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Photoshop CS: The Art of Photographing Women

By John Virata
click on image to buy
Photoshop CS: The Art of Photographing Women
by Kevin Ames
368 Pages $34.99 US
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
click on image to buy
Photoshop CS: The Art of Photographing Women is about the process of photographing women and making them look good. At 14 chapters, it is comprised of two parts: Workflow: from Capture to Digital Postproduction, and Projects: Behind the Camera and in Front of the Computer. We'll take a look to see what topics are covered in each chapter of the book. The title aside, it is really a great book on learning how to harness the power of Adobe Photoshop CS. It just so happens that the author photographs women as a profession and includes on his website, all the photographs in the book's tutorials for download to follow along as you edit images of professional models.

Part I Workflow: from Capture to Digital Postproduction

Chapter 1 Bit Depth: The Key to Quality Files and Photographs. This chapter first discusses bit depth and its importance in retaining as much digital information as possible when shooting with a digital camera. the importance of capturing in the camera raw format is stressed unequivocally here, in part because professional digital photographs should be captured in this format. Ames includes a sample photograph on his website for you to continue with a 24-step exercise that helps you to understand the effects of tonal changes in 16-bit and 8-bit files. The next topic in chapter 1 is Understanding Colorcast, and also features an exercise on how colorcast works and what neutral color balance is.


Chapter 2 Color Correction: Color by the Numbers. In Chapter 2 of Workflow, we are greeted with Color Correction and an exercise in color correction and how to achieve good color, skin tones, highlights, and shadows and such in your subject photographs. The exercise, using a photograph downloaded from Ames' website walks you through, step by step in color correcting the photograph. This includes wo0rking with levels and saving a .alv file and working with curves. The next exercise discusses color balancing the camera and has you compare two images side by side. Following this exercise is the topic, Automation, or using Photoshop actions to replicate the work you did on one photograph and apply them to other similar photographs that can benefit from those actions. Sharpening is the next topic discussed, and is coupled with an 8 step exercise using an image that you download from the Ames website (all images in the book, which were taken by the author, can be downloaded from his website). Keep in mind that in addition to the images and body text, there are "Notes" strategically placed throughout each chapter in the book. These notes can be best described as tidbits of instant information that accompany the subject matter that you are reading at the time. Really neat stuff. In this chapter, Ames refers to these processes as pre-postproduction, rather than post production. These can be otherwise known as the steps you take before you work on the images. Antialiasing color and copyright protection techniques are the final topics discussed in the chapter, and creating actions from the previous exercises finishes off the chapter.

Chapter 3 Illuminating Light: How Light Works in Photography. This is an excellent chapter that discusses such topics as lighting, the quality of the light, too much light, too little light, the effects of light on makeup, and how to achieve the best lighting for your subjects. It discusses incident light meters, reflective meters, and a discussion on decimals and thirds. Also included in the chapter is a photograph that details a photographer's set, showing the location of devices (diffusion panel, Strip light, texture wall light, Warming gel, hair light, bounce panel, flag and light source), critical to a successful session.

Chapter 4 Archiving: Creating Bulletproof Digital Negatives. Ames stresses in this chapter the importance and reasons for saving in the RAW file format. All manner of archiving is discussed in this chapter, from choosing the size of the camera media (Ames recommends 512MB), to archiving to CD, to naming files and folders. Working with the File Browser and proofing your archives are also discussed in detail. Also discussed is a method for archiving JPEG images if your camera doesn't support Raw, or if you decided to shoot in JPEG for a specific job.

Chapter 5 Proofing and Reviewing Digital Photography. This chapter deals such topics as creating an action for image display purposes, understanding Adobe's Camera RAW workflow, and creating images with Camera RAW. Also discussed is color and exposure references, using a Web browser as a contact sheet complete with magnification to create Photo Web galleries, and creating proofing tools to view images on a CD.

Chapter 6 Non-Destructive Photoshop: The Way of the Fast Retreat.  The discussion in this chapter focuses on working with your digital files without killing some of them in the process. Ames notes in the beginning that of the 55 tools in the Photoshop CS toolbar, four, the crop tool, eraser tool, magic eraser, and background eraser, are destructive, meaning that they eat pixels for lunch. To achieve the notion of non-destructive image editing, these tools are to be avoided. The discussion turns to working with the layers palette. Exercises in the chapter include creating a vignette, Using the pen tool, and saving paths.

