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Lighting for retouching

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  • Studio: Lighting for retouching

    I've always been curious: if you know you're going to post-process a lot (ie: closer to Hill or Leibowitz than your routine zit-zap) does it factor in to your lighting choices?

    Obviously consistency would be important for composite work, but in a broader sense, does Photoshop knowledge affect how you light your photography?
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  • #2
    Re: Lighting for retouching

    Originally posted by Doug Nelson View Post
    I've always been curious: if you know you're going to post-process a lot (ie: closer to Hill or Leibowitz than your routine zit-zap) does it factor in to your lighting choices?

    Obviously consistency would be important for composite work, but in a broader sense, does Photoshop knowledge affect how you light your photography?
    No. The subject affects my lighting. A good exposure is a good exposure. I always strive to get the best in-camera image so the Photoshop part of my workflow is as little as possible. But that varys based on the purpose of the shoot.


    • #3
      Re: Lighting for retouching

      YES. both usually affect each other.


      • #4
        Re: Lighting for retouching

        Hopefully you are half decent at shooting in which case lighting choice won't really matter as long as it's good lighting.

        Soft light is always easier to retouch as you don't have to watch the edges so much.


        • #5
          Re: Lighting for retouching

          Things like studio size and outdoor weather make an enormous difference. Post grants you a considerable amount of leverage to deal with imperfect weather but not disastrous outdoor weather conditions. Studios vary in size, and lighting on the background can impact the subject. Digital makes it easier to adjust for that.

          There are also things that had to be accounted for with earlier digital camera generations. The early ones had very noisy shadows, so something very dark often needed to be just slightly over on exposure. It was still important to get that right, because raw processors were nowhere near as sophisticated in 2003(ish).


          • #6
            Re: Lighting for retouching

            Post processing work should not be overly done ever, specially for any natural shot! Its rather better to setup the whole shooting in such a way that a little need to be processed. Like some kind of adjusting in color or sharpness.


            • #7
              Re: Lighting for retouching

              Consistency in Lighting for Photographers and Retouchers

              There are 4 Characteristics of Light that I try to keep in mind when planning a photo session that will later be composited or retouched into another image.
              Or... if I have two images I am blending together... and I did not shoot the images to match...then I will have to do some visual retouching... to make sure they match up in 4 key ways... to make sure everything looks Real... Consistent... Integrated... and Believable. Yes...Photoshop is good...But... sometimes you have to take into account the characteristics of lighting to get the best matches and end result images.

              Keep in mind these "4 Key Qualities of Lighting" to be sure that your images match up best:

              1.) The Direction of the light.

              2.) The Hardness or Softness of the light.

              3.) The Color of the Light.

              4.) The Shadow Angle, Softness, and the Drop.

              Light Directionality: Having the light coming from the wrong direction... is a sure way to have someone spot that something is wrong with your image!! You want to place your lights so they throw highlights or shadows in the same direction as the environmental lighting. They must match up in the same direction to create the most realistic composite or retouch. Pay attention to the Direction of the highlights and shadows to maintain consistency. If the highlights or shadows dont match up with the same directionality as your base image...then almost everyone will pick up that there is Something WRONG with this image!

              Light Hardness or Softness: Sometimes the light sources are harsh... creating hard edges... and sometimes they are diffuse... creating a soft smooth transition at the edge. If you can match up the direction and the hardness or softness of the lighting...then it will match your image or ambient lighting. A soft diffuse light will often have a scrim or a fabric put over the bulb...or bounce lighting might be used create a soft lighting effect. The larger the light source area...or the more diffused or soft it is... and the smoother and wider the light/shadow transition line will be. A hard light does not have much or any diffusion on the fixture... and it will create a hard, narrow, contrasty, distinct edge between the lightness and darkness areas. A soft or diffused light will have a soft, wide, less contrasty edge at the transitions of light and dark. Note: The Sun can be hard at noon, or on a clear day, or out from underneath a tree...OR... the Sun can also look soft at dusk, or on a more cloudy day, or under the shading of a tree. Heads-Up: when shooting outdoors...the conditions and the matching up of lighting direction or quality can change drastically in just minutes.

              Color Temperature of the light: Light can be warm, or yellowish from tungsten light fixtures, or blue from strobes, or very blue for noon and afternoon sunlight, or some other color like from a colored Gel placed in the light fixture, or perhaps a light that has bounced off of a green wall will create a color contamination in your scene. The best way to make your images appear real... is to be sure to match up the Color Temperature of the light as well.

