June 2022


2022 JUNE

JUNE 2022 | ISSUE 117

12 Timeless Beauty: Photographing Women Over 70 with Alissa Cincotta


Off-Camera Flash Setups For Beginners with Brandon Cole

Quitting Your Day Job: Becoming A Full-Time Photographer with Bethany Ellen 38

3 Steps To Optimize Your Retouching Workflow with Dustin Lucas 50


The Ultimate Senior Portrait Experience with Gary Box


Adding Senior Films To The Photography Experience with Garon Cooper


Next Level Portrait Lighting with Josh Russell


Lighting For Sports Portraits with Matt Hernandez


Tips For Adding Men’s Boudoir To Your Brand with Pam Fields

132 158 170

Inspirations from Our Readers

Easy Manual Camera Settings For Photographers with Vanessa Joy

Final Inspiration with Felicia Schütte Portrait




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MISSION STATEMENT Shutter Magazine ’s focus is on photography education. Our goal is to provide current, insightful and in-depth educational content for today’s professional wedding and portrait photographer. Shutter uses the latest technologies to deliver information in a way that is relevant to our audience. Our experienced contributors help us create a sense of community, and have established the magazine as one of the leading photography publications in the world.

Shutter Magazine : By photographers, for photographers.

PUBLISHER Sal Cincotta

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alissa Cincotta

COPY EDITOR Allison Brubaker


CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Alissa Cincotta, Brandon Cole, Bethany Ellen, Dustin Lucas, Gary Box, Garon Cooper Josh Russell, Matt Hernandez, Pam Fields, Vanessa Joy


PHOTOGRAPHER: Holly Lund Imagery | hollylundimagery.com CAMERA: Canon R5 LENS: Canon 85mm 1.8

EXPOSURE: f/5.6 1/160 ISO 100 LIGHTING: 1 AlienBee 400, 5ft octa

ABOUT THE IMAGE: This image was taken during a 1:1 mento- ring session where I guided my student to focus on the recipe of soft light, styling, posing & connection. In addition to the light, I brought the element of softness to her wardrobe, hair and makeup, but balanced it with her intense gaze & oversized, structured flower. For post-processing, I accentu- ated the painted feel, reminiscent of a Renaissance cherub. MODEL: Teagan Parker


Families can be so much more than mini-sessions. Family portraits allow you the opportunity to create legacy portraits for your clients. This month we explore some creative ways to do that.


message from sal cincotta publisher

with Alissa Cincotta

Timeless Beauty: Photographing Women Over 70 | Alissa Cincotta

There’s definitely something to be said about letting yourself be vulnerable enough to step in front of a camera for a photo shoot. For women, especially women over a certain age, the ability to tear down your own walls and allow yourself to feel beautiful is a challenge. So many women are mothers, caretakers, homemakers, busy entrepreneurs, and so much more. Sometimes, all these women need is a little nudge to do a beauty session for themselves. I had the honor of photographing my mother-in-law, Terri Cincotta. While it may have taken more than just a little nudge (see the text message thread below), I am glad I strong- armed her into doing this shoot because now my husband and I have these images to cherish for the rest of our lives. When Sal and I saw the first image come back from retouching (for all my post-production work, I send my images to Evolve Edits, evolveedits.com), we both got choked up. I knew this was going to be an incredible experience for Terri, but I had no idea the impact it was going to have on me and Sal. I am so thankful to have these images.

SO, HOW DID THE PLANNING PROCESS GO? For starters, Terri has a nickname, TTG (Terri Tough Guy). She talks a big game. And talks a lot of trash. She’s a New Yorker, what do you expect? She had been talking trash to Sal about how he photographs all these other people, but she wanted her portrait taken. Well, I ran with it. I wanted to dial in my lighting skills a little more and wanted to push myself outside of my own comfort zone with the setups and styles I’ve always gravitated towards (ahem, natural light). I started the whole process on a Monday for a shoot the following Saturday. This is proof that you don’t need 30+ days to plan a photo shoot. It’s all about using stuff you already have and getting creative (or ordering from Amazon Prime at the eleventh hour and praying it arrives on time). I did a little bit of both for this shoot.

Timeless Beauty: Photographing Women Over 70 | Alissa Cincotta

WARDROBE & STYLING When I am planning stylized shoots, I make sure to personalize every detail to my subject. Skin tones and color schemes are my starting point. Terri is Lebanese and has a gorgeous olive skin tone. Knowing olive skin tones typically look good with any color, I had a lot of freedom here. The only color you want to steer away from with olive tones is silver—it tends to clash with the warmth of the skin. Instead, I went with gold to enhance the warmth. I find that 3 looks are perfect for an in-studio portrait session. It gives you enough opportunity to deliver a variety of looks while allowing you to complete a full session in two hours or less. These were the three colors I decided on: olive green, gold, and powder blue (this one is my favorite color on Terri). Knowing the colors, I began my hunt for wardrobe on Amazon. We have a never-ending stash of jewelry I’ve been building over the last few years, so I didn’t need to buy any of that. I went into my search knowing I wanted three styles: romantic and feminine with florals, confident and powerful glam, and a soft and sweet everyday look for the third.