Part Two Projects: Behind the Camera and in Front of the Computer. Part 2 of the book is project based, reinforcing some of the concepts that you learned in Part 1. Chapter 7 Barbie: From the Ridiculous to Sublime, is 26 pages worth of image manipulation instructions on turning an image of a young women to look like a Mattel Barbie doll. It covers all aspects of retouching a photograph of a woman to achieve that Barbie look, including retouching the neck area, chest, rib cage, brightening the eyes, adjusting skin tone, sculpting the body, etc. It really is a wacked project, but it does show you how to use all the tools necessary should you need to make a digital Barbie out of someone.

Chapter 8 Pinups: Modern Girls in a Digital World. Discussed here is the artform that is the pinup girl. The chapter discusses how to prepare for a pinup shoot, including such themes as backgrounds, Rembrandt lighting, Butterfly Lighting, and blending. Tutorials include modifying paths, retouching using the Healing brush,  Body Sculpting, toning down fabric wrinkles, adding shadows, and creating a high key vignette.

Chapter 9 From Many, One: A Digital Portrait. This chapter is divided into three parts and is centered around creating a composite image using a collection of images in a photo session. Tools used in the exercise include the move tool, lasso tool, layers palette, brush tool, patch tool, color stroke, color replacement tools, etc. The best parts of each image are taken to create one super image in this exercise.

Chapter 10 Retouching Beauty. This chapter focuses on the fine art of retouching. Ames begins with an essay on the fine artists of the past and how they indeed retouched their paintings and then goes on to discuss the skills it takes to retouch artistically the different faces that makes everyone unique. The first exercise is retouching the face. the accompanying photographs detail how Ames uses the tools in Photoshop to retouch the model's face. The next step in the exercise involves fixing the hairs that appear on the model's chin and shoulder by creating a new layer using the pen tool and healing brush. The final exercise involves eliminating the small blemishes that are on the model's face using the healing brush, whitening the whites of the model's eyes, and  eliminating wrinkles in the model's eyelids.

Chapter 11 Sixteen Million Shades of Gray. Here it is all about black and white and starts off discussing the beauty and virtue of the black and white photograph. It then begins with a simple exercise on converting and RGB image to black and white, working in the Channels tab, adding a channel mixer adjustment layer, and working with the individual red, green, and blue fields.  Other topics covered in this chapter include adding grain, toning photographs digitally, faking colors, and creating a composition.

Chapter 12 Lingerie: A Day Being a Girl. Don't get fooled by the chapter title. It's not all about that, although topics and exercises are present that assist you in getting a good photograph when you are shooting models in lingerie. Exercises and topics discussed include creating a strategy map, restoring shiny hardware such as a window handle (that may take away from the lingerie model), squaring the shot, creating midday mood lighting, beating the wide angle blues, working with the freeze and thaw mask tools, healing the tummy line. There is also a primer on working with 16-bit files, TIF and PSDs.

Chapter 13 Indoors, Outdoors. This chapter discusses the varying conditions of shooting outdoors. Its topics include controlling contrast after the shoot, preparing a shoot indoors of shooting the model indoors for a project whereby the model's photograph will be composited into another photograph of an outdoor scene, retouching, creating a shallow depth of field, and working with lens blur.

Chapter 14 On the Beach: Swimwear. In this chapter Ames discusses a recent job where he had to do a swimsuit shoot in the Sunshine State, but the sun was replaced by rain. So, he had to move his job indoors and shoot in a hotel lobby which didn't have any sun, so he had to fake it. This served as the first exercise in the chapter. He also provides exercises for other topics such as healing lines that cross a shadow, achieving realistic texture, performing touchups, and Getting our Sun Filled shot, even though there is no sun! Other exercises include blurring the background, varying the depth of field, and finally, shooting that later same day when there was sun. The other exercise involved shooting at sunset, and finally, refining the layer mask.

This book is by far the best book I've seen on Photoshop in a long time. In full color. With beautiful subjects. Highly designed. With great tips, notes, and sidebars, Photoshop CS: The Art of Photographing Women is a very good resource on the topic of photographing women. But it is more than just about photographing women. It is about harnessing the power of Photoshop CS. The subject matter that Ames so carefully walks us through really makes for a powerful read, because if there is anything that is difficult to do with photographs of people, it is getting skin tones correct, removing hair from needless areas, taking out wrinkles, and making them look good.  I did think though that the Barbie chapter was wonked, though Ames does take you step by step in how to create the look of Barbie. The book in itself is a wonderful work of art and the designer should be commended. Photoshop CS: The Art of Photographing Women, by Kevin Ames, 368 pages, $34.99 Wiley Publishing, Inc.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at [email protected]
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