Given a RAW file of a glamour photo, what are the "must dos" first steps BEFORE any retouching is done to enhance the photo? Although I realize that this will be subjective to a degree, I'm hoping for a simple & fool proof step by step guide of things that can be done to a RAW file before it starts going through a creative process.

I'm guessing I need to do the following, at least:

  1. Sharpening (but how specifically?)
  2. Color correction (which technique?)
  3. ???

Once I get the RAW file to a decent starting point, I need to blur out a few things and then flatten it. The PSD will then be sent to another person to undergo a creative retouching. Suggestions?

  • 2
    This might be better to ask on photography.SE. There are many possible workflows. How depends on what tools you have at your disposal. Also what medium are you targeting etc etc.
    – joojaa
    Oct 19 '15 at 6:21

Workflows vary from one person to another. A couple of points to keep in mind.

1) Don't get hung up on "white balance", I use the term "right balance" since correct balance may not be flattering in glamour photos.

2) Make sure you don't end up with what I call "electroluminescent plasma skin". There are ways to get appealing skin without creating a Barbie. I have a full post, and two preceding ones on my site. I am writing the URL, if the rules don't permit it may be deleted.



Disclaimer: I'm not a professional photographer so somebody who is might completely discredit this... but here goes.

First thing I'd do is normalize the image. That is adjusting the whites, blacks, and colors to look as natural as possible.

Now you can use different processes for this depending on your workflow but here's what how I'd go about it.

  1. In the RAW Settings adjust the Whites and Blacks to reduce both (negative white, positive black). Your image will look a bit dull but that's fine

  2. Now in Photoshop add a Curves Adjustment Layer and begin by holding the Alt while sliding the Black and White slider (one at a time) inward. Hold the Alt will show you when things begin to appear.

  3. Still in the Curves Adjustment Layer its usually good to add a small S-Curve to the image. This puts a little contrast back into it.

  4. Now create a Color Balance Adjustment Layer and fix your blues and reds mostly depending on the lighting. You want it to look natural.

Create Merged Layer

Cmd / Ctrl+Opt / Alt+Shift+E

Now you should have a good base image to start with. To do the basic sharpening you'll probably want to use High Pass Filter to begin with, be subtle about it.

  1. Duplicate the Merged Layer
  2. Convert the top one to Smart Object / use Smart Filters
  3. Change the Blend Mode to Overlay
  4. Filter > Other > High Pass Filter -- I find somewhere between 4 and 6 to be pretty good but play with it so you can see what it does. You might even want to do this different strengths for different parts say foreground/background. To do that just apply it, mask the part you want this one to contain, and then do it again masking the other part. Rename your layers as you go.
  • For the OP: regarding point 1: you are compressing the image, in a way by having the whitest white slightly less than 255 and the blackest black slightly more than 0, but this is OK. The key is to keep the data. Many times people blow out the whites which destroys any detail that might have been there. And by "whites" we really mean make sure all 3 histogram curves (R,G, &B) are not clipped at the ends. If you don't have the data, then you are limiting the end result.
    – Yorik
    Oct 20 '15 at 14:56

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