HAIR AND MAKEUP I say this every time I do a shoot: Thank you, Jesus, for bringing Brandi Patton into our lives. Brandi is our go-to hair and makeup artist and a personal friend. She always understands what I am looking for, even when I don’t use English words to explain my thoughts. When it comes to women over 50, you want to be very careful with the hair and makeup. Less is definitely more. Keep foundation on the dewy side vs. matte. Matte makeup and heavy powder tend to settle into creases and enhance the look of wrinkles (why would anyone want that?).


Keep eyeliner to a minimum and go with styles that give the appearance of an eye lift like a slight wing and eyeshadow done in an upward angle. Avoid undereye eyeliner and mascara completely if possible. Blush and contour should be slightly heavier than normal, and I recommend a lip color that can be seen, but not too dark as dark lip colors tend to make lips look smaller than they really are. I sent this photo (bottom left) to Brandi for inspiration. I trust her with everything she does, so I try not to be too heavy-handed when it comes to sending her inspiration. I like to let her do her thing, and she always amazes me.



Timeless Beauty: Photographing Women Over 70 | Alissa Cincotta

LOOK #1: ROMANTIC FLORALS For our first set of shots, I started with the romantic and feminine robe shot with florals (my signature shot). This series of images I like to do right out of hair and makeup because everything is perfect. The hair is curled exactly how I want it to blow in the wind, makeup is flawless, and there’s a level of nervousness going into the first scene that gives women a look of innocence in their eyes. I don’t know what it is, but it works. Pro tip: Have mimosas during hair and makeup, but don’t let your subject have more than two glasses before getting in front of the camera. While it’s nice to get them loosened up a bit, you run the risk of droopy and red eyes, and expressions that don’t match what they really look like. I did my typical lighting setup for this scene: one single continuous light with a softbox. I love using the Westcott Solix with the 2x3 softbox for this look. By placing the light close to my subject, I was able to create a nice, soft light that evenly lit my subject and the flowers she was holding, while providing nice fall-off behind her to showcase the green of the background without having to add a second light. I used the Noelle Mirabella backdrop from Intuition Backgrounds in their fabric material for this shot. This is everything I bought from Amazon for this shoot: • Robe • Pink foreground flowers • Orchids held

I used a Manfrotto Nano Stand, clamped the smaller pink flowers to the top with a backdrop clamp, and placed the stand directly in front of my lens to shoot through the flowers. You’ll need to maneuver either your body or the flowers around a bit to create a natural gap in the florals for you to shoot through. Adding an element like this is a great way to frame your subject and add a pop of color without having to do an elaborate set design. I took a few test shots to make sure I liked the power and direction of light, then I started working with Terri on her expression. There is minimal movement needed from your subject in a shot like this, but expression will make or break your shot. I then added a box fan to get some movement in her hair—this always adds to the romantic feel of the image along with all of the other elements together.

Final Image

Final Image

LOOK #2: POWERFUL & CONFIDENT GLAM For the next look, I wanted to glam Terri up and make her feel like the strong powerhouse she is. I have a black and gold Louis Vuitton scarf she always compliments and was just gifted a gorgeous pair of black and gold crystal earrings from Mark Ross that I knew would go perfectly for this look. I needed a simple, form-fitted black dress for this shoot. On Amazon, I ordered a basic black dress and sized up so I would be able to clamp her into the dress and not run the risk of it arriving and being too small. The lighting here got a lot more complex. I started by getting the main light dialed in on Terri’s face. For the main light, I used a Westcott FJ400 with the Westcott Rapid Box Switch Octa-M softbox. I placed the light high and angled down slightly and used the Westcott Eyelighter to fill in the shadows being created by the directional light above. Because I chose a backdrop that matched the colors of the wardrobe, I needed an edge light to separate Terri from the background. I used the FJ200 with the basic reflector that comes with it, no additional modifiers for this, at a power of 1.5. This created a nice highlight along the left side of her body and hair (her left, camera right). I used the Buffalo Bill backdrop from Intuition Backgrounds in their fabric material again for this shoot and chose to NOT light the background for this one because it would have been too orange in contrast with the subtle gold of the scarf. By not adding light to the background, it allowed it to become darker and not so distracting. I also had Evolve tone the background to blend better with the gold tones in the scarf. For these photos, I wanted to showcase her personality a little more so it was all about getting her to really laugh and loosen up, not so much about having a soft and romantic expression—that just wouldn’t work with this look. Fake smiles are always so obvious in photos, so figure out ways to make your subject really laugh and you’ll capture some great expressions while they’re laughing, and their smile will be real after the laughing calms down a bit. Pro tip: Make sure you take behind the scenes of every shot :) We all got so caught up in the second outfit we forgot to take pictures of the setup!