              Tungsten lighting is considered warm, yellowish or reddish... compared to daylight or strobes... that are very blue... compared to tungsten lighting.
              Sunlight can be either warm or cold, or anywhere in between... depending on conditions. You can change or create lighting of different colors from within Photoshop if you are retouching... so things can match up more consistently.

              If you are photographing drop in images: Be sure to first CLOSELY look at the original base image... and analyze and Clearly NOTE... all of the 4 characteristics of the ambient lighting in that base image. Make notes on: 1.) The exact Directionality and relative Height of the Key Light. 2.) The Hardness or Softness or Diffusion of the lighting. 3.) The Color Temperature of the light. 4.) Note any Lighting Contaminations or any other secondary sources of light.
              THEN... choose the proper tungsten or strobe kind of fixtures for your shoot, match up the diffusion or softness of the light modifier (bare bulb or softbox for example), then especially match up the directionality and the height of the key lighting, and note any contaminating colors or extra lighting that need to be added in. Be sure to also match up your subjects wardrobe or period or genre correctly and the angles you will need to be shooting from...from the back or side, high up or low etc. Then shoot away!

              Shadow Angle / Hardness / and Drop: It may be possible that there are also some shadows you may have to match up too... if they are visible. Obviously, the shadows will be on the opposite side of the main keylight source of illumination of the scene. So, the consistent directionality of the shadow is important! The edges of a shadow will be either hard or soft depending on the lighting. Sharp edges come from direct sunlight or a bare bulb lighting fixture. Soft blurred edges are created if the key lighting was diffused or if the sun had clouds diffusing it. Also be sure to keep the Vertical Drop Angle of the shadow correct too...if the key lighting was high from the left...then the height of the shadows will obviously fall low to the right in your retouch or cut in.

              So, in photography; if your setting or ambient light in your existing base image has a warm color temperature coming from the left... and the highlights and shadows have a smooth transition between them... THEN...your artificial lighting for your photo session should also come from the left, be a warm tungsten kind of lighting, and have a soft diffuser on the fixture to match your base image. The key light should also be at approximately the same vertical angle as the original source that the shadows drop in the proper direction, at the proper depth, and with the same edge softness level. Always match the source image and the photography so they are matched up together in these 4 critical ways.

              When you are retouching; If you use curve or level adjustment layers and blend modes and Photoshop Lighting tools...You can artificially add in directionality, soft or hard transitions, and also tint the color of the light...even if it was not shot correctly that way. You might be using the lighten or darken capability of the curves to create light edges... or to darken highlights...and then you might be using the channels part of the curves to create colored lighting that looks yellowish, or blue, or is contaminated with green or another color for example. You can also create artificial light sources from within Photoshop itself that can mimic real lighting with different lighting colors in your retouched images. Its a little bit harder to fix up a drop-in image that has the wrong light direction or the wrong lighting colors...but it can be done with patience.

              How would you change "hard light" into "soft edged light" using Photoshop? You might use one of the Blur Tools to soften up and change the appearance of a hard edge. The blur tool will soften, and widen, and diffuse the thin tight line between the existing hard highlight and the hard shadow line in your image. To do this: you might make a snapshot capture of the image in a separate layer... blur the image so that the hard edge becomes quite wide and soft looking...and then add in a black mask to the layer...and then paint in the new diffused edge using a soft white brush. This will make it look like the lighting was actually from a soft lighting source like a softbox...rather than from a hard edge light source like a bare bulb, a fresnel light, or the clear sun.

              So yes... keep an eye out for "Consistency and Matching" in the Lighting.
              In the photoshoot... or in the retouch... make sure the direction, the hardness / softness, the color, and the shadow direction and drop are all consistent and are taken into account.
              Then, when you drop in your composited will look like it matches up to the real scene and vice versa! Your audience will NOT do a "Double-Take" if these 4 factors are created... and then taken into account... within your photography or retouching sessions. B U T... If you Miss even One of these 4 elements...your viewer will K N O W that there is something Wrong or Fake in your beautifully retouched composite image!! They may not be able to verbally tell you what that problem is... but one of these 4 factors will "Tip Them Off"... that something is wrong in this image! OUCH!

              Take into Account... Light Direction - Hardness/Softness - Color - Shadow Angle and Drop!
              Last edited by ray12; 09-07-2015, 05:00 PM.


              • #8
                Re: Lighting for retouching

                Soft light is definitely better re-touch as you do not have to see the edges so considerably. Matters like that as well as outside weather make a huge difference


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