How I Edit

Okay I'll start from the beginning. In 2009 when I started I used my canon rebel XSI and my dad's canon 30D and the 50mm 1.4 and the kit lens.

Now I use a canon 5D mark II mainly with the 50mm 1.2 with an aperture of 2.0 and ISO of 100. I also use my dad's 85mm 1.2 on aperture 2.0 and ISO at 100.  I set the 50mm 1.2 at a low aperture because it creates a really sharp focus on the subject and extremely blurry background. The 85mm is a different because it creates a different type of focal length blur. The 85mm lens is one of the highest rated Canon lenses because its focusing capabilities are really nice. 

Here is an image that shows how focal length blur changes depending on the lens: 


For the setting the shutter speed I just use the light meter accordingly to my aperture and ISO settings (set at F2.0 ISO 100). I expose it at 0 or +.5. Because the 5D MkII has a full frame sensor it detects more detail and has better focusing capabilities. So if you have a starter SLR just stick with it and practice a TON before thinking about upgrading. If anything upgrade lens' first before bodies. (well thats my personal preference). With lighting, I shoot at sunset so around 6-8pm in the summer for my sunset type of pictures. I make sure the sun is lowering but still up in the sky. If it is a the same level as the subject, my lens won't focus because my lens will want to focus on the bright spots so the sun competes with my subject and lens. I make sure to have my subject with the sun behind him/her. When I go downtown, I go to shaded areas so the light is even on the skin. By going in shaded areas, the sun will be diffused and create a softer light (similar to the shade under trees, I call it butter light). I sometimes use a gold reflector under the subject in the shaded areas because it tends to be a bit darker. The reflector also adds some glow to the subject. I like to have the reflector to give me some extra light so I can increase my shutter speed. I still keep my aperture at 2.0 and ISO at 100. I RARELY go over ISO 100. 

Okay so with editing I use Lightroom 4 and CS5. First I import my pictures in Lightroom and cull them there. Then I individually edit each picture from Lightroom into CS5. (that means Lightroom will create a copy of the original in a TIFF format and open it in CS5). When I am in CS5 what I do first is clean up the face. I use the healing brush for acne and the clone stamp at %25 opacity to do some other types of smoothening/acne clear up. Sometimes I use masking with curves to even out the lighting on the face. 

heres a youtube tutorial on how to use the healing brush:
How to Use the Healing Brush and Patch Tool by Sean Armenta

here's a youtube tutorial on how to dodge and burn with curves:
Dodge and Burn with Curves

Cleaning up the face helps with creating a crisper looking image because I get rid of distracting elements.

Now when it comes to fixing the color and lighting in CS5 I use a lot of things depending on the photo. Curves, Color Balance, selective color, Exposure, and Hue/Saturation. 

With curves I create an 'S' curve. This will create contrast on the picture. 

With color balance when its on midtones I put the arrow on the negative side towards the yellow about -10/ -20. Then while I'm still on midtones I put the arrow to the red at -2/ -5. Then i go to highlights and put the arrow to yellows about -5. Now this is a more extreme use of color balance. Now I don't use it as much because I just started using selective color.

With selective color I go to Neutrals and up the yellows and blacks. Sometimes upping the yellows adds a green tint so I up the magenta or negate the Cyan. Lots of these types of adjustments really depends on each photo. I generally like my photos to look warmer so thats why I try to up the yellows to make them more vibrant that way.

With hue/saturation I often up the hue on greens to make them less neon/yellow. I also decrease the saturation and the luminance.

I mess with exposure sometimes to make a more drastic film type of looking photo by increasing the exposure and offset. Then to balance those I increase the Gamma Correction.

Here are links to how a curve and 'S' curve works. 

Sometimes after all of that editing I will do some overall sharpening through 'smart sharpener'. I just change the radius and amount accordingly to what I think looks good. then I save the picture and it CS5 closes it and saves as a TIFF that is automatically brought back into Lightroom. 

When I am Lightroom I increase the temperature a bit to make the photo warmer. I also do 'lens correction which just fixes the distortion error of my lens. Thats when I used the 50mm 1.4 but now since I use the 50mm 1.2 and 85mm 1.2 they don't have distortion error. Then after that I sometimes put a small vignette around the picture to create some focus on the subject. The last thing I do is crop then export the image as a jpeg file. It takes me about 4-8 hours to edit one senior for about 40-50 images. It all depends on acne and how well I exposed the picture. Now I am currently trying to work on using less and less photoshop and getting better at taking the picture in camera and not having to fix my mistakes later. So this year I have gotten better at lighting subjects where I just do minimal acne editing and then I just up the color vibrance through different settings because the Mark II's color detection has cooler tones.

I use Alien Skin Exposure as well. I don't use that on any of my senior sessions. I just use it for my personal use for my portrait a day things. ASE is designed around to give pictures a film type of look so I can put grain/dust on images or even lightleaks. It comes with a set of presets that I modify when I use them. 

Some of the other lenses I use are the Canon 45mm 2.8 tilt shift and the Sigma 35mm 1.4

For further help on photoshop I use the tutorials on lynda.com 

Alex: Senior Pictures