I do headshot photography and I've really been inspired by the work of Theo and Juliet. My question is this...does anyone have an idea of what techniques were used to achieve such crisp edges/glowing skin effect/bright eyes? Does a ton of it have to do with the lighting and the sharpness of the lenses they use? Or is it all done in post?
I've been playing around trying to replicate it with various layered levels of high pass set on overlay and then masking so some edges are sharper than others, but I typically end up with a bit too much noise or that supremely unattractive overly sharpened "bad iphone app HDR" effect.
I see a similar sharp skin glow (almost like the skin itself glistens, if that makes sense) around here in some beauty retouch portfolios, so I'm thinking there is a certain common technique here I'm not yet aware of.
This particular one looks "over" sharpened in photoshop.
But the crisp, detailed headshots, beauty shots, you see published can attribute the significant part of the look to an expensive lens and a camera body that reproduces/holds the detail.
Learn to tell the difference between an image that is capture sharp but slightly soft because it hasn’t been digitally sharpened, and an image where the subject is out of focus.
Look at the hair and eyes to see if it bleeds together or if it separates well. If you can see the strands of hair, eyelashes and eye detail crisply, then you have
a sharp image. If iris detail is lacking, the eyes are not sharp.
With digital sharpening you can give an illusion of a sharper image but the detail that wasn't there is not going to emerge from nowhere – no matter how powerful it could be, Photoshop is not a TV crime show (where blurry to sharp is filmed backwards).
(The irony is that when you have good sharpness the image will sharpen up really well but a blurry image only becomes contrasty when sharpened...)
Interesting points, everyone! Thank you! I was a retoucher first and a photographer second, so I'm used to photo editing being my crutch if something doesn't go exactly as I want it on the shoot. It's always helpful to be reminded which parts of a great photograph are due to the raw image and which are due to awesome retouching.
I'm going to purchase my first Canon L series lens soon! Looks like now it's time to save up for a camera upgrade as well!
From the catchlights and the shadows (or lack of them) in both photos, I’d say both were lit with one light, a strip box (without grid) turned horizontally, not far above the camera or the model.
I wouldn’t say the first one (the broken link) is all that sharp. The eyes, hair, lips, etc., look soft. Nothing in the first photo looks overly sharp (or even sharp) to me. I doubt that much retouching was done to the first photo. The softness in the skin is mostly from the fact that it isn’t terribly sharp. Also, the proximity of the main light to the lens and to the model helps to soften the skin, i.e., it doesn’t create shadows that bring out skin texture.
Also, I’d say the second photo has had minimal retouching. You can see the blemishes and imperfections in the skin. I agree that it has been over-sharpened. Also, the size of the pores seems large to me for a photo of this size. I believe it’s possible that texture (or noise to simulate skin texture) may have been added. I can’t say for sure.
If by the glow you mean the appearance of the specular highlights (i.e., the lightest areas of the forehead, tip of the nose, areas below the eyes, chin and model’s right (camera left) shoulder, I’d also attribute that to the lighting. The fact that the softbox was so close to the model softens the light, so the highlights are lighter but smooth – without being contrasty or blown out.
As I look at other photographers images, when I find one that has a completely different look and feel to it, a certain "pop" that others just do not have, three words keep coming up, time and time again. They are Medium Format Digital.
Kelsey Bullock Retouch wrote: I'm going to purchase my first Canon L series lens soon! Looks like now it's time to save up for a camera upgrade as well!
You don't need to invest a lot in the camera -- invest time in perfecting your technique.
For instance, the second image in the OP gets much of its sharpness from quantity and quality of light, as well as decent glass. A Nifty Fifty can get that sharp at around f8. Correct exposure helps, too -- if the whites in eyes are almost but not quite blown out, they have the most detail per bit your camera can capture.
Chimping (or trusting the histogram) can get you close, but if you shoot RAW those can be deceptive. It's better and ultimately quicker to test single variables under known conditions: your lens on your camera under your lights with a target you can read detail in, at about a 30 degree angle to the sensor plane, with the camera on a tripod, a shutter release and the mirror locked up. Use a pin to mark the camera's indicated focus point so when you pixel-peep on the big screen you can tell exactly how far off it is (if at all) and also measure the exact depth of focus for that combination.
For headshots as given, f8 to f11 is pretty much the norm -- at that range and 80-100mm or so, that should be enough to get nose to eyes in focus.