Timeless Beauty: Photographing Women Over 70 | Alissa Cincotta

LOOK #3: SOFT AND SWEET MOM Who doesn’t want photos of themselves in a more natural, everyday look? Most females love having pictures where they’re all glammed up and fully stylized in clothes they would never pick themselves, but I believe that every shoot should have one outfit where they really feel like themselves. I like to end with this style because my subject is very warmed up on camera at this point and I can usually get the most realistic and natural expressions out of them at this stage of the shoot. The powder blue sweater I also bought on Amazon and intentionally sized up because I wanted the look of her cozied up in a chair where she just exuded comfort—in her expression, in her pose, in her wardrobe. Powder blue is my absolute favorite color on her. It brings out such a softness in her and I was so excited to photograph her in this outfit. The long crystal and pearl earrings were part of our jewelry collection already, and I added those in at the last minute. Those were a perfect touch! For the lighting here, I did two different looks: I started with strobes and ended with natural light so I could add in some prism work (you don’t get the same effect with prisms when you’re shooting with strobe).

For the strobes, I kept the Westcott FJ400 as my main light with the Westcott Rapid Box Switch Octa-M and had it positioned directionally camera right, above her and tilted down slightly. I had Terri sitting in a wingback chair with her body facing the light camera right and face square at camera. I needed to fill in the shadows again being created by the FJ400 so I moved the Eyelighter to a shorter light stand and placed that under the FJ400. I kept the FJ200 as my edge light to separate her off the chair. This time I also added the Westcott FJ80 on a Nano Stand directly behind Terri aimed at the backdrop to really make the blue tones pop and create a vignette around my subject.

Final Image

For this backdrop, I switched to the Poseidon from Intuition Backgrounds in their fabric material as well. These fabric drops are extremely simple to swap out when you don’t have a lot of hands on set and need to move quickly. They are also very easy to store—just fold them up and put them on a shelf. They will get wrinkled this way, but I find that they are extremely easy to steam out and when I don’t have time for that, I just have Evolve add a texture to the background in post-production to get rid of the wrinkles. Once I got the shots I wanted in the chair, I moved Terri to apple crates again and took a few shots with strobes, then got rid of all artificial light. I added the Lensbaby prisms from the OMNI Deluxe Collection II to have a little fun by adding another unique element to the scene.

Timeless Beauty: Photographing Women Over 70 | Alissa Cincotta


Photographing women at any age is such a fun job. We get to make women feel beautiful and see a smile on their face that is truly priceless. There are three important things to note when photographing women over 70: 1. Go easy on the makeup. You want to enhance their natural beauty, not turn them into someone they are not. 2. Styling should be feminine and soft, and still conservative. These types of beauty portraits are supposed to be about your subject. Wardrobe should complement your subject, not distract from their experience and final images. 3. Lighting is so important. Don’t create harsh light on 70+ skin. Learn and understand beauty lighting to soften wrinkles in-camera, and short light to create shadows in all the right places. I hope this article helps give you some inspiration to get out there and practice with your family members. If nothing else, it will be a great way for YOU to get images of your mother, sister, aunt, whomever. Images that you and your family can cherish forever. And at the end of the day, here’s what really matters: You get to make someone feel special for the day.

Alissa Cincotta graduated with a degree in television production and has been a part of the Salvatore Cincotta team since 2011. Today she is behind the camera regularly as Sal’s second shooter and as the executive producer and camera operator for Salvatore Cincotta Films, Behind the Shutter. Alissa is the Editor-in-Chief for Shutter Magazine and serves as Sal’s right hand, managing daily operations within the family of Salvatore Cincotta brands. website: behindtheshutter.com instagram.com/_alissacincotta/

Off-Camera Flash Setups for Beginners | Brandon Cole

with Brandon Cole

Off-Camera Flash Setups for Beginners | Brandon Cole

When I started on my journey into the world of photography, I didn’t know what to expect or where to start. All I knew is that I wanted to create amazing images and create incredible art. I remember seeing numerous creative images online and in magazines and I would think to myself, “How was the photographer able to capture that image?” and “How were they able to produce such dramatic composition that completely captivates the audience?” These questions along with many more heightened my curiosity, driving me into the beginning stages of photography, not knowing that off-camera flash would become something I would master one day.

As a portrait photographer, it’s extremely important to be aware of the lighting conditions that you face in natural environments. Whether you are looking to use natural light or off-camera flash when shooting outdoor portraits, understanding the effects of both will provide you with your desired result. Off-camera flash is like preparing an amazing full course meal. We all like a good steak, but when you really want to go all out, you add items to compliment the steak like a salad, seared red potatoes, asparagus and butter wine sauce. When you take a picture, that’s just it, a picture; but when you really want to change the dynamic of a photo, add a little off- camera flash, maybe two lights, color gels, fans, smoke and much more. Off-camera flash opens up a new world of possibilities in the creation process of an image. It provides the photographers control over lighting conditions and creates opportunities for creative brainstorming and management. It allows you the freedom to capture images any place, anytime and anywhere using artificial lighting. Having the capability to control your own lighting and light output without having to rely on natural lighting is a game changer. The only restriction to off-camera flash is your imagination.

