Creating many different looks from one image.
Sometimes I get a very strong feeling about an image, that it should be cropped just so, it should be color/b&w/sepia, it should have a border effect etc. In those instances I am brave, strong, courageous and decisive. Other times I can’t make up my mind to save my life, with endless fields of possibility streaming out. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t…..oooh, that was lame. Anyway, those are the times I am content to play around with all the various and sundry toys in my box.
Some of my favorite toys are Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets. They’re quick and easy ways to manipulate images, and if you don’t like something, just drag and drop a layer into the trash or hit the ‘undo’ button. You can also use them as a foundation and then make small adjustments to your liking.
I was recently digging around through my back catalog of images for something to amuse and I came across this session I did with a lovely young lady I met through Model Mayhem. I was drawn to this powerful profile image and decided to play around with it a bit.
Here is the image straight out of the camera, below:
After cropping into a square format, I used Totally Rad’s Basic Lightroom Presets in this order – A Beginning/Lite, Auto/Contrast, Electric Skies/Lite and Sharpen/Sharp Cheddar. The image was quite lovely at that point, but I felt it needed a bit more sharpness, so I added +50 on the Clarity slider in Lightroom. See below:
I wasn’t finished playing yet, so I exported the image to Photoshop and used Totally Rad’s Photoshop Action ‘Prettyizer’ at 100%. This action has a subtle softening effect which is quite nice. It does not overtly flare the highlights nor does it block up the shadows. It just makes things…..prettier. See Below:
Sometimes I fall into a rut, always going the same predictable way with my image processing. Most of us are creatures of habit and tend to like the same things done the same way over and over. Lately I’ve been browsing through books of old photographs and observing the different ways people used to make imagery. I was feeling thus inspired to try something a little outside my ‘usual’.
So back to
the drawing board Lightroom. I decided to keep all of the original Lightroom adjustments (A Beginning/Lite, Auto/Contrast, Electric Skies/Lite and Sharpen/Sharp Cheddar) and layer on top of those. I selected the BW/Sketchy/Darker preset from Totally Rad this time. The result looks like an old sepia plate that has oxidized with time. I really liked this direction and decided to keep pushing the edges of it. This image now looks and FEELS completely different. It’s like something out of another time and place. See below:
I think the image above is just perfect the way it is. But I was on a playing spree and decided to let my muse run. I next added/layered another Lightroom preset. This time it was from the Totally Rad Vignettes & Toning Presets. I chose Fade Highlights/Lite. That lightened, sharpened and increased the contrast of the image. While I feel the image above could stand on its own, I think this one needs some additional work. See below:
Back to Lightroom for another layer. This one is also from the Totally Rad Vignettes & Toning Lightroom Presets. I chose the Michelangelo vignette and REALLY liked it. It added just the touch of depth I was looking for. It also created the illusion of a lovely ‘halo’ of light around the subject’s head. See below:
I wanted a bit more richness and depth, so I played around with the settings in Lightroom. I zeroed out the Fill Light slider and pushed the Blacks slider to +5. For such a small adjustment, quite an amazing transformation occurred. The tones in the image darkened, adding a luscious feeling of drama and mystery to the image. See below:
At this point I was curious about how certain of Totally Rad’s Photoshop Actions might affect the image, so I exported to Photoshop and started playing. After trying and discarding several actions, I really liked what happened when I used the aforementioned ‘Prettyizer’ action, set to 75%. It puts a subtle but polished finish to the image. There is still a lot of drama, depth and mystery and I love the subtle separation of the subject from the background with that little bit of a halo around her head. It also added a touch of warmth to the overall color balance of the image. See below:
I like MOST of the images above and would be hard pressed to choose only ONE way to experience this image. If absolutely pressed to pick only one, I would probably choose the last one. Or the third one. Yes. Definitely the last one. Or the second one.
If you’re curious about Totally Rad’s Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets, check out my comprehensive reviews: