Step-by-Step: Yoga Tailor

Time for another step-by-step tutorial on how I created this image. This is one of the images that I created in my recent yoga test shoot (if you haven’t seen the others just click here). Before we dive in, let me give you an idea of what I was trying to create for this project. My main goal was to get away from what you typically see in yoga imagery (super soft and pretty) and try to create something that was a little more powerful and dramatic. But, I didn’t want to go too dark and lose the beauty of the models either. Mainly, I was just trying to show the tone in their bodies but still not to the point where it loses all of the soft and pretty vibe.

Here’s the image straight out of the camera:

During the beginning of the shoot when I was working with Tailor we lucked out and had some sun poke out from behind the clouds. This definitely helped with the final product because it washed out the windows (rather than having some dark ominous clouds in the background). I was working with my standard three-light setup and you can really tell the two rim lights on her right arm. Although we were killing a lot of the ambient we still had some great natural rim lighting going on from the two windows behind her.

The next step is to bring it into Photoshop and perform my base processing technique. I’ve recently started creating actions and now I have an automated process where all I have to click is one button for it to apply a few filters, layers and layer adjustments. I can then go in and dial each piece to be exactly where I want it. If you have a few things you do in Photoshop all the time it might be worth it to create some actions. Even better, I use a Wacom Intuos4 (and soon the new Intuos5) for all of my retouching. The great thing about this is I have a few buttons on the side of my tablet that I can make presets and one of them is called “Base Retouch”. I click that button once and a few seconds later the image looks like this.

This is what really gives my images that hyper-real look. But, it usually brings up the reds and yellow a lot so I have to use a Hue/Saturation layer to bring those tones down. If you compare the first image to this image you’ll see the skin tone is a little more flat and don’t quite pop anymore. The next step is to correct those tones and bring a little more life back into her skin. But, at the same time, I’m correction the tones for everything in the image.

One thing to note here is that it’s very hard to simulate the process from start to finish. Basically, in order to create the step-by-step tutorials I go back to the image and take screen grabs in chunks of the processing. I know when I was creating the image I was toying with the skin tone until the very end but the actual adjustment layer is in the middle of my layers palette. I bring this up because the skin looks too orange to me in this screen capture but it looks perfect in the final image.

The next piece of the puzzle is to add some dodging and burning.

This is really the other half of creating the hyper-real look. I accentuate the highlights and shadows by dodging and burning. One thing I have come to learn is that shadows are really what help create tone. So this is the step where I really carve out the persons body and try to accentuate the muscles. There’s not a ton to do here but I dodged her right arm to accentuate the rim lighting a bit more and burned her jaw line.

The next step is one of my favorite tools in Photoshop… Gradients.

It’s pretty hard to tell but I’ve added three gradients here. One in each of the windows to start to create that spill of light effect and one at the bottom to fade the ground to black. If you look closely, you’ll be able to see that her face and her right arm are lighter than the previous image.

Here is where we add a lot of drama to the image by adding a starburst in the window. I’ve also added a bit more glow to the left window to give it the impression that more light is spilling through the window where the “sun” is. The rim light really helps pull off this look because if you look at her right side you’ll see her top already has a nice highlight down the side as if the sun is spilling right onto it.

At this point, I’m starting to notice that the processing is making her right arm look really bright and her left arm really dark. So, I just use two simple curves layers to darken one arm and lighten the other.

Now the two arms look much more balanced. The last and final step is to fix the windows. As I mentioned earlier, I adjusted the toning of the image and that really made the windows look too orange. So I took one last Hue/Saturation layer and adjusted the color of just the windows. And then I added a few more gradients to the center of the starburst to remove just a bit more of the black window lines (sorry couldn’t think of anything else to call them).

And that’s the final image! There’s definitely a lot of post processing involved but it has to be captured right in camera for it to be able to pull off the final look. Here’s a cool little before and after so you can see the full changes at once.



As always, I’m more than happy to answer any questions any of you have. Just leave them in the comments below and I’ll get to them as soon as I can. More test shoots are in the works so I should have some more step-by-step tutorials coming soon. Hope you enjoyed the post!


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