In the foreword of this book, renowned photographer Rick Sammon offers high praise for 'Skin', and this book does not disappoint. If you have any interest in photographing people, and in particular digital capture and post-production, this is easily one of the best books out there. To get the most out of this book, you should already be comfortable with digital photography, and have a decent grasp of how to use Photoshop. With these basic skills, you will be rewarded with a treasure chest of new tips and ideas that you can directly apply to your photographs.
The book begins with a chapter on digital imaging, where Varis explains the fundamentals of how digital cameras work, and then uses that to motivate why calibrating your monitor, camera, and raw processor matters. You'll be walked through step-by-step how to perform your own calibrations for Lightroom and ACR, including how to use the x-rite colorchecker passport or the Adobe DNG profile editor to ensure proper colour calibration. I found some really great information here that I had never seen before. There are also a few pages on digital workflow (using Lightroom), although it's mostly obvious stuff.
Chapter two covers lighting and photographing people. This is obviously an introduction since this is a huge topic, and there are countless books dedicated to these subjects, and you can only really scratch the surface in the 40-or-so pages in this chapter. There is a very brief discussion of equipment, followed by descriptions of some basic lighting patterns (butterfly, Rembrandt, etc), with simple lighting diagrams and sample images. The rest of the chapter contains a somewhat eclectic assortment of topics/tips, such as using modifiers (e.g. scrims, ring flash, softboxes), balancing flash/daylight, using ambient light and reflectors, among other topics.
From here, the real meat of the book begins, which concentrates on how to use Photoshop to process images of people. Chapter 3 contains information about tonality adjustments (white/black points, curves) and colour corrections. There is a great discussion about adjusting colours for skin tones, that you'd be hard pressed to find in other sources. Chapter 4 covers black and white conversions with a number of interesting techniques including channel splitting and luminosity blending. Even though I was familiar with all of the raw Photoshop features described, I learned a lot in this chapter about some practical (and non-obvious) applications of these techniques. For example, I'd never thought of using luminosity blending of a B+W image to enhance tonality of a colour image before.
Retouching is the topic of Chapter 5, and there are some more great techniques described inside. You'll learn about basic touch-ups, colour repair, skin softening as well as several beauty retouching tips. Each one of the techniques presented is very practical and relatively easy to perform. The next chapter goes into using Photoshop to create special effects, like soft/selective focus, cross-processing, noise/grunge. The chapter ends with a discussion of tattoos including a description of how the cover image was made.
The last major chapter is one about preparing for print. Varis does a great job describing how to sharpen your images demonstrating more real-world techniques that go beyond the basic usage of smart sharpening, USM, and high pass. Even if you know how to use these tools, there's a good chance you'll learn something new here. The chapter also covers color management, and some basic print tips as well.
Having read dozens of photography and Photoshop books, I have rarely seen a book as thorough and useful as this one. This book will surely be one that I come back to again and again. Highly recommended.