS-1 Floyd Rose guitar in Flat Black. It’s a spectacular guitar and I thought it might be nice to shoot a portrait session with him and the guitar.

I wanted to create the impression that he was being lit by a spotlight whilst maintaining the detail in the guitar. The lighting needed to be subtle but at the same time strong enough to bring out any detail.

I tried several different lighting set ups but finally settled on the one below.

I set up two speedlights. The first was a Nikon SB910 set to manual at ½ power. It was stood on a lighting stand through as 24” shoot-through umbrella. The light was positioned directly in front of him slightly higher than his face.

The second was a Nikon SB600 with a 22.5 degree grid. This was set on a stand and aimed directly at his right hand, set to manual and reduced to ¼ power.

Both speedlights were controlled using the pop-up flash on the D300s in commander mode.
I took a few test shots so that I could establish the optimum position for the lights to create the effect I was after. Shooting in RAW I decided to slightly underexpose the shot so that I’d have some room for movement when I got the image in Adobe Camera RAW.

Below is the start image in ACR. As you can see the effect is almost there. It just needed a few adjustments to bring out the detail.

Initial Image in Adobe Camera RAW
I lifted the exposure and also added a little fill light. I increased the blacks slightly and also added some clarity and vibrancy. The final ACR image is below. 

Adjusted Image in Adobe Camera RAW
After launching it into Photoshop CS5 it was now time to give it an edgy, gritty look. I decided to do this using Nik COLOR EFEX PRO4. There were a few filters I could have chosen but the one that gave me the look I wanted was the Bleach Bypass filter. Using the pre-sets I selected the one that I liked the look of and used it without any further tweaking.

Color Efes Pro 
Once back in CS5 the one thing I did notice was that the filter had exaggerated some of the defects in the wall behind my subject. I eliminated most of the larger defects using the spot healing brush but I chose to leave some a the smaller ones to add to the gritty look.  Lastly I added some Film Grain just to give it a final edge.

Final image adjustments in Adobe Photoshop CS5
This is the final image which came out pretty much exactly as I wanted it to. Very Pleased as was my subject. 

Final Image

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