Off-Camera Flash Setups for Beginners | Brandon Cole

What are the benefits to off-camera flash? Imagine being a photographer and you receive a message from a potential client looking hire you for your services, but there is a particular look they require and this look involves a photo shoot under the cover of darkness, outside with a backdrop of the city. Because you are not familiar with off-camera flash and how to capture images without the assistance of natural light, that is a potential client lost. The benefits of learning and knowing off-camera flash not only expands the growth and possibilities of your photography, but it also helps put money in your pocket and expand your clientele base. The obvious benefits of off-camera flash, as mentioned previously, are the ability to travel anywhere with flash, a stand and a modifier and capture images anywhere your client desires, but it also gives you the ability to choose what you want your subject lighting to look like, whether it be soft or harsh. It also allows you to manipulate your composition as you see fit. Additionally, creating the exact look of the light is another benefit as you have complete creative control to shape the light using light modifiers like softboxes, deflector plates and diffusion panels. There may be items or additions to your scenery you feel may add to the dynamics of the shot. By adding light in different areas or manipulating a scene using artificial lighting, the possibilities are endless with off-camera flash.

One of the major benefits to off-camera flash is the ability to control, manipulate and modify light anywhere you go and as you see fit. This is something that cannot be accomplished with natural light. Every scenario can easily be enhanced with the addition of one or multiple light sources. The great thing about artificial lighting is that it’s subjective. The way YOU choose to light your scene or subject is your vision and yours alone. Depending on the style of the photo shoot, it may call for harsh or soft lighting. With off-camera flash, not only can you choose the look of the lighting, but also how much ambient light you want in the photo. You may need a pop of color on the subject or in a specific area of the scene to enhance the overall look of the image: a big light source vs a small light source; a soft box vs a beauty dish; using LED lighting vs off-camera flash; whether to add color to a scene or not. Whatever your prerogative, you are the creative director. You are only limited by your imagination. As a photographer, you never stop learning. There is always something we can learn to enhance our work, whether it’s lighting, equipment, editing or more. There is always something to learn and teach yourself, which brings us to my final thoughts.

Off-Camera Flash Setups for Beginners | Brandon Cole

Off-camera flash allows the photographer to open their mind to another world of possibilities and creativity you cannot achieve with any other “light source.” I love natural light and LED lighting, but they also come with a lot of restrictions. The ability to shoot anywhere and anytime can only be achieved with off-camera flash. Learn to balance your camera settings with light and the possibilities are endless. Off-camera flash provides much more dependable and consistent results because of the freedom and creative management you have to maintain throughout the session.

Brandon Cole is a professional portrait photographer and YouTube content creator based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and a native- born resident from Indianapolis, Indiana. Unlike many photographers, Brandon’s performing arts background and creative direction plays a key factor in his ability to create dynamic, incredible images. website: brandoncolephotos.com IG: brandoncolephotography

Quitting Your Day Job: Becoming a Full-Time Photographer | Bethany Ellen

with Bethany Ellen

Quitting Your Day Job: Becoming a Full-Time Photographer | Bethany Ellen

When I started my photography career, a lot of people smiled and nodded and said, “Wow. What a great side hustle.” For a while, that’s all I thought a photography career could be. A really nice side gig to fulfill some creative energy and make me an extra dollar or two. I had no idea this was actually how people sustained themselves.

I’m not alone in that sentiment, and there are good reasons why. People stay in careers that don’t serve them for several reasons, the main ones being: • We are addicted to stability

• We don’t have adequate representation of success • We are in a permanent state of analysis paralysis

But the truth many photographers forget is that they aren’t pioneers in their field. Many photographers have overcome tons of external circumstances to support themselves solely with their studio. If you’re looking to ditch the 9-to-5 cubicle life and fully embrace entrepreneurship, the great news is you aren’t the first to do so! The better news is you can plan for long-term success while still in your safety net. Here’s the how-to guide on maximizing your Weekend Warrior lifestyle.

Quitting Your Day Job: Becoming a Full-Time Photographer | Bethany Ellen

SETTING YOUR INTENT Every morning I worked my 8-to-5 (had to arrive before 9 to account for my unpaid lunch), I would catch myself sitting in my car until the last possible second. It turns out, I was so exhausted and burnt out that I was arriving early just to sit in the parking lot for 10 minutes and get the strength to go inside. One day, I just started repeating to myself, “Quitting is coming. This isn’t forever.” It’s important to make your desire to quit your job known, even if it’s just to yourself first. There are a lot of ways that people like to do this, and everyone who’s quit their job will tell you their preferred method. Some will tell you to set a number that you’ll earn to prove you have what it takes. Some set a date. Personally, I set numbers and dates. Those numbers and dates came and went, each time with me paralyzed in fear. When I set hard lines on my initial intent, I would get spooked at the slightest inconvenience when I got close to hitting my goal. What actually helped was repeating my mantra: “Quitting is coming.” I would take a minute or two and visualize what I would say. Who I would say it to. How I felt when I was able to imagine getting to say, “This is going to be my two weeks’ notice.” Visualizing my dreams helped me understand that I could make them come true. But it wasn’t going to be easy. Eventually, my coworkers caught on that I was meant for something more too. Suddenly, it wasn’t just me reassuring myself that I would be quitting soon. My coworkers were popping into my office to say, “Girl! When are you getting out of here?! When are you gonna do what you were meant to do?”

