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8 steps for creating a magazine-like image

Hi, I am Elina! You probably found this post through my Instagram page @kustlyvy_photo. Yes, I decided to start a blog to share my experience in photography and photo editing. I hope some of you might find this useful.

I started my photography career after working as a retoucher for a couple of years, editing images of kids, weddings, and portraiture. Then I really got intrigued by the works of other photographers and of course by all the possibilities a modern DSLR. In this article, however, I want to share with you my personal retouching workflow – 8 steps for creating a magazine-like image.

Before jumping into my process, I have to mention that I have one simple rule – always shoot raw. If you like playing with colors, or if you need to change your exposure to get some visual information, that was under- or overexposed during the shoot time, this is the best way to go.

I have one simple rule – always shoot raw

Step 1: Color correction

For prepping my image, I use Capture One. But you can use Lightroom or Camera Raw or any other software that fits your needs. During this stage I am usually setting my color balance by shifting temperature and tint sliders, exposure, playing with highlights and shadows, blacks and whites, tweaking my colors. This stage is very important if you want to retrieve any additional information as raw files are very flexible.

Please hover over the image to see before and after

Step 2: Crop

Although you compose your image before shooting it, sometimes you just want to change the crop a little bit more. If you need to leave some unnecessary details out of the shot, or you want to bring your subject closer for more dramatic effect, whatever it takes to tell a better story – go for it! Just make sure you don’t crop out limbs or don’t leave someone with a bad haircut👹. I always look for pleasing lines and a straight horizon line, however, it all depends on your creative approach.

make sure you don’t crop out limbs or don’t leave someone with a bad haircut

Step 3: Remove blemishes

Now I begin my process of retouch. The first step would be to remove all the blemishes, pimples, and stray hairs, that distract you from your main subject. For this I usually use Healing Brush or Clone Stamp, depending on the situation. Just create a blank layer for a non-destructive edit and choose your tool. Make sure that you have a checkmark on the box with Select All Layers. Meggi has a very beautiful skin, so i didn’t have to do much with this picture.

There are very few blemishes on this photograph. You might need to look closely to see the changes…

Step 4: Dodge and burn

This step is my favorite one, but the most time-consuming. For dodging and burning I prefer using Curves as they give me the most natural result, in the end, however, there are tons of different techniques, which you can find online. For this technique, you need to create 2 Curve layers. One for dodging and one for burning. Let’s start with dodging. With your first layer, create a point in the middle of the histogram and drag it up slightly. This will increase the overall exposure of the image and brighten up the image. Invert the layer to hide this effect and use your soft Brush tool (100% opacity and 1% flow) to reveal it on the areas that you want to brighten up. Repeat the same steps to burn, but this time darken the image by pulling the curve down. When I retouch, I never go to the level of pores, because the picture looks fake and the skin—plastic. Keeping natural shapes is vital for a realistic retouch.

I never go to the level of pores, because the picture looks fake and the skin—plastic.

Step 5: Fix skin tones

After I am done with D&B I fix skin tones. For this image, I wanted to go for a cool tone with minimum saturation to showcase her elegant pale skin and exquisite features. So, I went to Hue/Saturation adjustments layer and desaturated yellows. Also, I made sure the tone of her face perfectly matches the tone of her neck with the help on Selective Colors, which is such a great tool!

Step 6: Change background color

At this stage, I decided to change the color of the background a little bit. I went for a cooler shade of blue. This gave me a beautiful separation between the model and the background. I absolutely love adding contrast to my images and tonal contrast is one of the ways to do it. Undoubtedly, I could leave the image without this step, so it’s just a matter of preference.

Step 7: Add contrast

Here I used luminosity masks to create a better definition between highlights and shadows. Again, there are quite a few different ways to do it, such as Curves Adjustment Layer or even Levels. Everything is in the name of Contrast, lol.

Everything is in the name of Contrast

Step 8: Color toning

Finally, the last step. Did you guess what could it be? Of course, it’s color toning. Usually, I do all my color work in Capture One. So, I save 2 versions of images: retouched and color toned. I don’t know why I do it, probably just to feel safe in case I change my mind. Particularly for this image, I knew beforehand what I want to achieve: a portrait of a young charming lady, which creates calm and tranquil mood.

I knew beforehand what I wanted to achieve

I really enjoyed the process of adding my artistic touch to this beautiful portrait. At the end it is the small thought through changes, that make all the difference. To me it’s a sort of meditation when I don’t think about anything else, just being present in the moment and watching the picture becoming better and better with the light strokes of my pencil. The process of retouch somehow reminds me of the process of grinding a diamond. First, you take your raw file with all the information on it, then you remove all unnecessary, add a little bit of your creative flow, and Voilà! Here is your unique creation.

Check out more pictures from this photoshoot here!

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