Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies Paperback – Aug 9 2010
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From the Back Cover
What is the color of skin?
You may think you know, until you try to reproduce what you see. Differences in software, hardware, lighting, calibration—everything has an impact on color. And that's all before you confront the differences between people: young, old, male, female, different ethnicities, wearing makeup or not, wrinkled or tattooed—even their notions about what looks good!
In this new edition of his hot-selling guide, top Hollywood photo-illustrator Lee Varis guides you step by step through the maze. Find out how he lights, captures, color-corrects, and retouches images of people in all their variety—using the very latest Photoshop and Lightroom tools—and discover his secrets to making people look compelling in their own skin.
Understanding the basics of digital capture and workflow
Starting with the right hardware and software settings
Developing your digital color "chops"
Mastering Rembrandt lighting, natural lighting, and other lighting techniques
Overcoming common digital skin problems, such as too much red
Composing shots, posing models, and taking formal portraits or candid shots
Trimming the fat, lighting up the eyes, and filling in wrinkles
Using new blur filters, creating a grunge look, and adding dazzling effects
Sharpening, soft proofing, and simulating, so you can print with success
Discovering what can and what can't be done in post-process
Learn new camera calibration techniques
Understand lighting for many different effects
Discover color-correction techniques for every type of skin
Learn new special effects like HDR Toning in Photoshop CS5
About the Author
Lee Varis is a photo-illustrator working in Hollywood. He has been involved in commercial photography for three decades. His images have been featured in National Geographic, Newsweek, and Fortune magazines, and both his writing and photography have been featured in trade journals such as PDN, PEI, Design Graphics, and others. His work has appeared on movie posters, video box and CD covers, and in numerous brochures and catalogs. Varis conducts seminars and workshops for APA, PPA, ASMP Maine Media Workshops, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and LIGHT Photographic Workshops. He is the president of LADIG (Los Angeles Digital Imaging Group).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If you shoot models or headshots in a studio only, this is a great reference since you likely are going for 1-2 great images that you can lavish attention on over several hours. I'd give it 5 star.
If you shoot sessions, e.g., seniors, children, engagements, babies, etc., these methods will bog down your workflow and you're going to be doing sessions in many plus hours rather than quickly and efficiently under an hour. There are many better methods that are quicker, more efficient, and utilize a stronger Lightroom centric workflow rather than Photoshop. And it means you can have a life. You really don't need to know LAB mode, be using math and numbers to create good skin tones, start obsessively taking your INFO dropper and plopping it all around your image looking for black and white points, etc. Honestly, that's why we have eyes and a brain - to create pleasing skin tones and white balance rather than correct skin tones and white balance. Any one who has shot outdoors knows that you warm up full sun images a bit more and cool down green images a bit more than neutral. For these reasons, I'd give this book a 1 star.
Finally, the book is both heavily technical and yet very basic information is presented. Shoots require a lot of expensive equipment that the person to whom this book is targeted likely isn't going to have available. For that reason, I greatly respect and prefer approaches by other photographers such as Zach Arias, who adapt their techniques and workflows as technology evolves and whose training/workshops/videos/books have a much more universal appeal. I learned much more and better techniques for good skin tones and color from other sources than this book.
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!
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.
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