Portrait Photography

Assignment: Take a classic Portrait Photo and take another creatively and use PS to enhance or alter the image.  These are my favourite shots,

This is my first time taking portraits with a DSLR and ended up committing a cardinal sin when taking the photos (I’ll explain later). I learned some valuable lessons along the way that hopefully will help others get the photos they want.

1. I learned that incorporating some of the subjects personality or interests into the shoot frees the model to be themselves.  I knew Mark loved to play the guitar and the moment I told Him to start playing it, it was like he was in another world.

2. For guys tell them to tilt their head slightly back for immediate improvement in the photos.  When Mark and I compared the photos together we found that those pictures looked best because it highlights the man’s jaw line.

3. Take risks.  My professor Tom Szuba showed us examples of a picture taken normally and how the quality of the picture is improved immediately when approaching the shot from a different angle.  I got Mark to sit up on the porch and starting taking the photos from a “worm’s eye view” and these photos turned out to be the best.

4. Preparation is everything.  I managed to take all the shots I needed in 15 mins, but only because I spent an hour and a half preparing before Mark arrived.  I was practicing on myself to ensure the focus and exposure were right as well as explored the setting to see what pose works.

As for the cardinal sin…I confess I took the photo at 1600 ISO.  Mark was running late, and the light of day was receding at 6pm, but the shoot must go on!  Thankfully, Photoshop had a noise reducer and given that Mark was wearing neutral colours, it turned out to be a decent fix. (The problem with an incredibly high ISO is it punishes the shot with red, green and blue dots when zoomed in tarnishing the image quality, (sometimes referred to as digital noise).

Photoshopping Portraits!

This is the finished Creative Portrait:


I was inspired to create a mock-up cd-cover for Mark because Mark and I play guitar and sing together on a frequent basis, and I knew music was his passion.  This is my thought process and I how I created the finished product.

I decided on this picture because of the white background, conveniently provided by the appearance of an unaccounted-for overcast sky.  I loved how his facial expression showed focus and that his hands were so full of action.

Creative A- Mark on Guitar
Creative A- Mark on Guitar

I remembered the first thing that Mark commented on when he saw some of the others shots was that he looked like a child.  This was due to the softness in the other photos.  I wanted the photo to express how much Mark has went through, and that he is a real person who has went through a lot and that music was his method of expression.  To achieve this I had the idea of trying to leather up the photo. Essentially by increasing the highlights and shadows I was bringing out all the folds of clothing and the details in the skin and achieving a more active and weathered look.  I made the decision to also increase the Color to further this effect and increase the vibrancy in his skin.


Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights…

Next I wanted to tone down the amount of orange to create a more natural look, so I created a Blending Layer and manually painted on the Hue/Saturation adjustments.


As for the design, I applied a couple things I learned in the four weeks here at Seneca@York in my Interactive New Media course.

First in terms of typography, I decided to use a modern font because Mark is young and he represents a new generation of musicians.  I ended up using Helvetica Neue Thin for the artist name with it having the greatest weight of the two texts because I wanted the artist name to be primary (Artist names stay constant; album titles vary).  I decided to use grey for the album name and decided to use the Regular Italic font in the Helvetica Neue family because I learned tragically from my previous assignment in Design that a Ultra Thin font when printed can be unreadable.  I chose italics for the album name to create distinction in hierarchy while relying on the grey and smaller font size to keep it second in focus to the artist name.

Second a handy tip I learned from my Web Design professor Joseph Bodick, is to use layer effects instead of just creating boxes with the marquee and paint bucket tool.

layer styles

The beauty of this method is, changing a design on the fly is a lot easier with Layer Styles than having to go and individually redraw an outline, or re-color each box.

So this is it!  I’m learning a lot here in the Interactive New Media program at Seneca.  Hopefully this might help some folk!  If there’s any questions feel free to leave them here 🙂

Finished PS Altered Pic
Finished PS Altered Pic



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