16 bits to the Rescue!

Ask any retoucher what their number one arch nemesis is and they'll probably say "Banding"!

You know them, those curving lines separating each band of color as the tones go from light to dark. These bands are caused when each step in color stands there screaming for attention. They taunt us while we endlessly work to chase them away.

Kind of like this:

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Recently I was working on a series of images for a luxury lifestyle brand. The final step in working on these files was to give them a cool color treatment. Two of the images were very similar shots of the model, Amanda, in a kitchen setting. After applying the vignetting and color grading to these images the bands above popped up saying "Hi there!".

Here's where many retouchers would say, "Should have been working in 16 bits from the start!" But alas here we were, right at the final step when we're getting bitten by that 8 bit banding bug. Too late for such a simple fix, right?

Maybe not!

You see that was when I remembered a tip from one of my retoucher friends, Carolyn Winslow. While most folks would say it's too late to gain anything by converting the file from 8 bits to 16 bits per channel Carolyn had shown me this very cool trick that saved the day.

So I took my layered file, complete with all the adjustment and vignetting layers and converted it from 8 bits to 16 bits. At first there was no difference. Zooming into a 100% view gave me a nice smooth image, but any other view brought back those vicious bands.

But then I flattened the file and Voila! the bands disappeared, vanquished by the coolest, easiest trick of all.

_DS10337_W1b-16 crop

This coolness works because as Photoshop converts the file from 8 bits per channel to 16 bits it adds just enough dithering to break up those bands. But while we're looking at the layered file Photoshop still gets hung up in the way it draws the image on the screen. Flattening the image completes the process and makes it much easier for Photoshop to reveal the nice smooth gradations we wanted all along.

With the bands gone we can convert the image back to 8 bits if we want, safe in the knowledge that our enemy, the evil bands, have been vanquished once and for all.

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Naami Mohamed with Rick Rose

130919 P10 Naami Mohamed80801 V2a

Bringing out the best in a Beauty shot like this calls for keeping the retouching work subtle. The trick is to strike the right balance between perfect and human.

And this demands paying careful attention to make sure the skin keeps that natural texture while bringing out the model's natural beauty. The retouching must remain invisible while enhancing the image in just the right way to complete the photographer's vision.

This shot was taken by Rick Rose, a young up and coming photographer I met last year. Below is the before image.


130919 P10 Naami Mohamed80801 Before

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She's Alive! with David Zaitz

Elevator_DLZ_5043_V6b-cropped flt

When David Zaitz got the assignment from Dailey Advertising to create some photos for an upcoming campaign featuring Alive Multi-Vitamins he knew he'd need a little extra magic to get just the image he envisioned. And that was when he called me.

The idea behind the campaign was basically to highlight how taking Alive Multi-Vitamins would give you that extra energy to get through the day. In creating this image David constructed an elevator on set, (the doors were shot separately), and then shot the models in various poses.

Then following the Art Director's layout I composited in new heads for the models to the left and right of our "hero" lady as well as swapping the upper half of the lady in the green sweater on the far right.

Finally I added a color grading treatment to the shot, desaturating the regular folks to help make our hero seem even more alive. Below is the before image.

Elevator-Before

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Gary Oldman with Michael Murphree

20110216_Paramount_Oldman_0078 W2 CC


When it's a shot of someone like Gary Oldman it's gotta look great! So when photographer Michael Murphree got the assignment to shoot Gary he called on me to help make sure everything looked just right.

With shots like this much of the work involves making sure everything balances properly while working together to guide the viewer's eye to the most important aspects of the shot. So exposures and colors for different areas are re-worked while gradations are added to the background to give the right sense of drama to the shot.

Here's another shot from that same series.

20110216_Paramount_Oldman_0131 W1a CC

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Compositing Workshop for ASMP Portland: Nov. 9th

 The Digital Transformer, Dennis Dunbar: Compositing Secrets of the Pros

Join us on Saturday, November 9th for a workshop with Digital Transformer Dennis Dunbar!
In this workshop Dennis shares many of the techniques he uses to make complex composite images from Movie Posters to LifeStyle and Product shots.

