Soft. Smooth. Silky. Creamy. Alabaster. Ebony. Glowing. Leathery. Weathered. Skin.
In the world of photograph retouching the color and texture of skin is one very important aspect of preparing an image. The color and shade of skin can make a person glow, or look like a corpse, or look, um, artificially tanned. One of the problems is skin is never the same from person to person and reacts to different lighting conditions quite radically. The goal, whether doing a complete retouch or just a few minor corrections, is to make sure the subject's skin color is spot-on.
Lee Varis is a prominent photographer and illustrator who has been featured in Newsweek, National Geographic, and more, with over 30 years experience. I really became interested in him when reading some reviews of the first edition of "Skin". I never got around to buying that book, though. Then, late in 2010, Varis published the second edition of this book, which similar to the first received outstanding reviews. I hemmed and hawed, though. I invested in some of Scott Kelby's books, a Bambi Cantrell book, some lighting equipment and gear, and got most of my Photoshop knowledge through the Internet and trial and error. Recently I had opportunity to purchase a stack of books from Amazon, and this was on my list of potentials. What really sealed it for me, though, was the man is endorsed by Rick Sammon. Who can resist a Rick Sammon recommendation? :)
You can go read the table of contents for yourself, since you're most likely reading this blog in a Web browser. I'll stick to a higher level description and let you fill in the details. In my opinion, this book is so completely worth the cost and then some. After you read my review, I encourage you to visit Amazon and do the "Look Inside" thing to get a sample of what you'll get with this book.
The color of skin in an image is impacted by many things. Ambient light color, strobes being used, the walls, the ceiling, the white balance, the color space in your editing software. A treatise on skin that just explored Photoshop or Lightroom would be a huge disservice to the readers. When I read this book, I was pleasantly surprised to find the book covered almost the entire work flow, from lighting to printing.
Another thing I really appreciated about this book is that it's not one of those excruciating step-by-step manuals. "Skin" is not intended for beginners; I would say journeyman level would be about right. Lee coves color management and calibration, including how to build camera profiles in a couple of different ways. The section on lighting is very nice, and more advanced than basics. Lee covers a variety of lighting situations and sources, and speaks to the rules of lighting, both in observing and breaking said rule. In the processing sessions, there are a few steps here and there, but Lee does assume the reader knows what s/he is doing in Photoshop, Lighroom, etc. I found the Photoshop sections invaluable and have already recorded some of the steps as Photoshop Actions. Skin retouching, skin replacement, now to keep the skin looking real, some tips on how to quickly achieve the correct skin tone and then how to tweak the skin tone for effect. Truly good stuff!
I really enjoyed Lee's writing style. The writing is straightforward and clear. I felt that Lee assumes his readers would be intelligent and have a good grasp of the basics of image capture and processing. The book was written in a more conversational style as opposed to how most books touching Photoshop are written. Consider yourself warned: occasionally Lee throws a couple of numbered steps in the text, but for the most part he assumes you know how to create and manipulate layers and mask. One thing I found truly useful that I did not already know, though, was the use of Advanced Blending Options. That was like a revelation for me.
I highly recommend this book, for whatever that's worth. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even more so because I did not need to be sitting in front of a computer to follow along. I will go back and read it again, and probably again and again. I will most definitely pull out many more of the Photoshop activities and record them as Actions, applying my own tweaks in the process. I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed the writing style. It's so hard to find more advanced books, as most people seem to write for beginners. After a while, all those beginner books seem to be one big duplicated mass. "Skin" stands out and on top of all the rest, in my opinion. Truly a valuable purchase.
Go get this book, and make some wonderful images!