Quitting Your Day Job: Becoming a Full-Time Photographer | Bethany Ellen

IDENTIFYING YOUR BENEFITS Creatives often intertwine the words “benefits” with “health insurance.” In truth, day jobs offer all kinds of strengths and benefits. It’s often hard to recognize all the strengths you have where you are when where you are kind of sucks. However, you have to be able to identify your advantages to win any fight. Take a look in your HR portal. Really comb

through all your benefits you may not know about, like: • Tuition reimbursement or continuing education credits • Special discounts with certain brands or partners • Discounted travel packages

• Vacation or sick time • Counseling or therapy

You might be surprised. In digging through my benefits with my old employer, I found everything from continuing education reimbursement toward my Certified Professional Photographer credentials, to special insoles for my shoes to support my high arches, to reimbursement for my gym membership. Even if you can’t find hidden treasures in terms of dollars, think about the other benefits from the situation you’re currently in. Do you benefit from a flexible or fixed schedule? Commission or steady pay? A positive environment? Coworkers who book with you?

Don’t go through these benefits with the idea that you’re finding reasons to stay at something that no longer serves you. Opportunities come into our lives when they’re right for us, but it’s also OK to move on when you have outgrown what used to be a “dream job.” These benefits are what you use to work the system! Use your PTO to schedule an epic destination session. Continue your education with marketing classes! Use your free counseling to go to therapy and identify what fear is keeping you at that terrible job in the first place. Identifying your benefits and strengths will also help you understand where it’s going to hurt when you leave. You can start budgeting for those changes financially and emotionally

Quitting Your Day Job: Becoming a Full-Time Photographer | Bethany Ellen

IDENTIFYING YOUR OPPORTUNITIES Admittedly, this step is easier. Obviously, when you’re not happy in your current employment situation, it’s easy to see the bad parts about your job. However, if done correctly, identifying why you are currently unhappy will help you make the change you need to make in your own company. You don’t simply want to run away from something, you want to run towards an opportunity that fulfills you both creatively and financially. What are you currently lacking, and how are you planning on bringing an abundance of that into your new life? Is your business strong enough to handle operating expenses, support your current lifestyle, and give you a healthy nest egg for savings? Are you turning away clients because you don’t have room on your schedule, or are you chasing your next lead? These are all opportunities you’ll have to handle as you make that transition.


Time blocking is a super helpful way to provide structure within your environment. It’s especially helpful as you’re managing all kinds of responsibilities in your day job. When I worked retail, we were given specific “zones” to be in during the day. Time blocking is taking your calendar and “zoning” yourself to specific tasks you need to get done. It’s easy for you to conceptualize how long you have to work on a project and what you’re moving on to. That way you don’t get stuck in an Instagram scroll break upon completion of one task. You have to use your time effectively as a Weekend Warrior. Scary Hour When we’re juggling work/life balance, especially with two jobs, a lot of times the “scary” tasks get pushed to the wayside. We often say, “Oh, I’m too busy” to look at things like insurance, finances or taxes. In reality, sometimes we’re just too scared to even look. Once a week I host Scary Hour, where I set my phone timer and accomplish all of the scary things I was too afraid to put at the forefront of my mind in the last week. Sometimes, it’s not actually the scary logistics of entrepreneurship keeping me behind, it’s just myself. Important vs Urgent Controlling chaos is not the easiest of feats! One of the greatest time management tricks I’ve ever learned came from my day job. When things get thrown at you, ask yourself if the task is urgent, important, neither or both. Chart it out. How important is this to advancing your photography business? Does it need to get done urgently? Put the goals you have on this chart. After a SWOT analysis, this is one of the most helpful things you can do for your personal development. Tackle the chart clockwise, starting with the most important and urgent tasks first.

Quitting Your Day Job: Becoming a Full-Time Photographer | Bethany Ellen

AM I BEING PRANKED? NOPE. JUST TESTED! Once you’ve set your goals you’ll notice an abundance of distractions and “real world” factors that feel like a sabotage on your plans. Once you’ve internally set your intent to quit and come up with your plan, BOOM! New giant work project. Your house needs work done. An entire pandemic hits the world. Personally, I believe this is the universe testing you. Are you ready to handle all of this while your business is your sole income? If you know how to properly pivot, you’ll land in good shape. Sometimes, when you land in a dark place, you’ll think you’ve been buried. The truth is, you’ve been planted. These challenges arise to show you just how strong you are.

REMEMBER: YOU CAN FIGURE IT OUT Fear tells us we deserve to stay fulfilling someone else’s dream because we cannot imagine a world in which we dare to earn what we’re worth. It’s important for every photographer to remember that they are not the first ever person to sustain themselves with income earned from photography. Everything can be figured out in due time, you just have to give yourself the chance to try.

