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Makin' it Real

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How do you photograph a line of custom shoes before any have been made?

Last Fall Nike partnered with Pendleton Woolen Mills to create a line of custom shoes to be featured on their NikeID website. The only trouble was since these were custom shoes, none of the them would be made before the campaign went “Live”.

What they did have were some prototypes made from light gray leather and rolls of Pendleton wool fabrics. So when they asked photographer Michael Jones to create photos of the new shoes he brought me on board to handle the extensive retouching that would be needed to pull this off.

Working with Michael we formed a plan where Michael would shoot the gray shoes as is, then shoot additional frames with the fabric draped over the shoes. There were 19 shoes in all that would need to be “created”. When the gray shoes arrived Michael discovered that many of the base shoes would need to be cobbled together from several other shoes.

Using a strap from this one and a sole from that one my team and I first built the proper base shoes then went to work compositing the various shots of fabric draped shoes adding lighting and shadowing to bring out the shape and form of the shoes. Then the stitching was added along with changing the colors of the soles and swooshes where needed.

All in all 19 shoes were created with the first line going live mere days after delivery.

Here is a sampling of some of the shoes created as part of this campaign.

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X-Men Character Poster

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I love working on movie posters! There is something cool about working on a campaign for a big block buster movie like the latest chapter in the X-Men series. Last Spring I had the pleasure of working on this character poster featuring the young and old Magneto for the ad agency Trailer Park.

For those not familiar with the long process for creating a movie poster there are many rounds of design involved where the designers for the ad agency work closely with the studio client to create the final design. (It’s not unheard of for these designs to involve over 100 rounds before they get approved.) Once the studio approves the “Comp” the file is then passes on to the “Finishing" stage where high end retouchers complete the process of creating the final high res image for the poster.

The Finishing process involves adding a little extra canvas for “bleed” to make sure there is plenty of room for cropping and the various frames the posters will be placed in. Then it comes down to scaling the image up to the final size, usually based on a 27x40 crop at 200ppi, and the painstaking process of going layer by layer by layer replacing the low res images from the comp with the highest res versions available while adding the necessary retouching, masking and color adjustments to make the final image look as perfect as possible.

As you can guess the Photoshop files for these posters can get pretty big. The final file for this one weighed in around 10Gb and had around 70 layers.

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Relaxed Glamour




Relaxed glamour should look effortless. But we all know true glamour takes work.

So when Dallas based photographer Stewart Cohen, who creates some wonderfully glamorous shots, needed someone to add a touch of Photoshop Magic to make this image look effortless he called on me.

In addition to the usual work bringing out the glamour of the model, this project involved combining several images together to get just the right balance of detail and lighting between the view in the windows, the model and the room itself. Reflections and stray roof panels were removed from the windows. Then the lights in the room were brought up just enough to give the image a nice home away from home feeling.

Here's the before image Stewart sent me to work on:


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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.

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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

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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.


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She's Alive! with David Zaitz

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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.

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Gary Oldman with Michael Murphree

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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.

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