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    Low-key lighting: how to shut out ambient light and plunge into shadows

    | Photography Tips | Portraits | 28/03/2014 00:01am
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    How to edit portraits with low-key lighting

    How to edit portraits with low-key lighting: step 1

    01 Raw adjustments
    Download our image and follow along! Open the start image in Adobe Camera Raw. Set Exposure to +0.85, then set Shadows to -15 and Blacks to -23 to darken down the shadows.

    Set Clarity to -20 to soften the skin; positive Clarity settings are used to enhance detail, but negative settings enable you to subtly blur fine detail such as skin blemishes.

    Click Open Image to open the image in Elements’ Expert/Full Edit mode, and press Ctrl+J to duplicate the ‘Background’ layer. Rename the new layer ‘Skin’.

    SEE MORE: 13 photo editing mistakes every photographer makes (and what you can do about it)

    How to edit portraits with low-key lighting: step 2

    02 Retouch the skin
    Use the Spot Healing Brush to tidy up stray hairs and spots, and the Clone Stamp tool for larger blemishes; set its opacity to 25%, Alt-click to sample clean areas and clone these over the marks.

    Duplicate the ‘Skin’ layer and rename the new layer ‘Blur’. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set Radius to 2 pixels.

     

    How to edit portraits with low-key lighting: step 3

    03 Blur the skin
    Alt-click the Layer Mask icon to add a black mask and hide the blur effect, then paint over the skin with a white brush to reveal the blur.

    Click the layer’s image thumbnail, then use the Brush tool to even out areas of uneven skin tone by Alt-clicking to sample lighter or darker tones and painting over areas at 15% opacity.

    Click the top layer, and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to create a merged layer. Go to Enhance > Convert to Black and White, and select the Newspaper style.

     

    How to edit portraits with low-key lighting: step 4

    04 Contrast and sharpening
    Add a Levels adjustment layer, and set Shadows to 29 and Midtones to 1.22 to lighten the subject’s midtones and darken the shadows further. Set the layer blending mode to Overlay, and reduce its opacity to 60%.

    Target ‘Layer 1’, select the Dodge tool, set Range to Midtones and Exposure to 25%, and brush over the eyes and hair to lighten them.

    Create another merged layer, go to Enhance > Unsharp Mask and set Amount to 60% and Radius to 2.8 pixels. Add a black mask as before, and paint the sharpening back into the eyes and mouth with a white brush.

    PAGE 1: How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: steps 1-4
    PAGE 2: How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: steps 5-8
    PAGE 3: How to edit portraits with low-key lighting

    READ MORE

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    Photoshop Effects: how to mimic studio lighting for stylish portraits

    How to retouch photos: pro techniques in 10 easy steps
    Best photo editing tips for beginners: 18 quick fixes to common image problems


    Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014 at 12:01 am under Photography Tips, Portraits.

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