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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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14 Jul 2020 8:13AM   Views : 456 Unique : 281


This is all about a processing technique that I learned from a modelís partner: so thank you Dan, for sending me a link that has served me very well for several years. Also thanks are due to George, whose comment on my gallery post yesterday prompted me to look at a colour version of an image.


Anyway, porcelain. The name suggests delicacy, lightness Ė and thatís what itís all about. To achieve it, you need to work from a RAW image, or, at least, to use Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop or Elements. If anybody can translate this into Lightroom for people who use that to edit, Iíd be grateful!


As you can see from the pictures of Black Beauty, this isnít a technique that works with images that rely on dark tones for effect. These end up looking weak, like underexposed darkroom prints. As the shot of the Polaroid camera shows, dark tones are fine, providing they are only playing a supporting rŰle.


So what do you do (apart from play with the sliders?) Here are my starting suggestions:

After opening the file in Adobe Camera Raw, begin by altering the exposure by around +2 stops. Donít worry, at this stage, if you are blowing highlights. Weíll be dealing with them as we go.
Next, reduce Contrast, Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation with the individual sliders. I suggest starting around -60, -50, -40 and -40, but if you want to vary the look, just play with those sliders.
If, at this stage, the highlights look blank AND that looks wrong, pull back the highlights slider. This is a technique that produces subtle images, but some of the adjustments arenít subtle. The vignette portrait of Emi1 has -100 adjustment of the highlights.


Sometimes, you may want to bring in strong blacks, or colours. If so, use the Blacks and Saturation sliders Ė go negative with the former, and positive with the latter. If you only want to emphasise on colour (as in my shot of Annabel Adamse), it may be better to open the file and then adjust the colour saturation using Image/Adjustments/Saturation for individual colours (these are selectable as a drop-down from where it says ĎMasterí in the dialogue box).


This will be incredibly basic stuff for those of you who (unlike me) routinely use Layers and spend hours on editing. But for a three-minute experiment that might just give you one or two impressive images, give it a go.

Itís also thoroughly counter-intuitive for many people, who automatically increase Clarity, Vibrance, and so on. Donít worry: to follow the Julia Margaret Cameron line yet again, it looks beautiful. And for female portraits, itís incredibly flattering to tweak Clarity and Vibrance downwards as a matter of course, gently softening imperfections, without turning skin to Barbie plastic.


Big Hint Ė as soon as you start processing, use ĎSave Así to create an image with a different name so that you donít mess up the source file. If you do this as a matter of routine, you donít have to worry about Ďnon-destructive editingí! I have simple tastes in editing.

Go on. Play and enjoy the freedom.

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Irishkate Avatar
Irishkate Plus
13 45 123 United Kingdom
14 Jul 2020 10:44AM
Interesting technique John.
Love the effect on the leaves especially.
I can the benefits for skin in your portraiture.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
14 Jul 2020 11:00AM
It's the same in Lightroom which uses the same processing as Adobe Camera Raw.
There will be similar sliders in for example Capture One, Canon DPP and Affinity Photo and anyone familiar with those should be able to get a similar effect.

I agree that negative clarity is a useful tool.
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 36 8 England
14 Jul 2020 11:10AM
And for those who don't use Photoshop or lightroom? Wing it with whatever you have SmileSmile
Contrast, Clarity, Vibrance and or Saturation are pretty common on most editors. As is highlight control.
It can all be done in Affinity photo and On1 photo raw, not sure about anything else as i don't possess them.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
14 Jul 2020 11:54AM
I like to leave a bit of a challenge for readers, of course.

Thanks to Keith and Dave for giving important answers!
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
14 Jul 2020 2:44PM
Hmmm, a nice easy technique, could look very pretty on a flower image.
Thanks for the tip John.
GeorgeP Avatar
GeorgeP 16 62 26 United States
14 Jul 2020 2:48PM
A few years ago, our church had a board with photos of members and I was recruited to take the shots. It is amazing what a little tweak with the Clarity slider can do for your reputation as a photographer. A little "negative" for the ladies to soften the effects of time, and a little "positive" for the men to emphasize that rugged masculinity. Pretty soon, folks think you know what you are doing behind the lens. Smile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
14 Jul 2020 3:20PM
Cheers George - and you say you're not a people photographer... I don't believe you!

Janet - looking forward to seeing the results from a really skilled still lifer and editor...
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
14 Jul 2020 3:42PM

Quote: looking forward to seeing the results from a really skilled still lifer and editor...

yeah, me too Wink Wink

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