Bethany Ellen is an award-winning photographer based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Known for her dynamic, artistic maternity photography, Bethany seeks to create bold works of art. Her passion lies in helping other photographers realize their own potential. website: bethany-ellen.com instagram.com/bethany.ellen/

3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

with Dustin Lucas

3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

1. BUILD A BASE EDIT IN LIGHTROOM Editing all starts with good bones like lighting, posing, composition, color, exposure compensation, etc. After you import images into Lightroom and you have your sights on an image, it’s time to dive into Develop mode. From top to bottom we will work our way through a simple edit. I will want to adjust profile, white balance, exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, HSL and lens correction. Starting with profile, I have already purchased the Color Fidelity pack because my Sony a7iii colors just don’t look right with the Adobe profiles like Adobe Color, Adobe Standard. The camera matching profiles are worse so I did some research and found these. This brightens the skin, adds some warmth and magenta tones as well as helps with the clipped black point. (Fig. 1) When it comes to post-production, you really need to develop a roadmap or workflow for how to get the results you want without wasting time. Many successful photographers have a secret: They outsource so they can focus on generating more revenue for their business. Even in those cases you might want to do a same day, down and dirty edit to get a few sneak peeks online for immediate social engagement from your client. Knowing how to edit isn’t a deal breaker, but for me it’s cathartic, why I do what I do. Everyone has their own reasons, but my point is there may come a time you need to turn an image fast for a client and no one is there to help you. In this article you will learn the three steps to make your retouching workflow better combining Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. Starting out with the basics, step one is building a base level edit in Lightroom. We are going to apply a profile for accurate colors, adjust white balance, brightness and tonal density. Step two is using the Edit In Photoshop feature so we can export to Photoshop, apply basic beauty editing and save our un-flattened edit back in Lightroom. In step three it’s all about attention to details to dodge and burn and apply custom profiles for creative toning. We got this!

fig 1

Next, I need to make a decision on lens correction as this will affect brightness. Shooting with the 85mm I will have some pincushion effect where it looks like the center of the frame is pushing away from the camera. The technical fix is to apply a bulge effect to the center to correct this, but it makes the subject’s face larger as well as removes our vignette—not a good idea. By turning this on we can remove the distortion easily by moving the slider to 0 while still removing the vignette. This is not a custom lens profile. You would not want to save this in a preset. (Fig. 2) Exposure is on point but looking at the histogram we lose a lot of white density as the right edge has a big gap. We can hold Shift and double-click whites to fix this, but it’s just too much for the skin. (Fig. 3)

fig 2

fig 3

3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

So, we can dial that back in half, and to check on the black point we can turn on the clipping tool by striking the J key. We cannot control the density more effectively, but again this is corrective, not creative, so we don’t want to do much toning in this stage. (Fig. 4) I dialed in my white balance in camera with Kelvin so no need to alter temp and tint, but let’s dive into a quick HSL adjustment to see if any color casts and saturations need attention. Since her nails are painted orange we don’t want to pull down orange tones in skin, so we might save that for step two. We can remove blues in shadows easily using the target adjustment tool. (Fig. 5) This is a really good start and our base edit is ready to see some touchup work in Photoshop.

fig 4

fig 5

2. EDIT IN PHOTOSHOP FOR BASIC BEAUTY EDITING Before we hold Command and strike the E key to edit in Photoshop, we need to get Lightroom preferences in check. Holding Command and striking , (comma) opens Preferences so we can go to the External Editing tab. (Fig. 6) Now we’ve come to the great debate of file format, color space, bit depth, etc. and I gotta be honest, this stuff confuses me too! Starting with file format, I use TIFF since my files can stretch to 4 GB. PSD files are limited to 2GB. If I need a larger format, Photoshop will convert for me to .PSB—that’s easy. Color space is one of those things where you try to educate yourself and it can give you bad results when you go outside the defaults. I decided to render my image in all three options: ProPhoto RGB, Adobe RGB and sRGB. (Fig. 7)

fig 6

fig 7

3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

These are subtle differences and I stick with the Lightroom defaults of ProPhoto RGB since Photoshop will assign the proper profile. (Fig. 8) If you get really bad color it’s simple to assign the proper profile in Photoshop. For example, opening the ProPhoto RGB TIFF in Photoshop looks really dark and less saturated. (Fig. 9) I can change this in the top menu bar in Edit>Assign Profile and choose the proper Profile. Save the image and it’s back to life. (Fig. 10) Take this with a grain of salt as you will likely convert to sRGB when all is said and done. Outputting files is another conversation and tied to the recommended settings per lab, web browser, online galleries, etc. Let’s move into basic beauty editing.

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In Photoshop, I want to work non-destructively by duplicating the background layer, creating multiple layers for removals, reducing casts in skin, etc. I recommend finding an action set online and buying one to keep things simple. (Fig. 11) That’s what I did and learned how to use a brush to mask in and out effects along with removing blemishes with the heal/clone tools.