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Lincoln MKT Hero

 
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Whether it’s combining many elements or dramatically re-working a single shot Dennis will show how the same techniques apply. He’ll cover the various challenges that face those who would tackle such tasks such as: Masking, Color Correction, Blending, and matching Noise or Grain.
GVC PrimeBar
 
Dennis will discuss several ways to create a professional quality mask as well as how to check to make sure your mask is working the way it should. He’ll delve into Color Correction using Curves and how to simplify your Layers using Clipping Groups. Then he’ll show you how to blend disparate images making them look as if they all belong together through the use of Depth of Field, adjusting the density and color as well as other techniques for matching the Noise or Grain of the various elements.

The workshop will begin at 10am and end at 2pm including a Q&A session, with a short lunch break at 11:30. You can see his work on his website, read tips on his blog, or follow him on Twitter.
You don't want to miss this opportunity! Register now to ensure your space! 

When:
Saturday, November 9, 2013  
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM  
Doors Open at 9:30 AM

Where:
Michael Jones & Andy Batt Studio
1910 NW 23rd Place  
Portland, Oregon [see a map]

REGISTER NOW
 
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Ehancing the Mood with Color

Playball-Alex V8a After

Anyone who's a fan of the movies knows that Color sets the tone and the mood of the movie. The same is true with photographs. The right color treatment can turn a good shot into a "Wow!" shot, adding just the right sense of drama that brings it to that higher level that commands the viewer's attention.

So when photographer Stephanie Diani contacted me with this project I was immediately interested. Color grading is fast becoming one of my favorite parts of digital imaging. The opportunities for creative input and collaboration are really emphasized in this process, and when you arrive at that magical look there is a sense of great creative satisfaction with the transformation you were able to make happen.

Since this process can be very subjective we usually begin by looking at a variety of images the photographer feels have the right mood they're looking for. Then the exploration begins. Since this was a series of images it was important to also create a streamlined workflow for getting that special look that was both easy to apply as well as allowed for just the right flexibility so the look could be tweaked easily on an image by image basis.

In the end Stephanie's final look was accomplished with just 3 Adjustment Layers. And applying the look to all the other shots in the series was as easy as a few copy/past moves.

Here's a side by side before/after shot followed by some of the rest of Stephanie's series:

Playball-Alex V8a Before Playball-Alex V8a After
Before After

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Bringing Out the Drama

NOS_gbottle_Grp V4 Wet Final

When most people think of CGI images they think magical renders of perfect products where every detail pops out in just the right way. And while they're right, a great image can be magical, getting that magical image can be just as much work with a CGI image as it is with an image that starts with a photo.

Earlier this year Coca Cola called Bo Opfer, of 9k9, when they needed some high quality shots of their new bottle design for their NOS Energy Drink. Knowing this would need a touch of Photoshop Magic as well as CGI Magic Bo called on Dennis to be part of the team working on the project.

As you can see above these drinks come in 3 flavors, Fruit Punch (Red), Acai-Blueberry-Pomegranate (Blue), and Raspberry Lemonade (Pink). The overall job called for various views of each bottle with different lighting schemes. The shot you see above used the more dramatic lighting inspired by a Grolsch ad while the other shots used a more conventional product lighting scheme.

While we started out with a high quality 3D model as the project moved along it quickly became pretty clear we needed to modify some aspects of the model to get the clean look the client wanted. For instance the ribs that were on the back of the grip area of the bottle needed to be deleted, (they kept showing through).

And speaking of the ribs, as with conventional photos, often times the lighting that works great on one area may not bring out all the details you're looking for. Because the ribs were an important part of the redesign of the bottle we needed to make sure they popped in just the right way. But how to make this work without doing lots of illustrative work?

Enter the magical VRayNormals render! This is one of those really cool renders today's 3D programs can produce. Basically this pass (shown below) contains different lighting information. The rainbow look of the image comes from the differences in each of the Red, Green and Blue channels. And it was in those channels that Dennis found the perfect source for a mask that would let him make those ribs stand out.

NOS_bottle_acai_.VRayNormals.0031

As you can see the bottom of the bottles changed pretty dramatically over the life of the project. Seems the client decided to redesign the bottle of the bottles along the way (at least twice)! Combining this with various label changes, and the fact that each bottle needed to be rendered in both wet and dry versions (with the drops editable), you can see this was a pretty lengthy project.

Below are a Before/After look at the Blue bottle as well as one of the group shots with the more conventional lighting.

NOS_gbottle_acai_V5 Before NOS_gbottle_acai_V5 AfterNOS_bottle_0031 grp V4 Wet Final


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