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LightZone Tutorial 4: Portrait

LightZone Tutorial 4: Portrait Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In this tutorial we will learn how to retouch a portrait picture with LightZone. I took this image using black and white film (Kodak PX 125) with my Canon EOS 3 and the Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM lens. The image was shot handheld in natural light, late afternoon under foliage shadow. Scanned right out of Silverfast it looks like this:

Definitively a promising image, but the hilights are kind of blown out and the face is way too bright for my taste, leading to a flat and frozen expression. The Zone Finder will reflect the state of things:

You can see how most of the face falls in Zone I, way too bright. Background is kind of OK. The first thing I do on an image like this is to apply a Contrast Mask, to tone down the hilights and open up the shadows.

Default values just do, the image below is already a lot better, we start to see texture and detail (expression) appearing in the face.

The next step is done with the Zone Mapper, using the Zone Finder as a guide. First thing I lower the first segment by about half an EV (one Zone Mapper segment), same with the second segment. This action reduces the global exposure of the image as the third Zone Mapper Segment is pushed down by about 2/3 EV. When working with tonal ranges in an image we can achieve many different effects. Aside from changing exposure we can decide wether to enhance the contrast in a specific tonal range or reduce it. For a face of a woman we better compress it to reduce wrinkles, skin defects, mosquito bites, etc., or she will most likely complain about it. :-) In the same Zone Mapper I then bring up segments 3, 4, and 5 until the image looks right to me, opening the shadows on the face of my model and thereby obtaining a gentler expression. Here you can see the Zone Mapper adjustment and how the Zone Finder look like before and after the adjustments:

The resulting image looks much better now, a nice soft expression and a great warm smile! Now that we are in the right ballpark of what looks good, let’s look at details of the image. This image was shot handheld in pretty low light, the diaphragm was kind of wide open (maybe f1.8 or so) so depth of field is very shallow. The face is slightly out of focus, you can easily see this in the detail below: the face, especially the central section is too soft.

Now I want to sharpen the image, but not everywhere, I want to avoid sharpening the shadows under the eyes and on the sides of the mouth. I applied a first layer of Sharpening, using a fairly large radius to enhance the broad facial features, using a mask to isolate the regions below the eyes and turning on the Inverse Mask Mode in the blending of the layer. This makes sure that all the image, EXCEPT FOR THE MASKED REGION, is sharpened.

Inverse Mask Mode button.

We’re not there yet, things are better but the image is still soft in the middle, since the focal plane is a bit behind the nose of the model. So I added another Sharpening layer this time using a selective mask to restrict the sharpening to the central portion of the face, using a smaller radius (for detail) and fairly large feathering to blend smoothly with the rest of the image.

Here we go, the face is nice and sharp and I have corrected for the drawback of the very shallow depth of field.

The final image looks great, one of my favorite shots: light, detail, expression.

You can take a look at some more portraits Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve made in the same period and similarly retouched with LightZone on my page: folder_id=592792 < previous

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