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3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

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In my action, skin smoothing is automatically applied with Portraiture 3 and set to 60% opacity. First we need to mask out all the non-skin areas by choosing foreground color black and painting on white mask. (Fig. 12) Working my way up from that layer I can use the removals layer to remove blemishes, clean up hair, remove distractions, etc. You could separate these if you feel it’s necessary for more complicated editing. Personally, I start with skin using the spot healing brush by striking the J key so I don’t have to sample areas and can quickly click and go. (Fig. 13) When needed I can switch to other healing tools by holding Shift and striking the J key. For hair, I think the healing brush is a better option so I can sample where it is pulling from. Removing the flyaways and any hair getting too close to the eyes has gotta go. (Fig. 14)

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3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

We will also need to paint back in some hair so it looks realistic, using a 2px brush sampled from her eyebrow. (Fig. 15) On the color layer I will use the brush tool, sample from a surrounding area and paint with 10% to remove discoloration in the shadows. (Fig. 16) I can also recover highlights on the shirt to cut down on the brightest part of the image pulling away from the subject. (Fig. 17) Now that we are all done touching up the essential features, let’s save our TIFF so it saves back into Lightroom Classic and continue in Photoshop for the detail work.

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3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

3. ATTENTION TO DETAIL When it comes to imagery, details matter and the first thing we need to do is reduce the bright tones to not distract from the main subject. In this image, her shirt is taking too much attention and we need to burn this down. (Fig. 18) Next is sharpening and when zooming in to 100% I see her left eye, camera right is softer. We can apply a sharpening layer and mask her left eye specifically. (Fig. 19)

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Now we can jump to our Darken layer to paint white in the mask to burn down the background. With this same layer I like to slightly darken under the cheeks to accentuate some dimensionality on her face. (Fig. 20) Then we can lightly brighten her cheekbone and chin. This is pretty standard for me to do so I don’t necessarily have to liquify her face. This creates a slimming effect and is natural. (Fig. 21)

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3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

Her clothing does need some minor attention to smooth the wrinkles and remove distractions. Moving to my Remove layer I can strike the J key to use the spot healing tool. This works quite well for wrinkles but when I need to manually sample an area I can hold Shift and strike the J key to get the healing brush. Sampling is easy: hold Option and click where you want to sample from and paint in areas with more control. (Fig. 22) I am also noticing some discoloration in her shirt as well. I can jump into the Color layer, strike the B key to get the brush, set opacity to 5%, sample in a neutral area and paint in where needed. (Fig. 23)

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Now we are ready for some creative toning and can apply additional dodge and burn techniques. Since I have a few actions put together I can quickly cycle between a few options to get that final look I was going for. I do not want to matte the dark tones because that is really distracting and takes away from her natural hair. (Fig. 24) Going to use the sharpened affect the heaviest on her eyes and face. (Fig. 25)

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3 Steps to Optimize Your Retouching Workflow | Dustin Lucas

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Now, if you want to apply Liquify, I tend to do this last as it will be destructive to our beauty editing. There are a ton of workflows and ways to do this so take it with a grain of salt. This is how I work. Once I am happy with the details I will hold Shift, Option and Command while striking the E key to create a smash layer and rename it Liquify. Then I want to have the ability to make adjustments to my Liquify layer in the future so I need to convert it to a Smart Object. (Fig. 26) Now we are ready to jump into Filter>Liquify to lightly thin her face. Now I usually only do this per a client’s request or if I captured them in an unflattering angle/pose. Using face-aware Liquify I can quickly thin her jawline and face by moving the points on her face. (Fig. 27)

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Last thing I need to do is enlarge her eye on the left as she was conscious of this during the shoot. Again, subtle goes a long way and you do not want your client to not recognize themselves. (Fig. Before and After)



THE RESULTS Boom—I am really happy with the way this portrait turned out and that’s what it’s all about. Push yourself to edit better and using these three steps really lets you handle all the aspects of editing. Start out in Lightroom to get a base edit, move into Photoshop for beauty editing, removals, dodge and burn and creative toning. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend finding an image you like of another artist and trying to match it. This is called a tear sheet, where you look at catchlights in the eye, depth of field, focal length, editing style, etc. You got this!


Dustin Lucas is a full-time photographer and educator focused on the wedding industry and the academic world. After achieving his Master of Fine Arts degree, a career opportunity opened once he began working with Evolve Edits. Through teaching photography classes and writing about photography, Dustin continues to expand his influence on art and business throughout the industry. website: evolveedits.com instagram.com/evolveimaging/

with Gary Box

I am photographing many high school seniors who I photographed their mom or dad’s senior photos. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been in this business for over 33 years in the same town. I keep joking that the first kid that comes in and says “you did my grandma’s senior photos,” maybe then I should hang it up. I often ask many of my seniors’ parents, “So who did YOUR senior portraits?” To the ones that say “you did!” I always ask how they look today. I get comments like, “They still look great, except for the hairstyle.” Some say, “Oh, I don’t remember.” I think that’s sad. I hope none of mine are saying that. I hope they remember the experience they had with me. I keep adding new aspects to the senior expeience, trying to give them much more than just great photos that will last their entire lives. I’d love to share some of those with you! It starts with the Studio Tour. We don’t do “consultations”—that’s not a fun word. It sounds like you’re considering a medical procedure. Instead, we do a Studio Tour. OK, I’ll confess, it’s a consultation, and then some. We start by greeting them, offing them a soda or water. I shake their hand and introduce myself. My tour starts with a slide presentation, using an Apple TV on a large TV in the gallery. It starts with “Who are you?” I explain this is the most important question I will ask them. I want to know who they are, because I want to capture more than just what they look like, I want to capture WHO they are!

