Focus your lighting
Use ornate locations without distractions
When shooting environmental portraits, it is important to make good use of the location to introduce added interest and to compliment the personality of the subject and tone of the scene. When shooting weddings for example, photographers will often find themselves shooting their subjects in some very ornate and beautiful surroundings and the client will want to see that setting emphasised in their photographs. However, with added detail comes the risk of background or peripheral distractions, that can draw the viewer’s eye from the subject into the busy scene around them. This is where directional lighting plays an important role – by controlling where light flows within your scene, you can visually direct the eye to where you want the focus to be. This can be done using a multi-flash setup and light shaping accessories such as snoots and grids, but this is not always practical. Sometimes you don’t have time to repeatedly alter your lighting to find the perfect balance and on other occasions the venue may not allow too much equipment to be set up. In these cases software is the answer – in Lightroom, Camera Raw, Capture and Photoshop, it is possible to simulate directional and condensed lighting effects.
Open in Camera Raw
From within Photoshop, choose Open, navigate to the folder containing your image and choose Camera Raw from the Format menu. Then click open to move your file into ACR. RAW files will open automatically in ACR and you can simply use the Develop Module in Lightroom for both RAW and Jpeg files.
Perform lens corrections
Move to the Lens tab and apply the standard distortion and Chromatic Aberration corrections. This image required a slight perspective alteration to balance the angle of the stairs and other uprights in the scene.
Call up the Adjustment Brush
Hit K to activate the Adjustment Brush and Zero all settings by ensuring all the sliders in the panel are centred. Choose a Brush with a medium feather and size. Then lower the Flow rate to around 40%.
Darken the image
Lower the exposure by dragging the appropriate slider to the left by around 1.5 to 2 stops. Then paint over the entire image to darken it. Don’t worry if the shot looks underexposed, as we will selectively remove the effect in the next step. We need enough darkness to create contrast with the bright areas of the image.
Remove the darkness
Toggle the Erase radio for the Adjustment Brush and brush over the subject’s face and upper body. Gradually work the effect down to create a light fall-off effect moving down the dress.
Create a new Adjustment Brush pin and apply some strokes over the subject. Then drag the Temperature Slider to the right to add some tone to the subjects’s skin. This will create the look of a CTO gel or other warming filter over a flash.
Make global edits
Go back to the Basic Panel and apply some general Contrast and Clarity adjustments. Here the Clarity slider was pulled to the left to soften the image and create a slight glow to compliment the subject.
Move into Photoshop
Open your image in Photoshop to make any further retouching adjustments you feel are necessary. Here a duplicate layer was made (Ctrl [Mac: cmd] + J ) a light Gaussian Blur applied and the layer Blend Mode changed to Soft Light. This added a further glow effect to soften skin tone and subtly boost contrast and colour.