The Ultimate Senior Portrait Experience | Gary Box

The presentation goes into their school activities first. I have images that illustrate not only football, cheer, basketball, etc., but also band, color guard, theater and more. The second section covers non-school activities. More photos to get them thinking! I show an image of a senior boy with a rope. I tell them he is a champion roper who came from near Houston. Their eyes get big, that’s a seven-hour drive. I tell them I shot low and he loved how it made him look tall and strong. Other images have stories attached to them. Like the bowler who’s throwing a ball and it’s not yet touching the ground. I tell them how I stood in the middle of the bowling lane, which is slick as ice, and told her to throw the ball at me and how I captured it before it even hit the ground. I took the shot, jumped out of the way and she made a strike with that shot. So did I. I want them to relate to the stories behind the images and how they capture the person in them. I also cover images that capture their hobbies, career goals, location options and more. I show them the portrait of a dancer on the Tulsa Performing Arts Center stage and how if we put forth some effort, it’s amazing the places we can get access to. Often, we only need to ask! Or the senior boy who loves to play guitar and we were able to shoot inside the legendary music hall, Cain’s Ballroom. At this point, they are realizing, this isn’t going to be boring. There’s a little psychology to it. As we talk about these ideas, more and more starts to be revealed about who they are and what they love.

The Ultimate Senior Portrait Experience | Gary Box

We explain our Boomerang Sessions (I’ll cover that more in depth in a moment) and how their album can cover their entire senior year. This is much more than a simple photo shoot. We follow that with a tour through our 6,000-square-foot studio. We show mom what products everone buys (the preselling begins!) and lightly cover the financial aspects of the process. If I can get them in for a tour, I have almost a 90% booking rate. We send the ones who book with us home with a style guide giving them all kinds of clothing tips, makeup tips and more. The day of their shoot is all about fun! From the moment they walk in the door, we are catering to them. We take their clothes from their hands, put them in the dressing room and get them a cold drink. The girls have a stylist team they can opt into. Our hair and makeup artists come to the studio and meet them there instead of running to multiple places. They can look at their clothes and match the makeup and hair to their style. After the makeup is done, we start finalizing our plan, looking at clothing and reviewing their Pinterest idea board we ask them to build. This lets me know the style of images they like, so I can custom tailor my photography to their taste. They might like dramatic, whimiscal, playful or a mix. This is usually apparent in their idea board.

During their photo shoot, we pay close attention to every detail. Their hair needs to be perfect. If the clothing needs to be tailored, we might clamp it up for the perfect fit. Most 17-year-old seniors don’t know how to pose themselves in a flattering way, so I coach them into the best angles for their body type. I’ve been told over and over how helpful it is when I show them the best way to stand. I joke with them and get them laughing. Even the guys that don’t want to be there end up liking it. We typically start at the main studio and then go to the outdoor studio. This is where the experience escalates a little! Our outdoor studio is about four miles from the main studio and has airplanes, fire truck, old pickups, a VW van and lots of sets to choose from. We also have the Box Bus! It’s a short school bus that was converted into a party bus. I turned the back into a dressing room, complete with mirror, makeup lights and more. It’s air conditioned, has a refrigerator full of cold drinks and more. From there we can go on to any other locations they like. If they have big ideas, I like to make a big production out of it. If it takes setting up multiple lights to light up an airplane because he wants to be a pilot, no problem! Like to scuba dive? Let’s go to the lake. A rock climber? OK, I will hang over the top of the cliff as you climb up beneath me. I’ve even gone sky diving with a senior! No idea is too big if that’s their passion.

The Ultimate Senior Portrait Experience | Gary Box

After their main session, they come back to the studio in just a couple of days for their order session. We use room view and show their portaits on their wall for mom and dad to help them design their custom album layout. But their experience isn’t over yet! We still have their Boomerang Sessions! What’s a Boomerang Session? What happens when you throw a boomerang? It comes back! I tell them they can come back as many times as they want throughout the year! A fall shoot or snow session, spring sports, prom dress or cap and gown! They can come back as many times as they want, adding to their album, to their senior year story. You might be wondering how that works. We put their album printing on hold. They get their individual prints and digitals now, and we print their book when they have completed their Boomerang Sessions. Some seniors do one, but we’ve had them do up to six! The more they come back, the better we get to know them and the more they spend! By the end of their senior year, they are like family to us. We get invited to their grad parties and never show up empty handed. Some come back when they are a college senior and hopefully throughout their lives. After all, one day I want to photograph their kids and give them a great experience too.

Gary has been preserving milestone moments of people’s lives for over three decades. He is now photographing seniors who he did their mom and dad’s senior portraits. website: garybox.com instagram.com/garyboxart/

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