Despite being one of the best jobs in the world, photography and retouching are both technical processes in which you usually deal with some problems and find solutions afterwards. Every shoot is a different problem to be solved, and mostly, this is the fun part of this job. But sometimes, you have to be prepared when dealing with large amounts of photos with a tight deadline. So, here are some tips for fast-paced workflows for a commercial photo shoot.
Be Careful About Color Backgrounds
Color backgrounds are fun to work with, but when doing a commercial photo shoot, it is vital to use non-reflective color backdrops to avoid color casts on the model and the clothing. Most photographers including myself usually prefer to paint the studio background for photo shoots for using a wider space, but to be honest, it is effective when using white or gray backgrounds. If your client asks you for a specific color backdrop, be sure to use non-reflective seamless paper backdrops like Savage paper backgrounds. If you decide to paint your studio wall, be prepared for the color casts and hours of color correction. You also have an option of using vinyl or PVC backgrounds, which can be cleaned easily with a sponge, but they don’t offer you as many color options as the paper backgrounds. They are usually white, gray, or black (you can also find colored gradient versions in some brands); however, they are really heavy to use, and the texture is visible on the images.
Using a Light Meter
Using a light meter is a controversial subject for many photographers. Some prefer to use them in every shoot, and some don’t. As a matter of fact, it is really handy in certain situations. Despite their high price tags in the past, they are relatively cheap nowadays and having a light meter would be a good investment, especially if you are using multiple light setups on a shoot. Light meters will allow you to read the value of falling light on different spots and surfaces in your set, and they will make the whole process easier, in terms of equalizing and balancing the light or creating a contrast between them. I personally use a Sekonic light meter, and the results are always accurate. By the way, reading a light meter is a little tricky, but it is not so complicated after you get used to it.
Camera Calibration and White Balance
Before getting into Photoshop and starting to do the main retouch and color grading, you have to perform color correction first. Therefore, you need to get the accurate and real colors on your image by correcting the white balance and creating a custom color profile for working on multiple images, especially if you have shot similar images on the same light setup. This is vital, particular if you are doing something like planning to shoot a clothing catalog with the same background color. So, the best way is using a color calibration chart like the Datacolor SpyderCHECKR or X-rite ColorChecker Classic, and right after your light setup is finished, shooting a reference image for color calibration of your camera and the white balance will save a great amount of time on post processing.
Choosing the Right Raw Conversion Software
Each raw conversion software gives different results. You can either use Adobe Camera Raw or Capture One or even DXO and some other software, but the best way is trying each and finding out which suits best to your needs. Also, each raw processing software creates unique results through things such as highlight recovery and general color tone, even if you apply the exact same settings. Canon’s raw image processing software, Digital Photo Professional, gives better results in terms of highlight recovery when processing Canon raw files, Capture One gives better results on skin tones (less pinky skin tones), and Adobe Camera Raw gives better texture details on default settings, according to my experience. Therefore, it is always better to use different raw processing software for different type of images and clients' needs.
Alternatives For Raw Processing:
- Adobe Camera Raw
- Adobe Lightroom
- Phase One Capture One Pro
- DxO Optics Pro 11
- ON1 Photo Raw (Pre-Order)
Be Careful About the Local Color Casts
There are two main color casts that usually occur on the model during a photo shoot. If the model wears a shiny or neon-like color dress, the colors and light that are reflected by the dress cause local casts. Well, it is not so hard to deal with, but keeping those risks in mind will help you build a better workflow in terms of time management. Another main issue is caused by natural factors. When the model poses on a standing position for a long time, the hands and feet will look magenta or pink colored because of the blood. There are several ways to avoid this in post-processing, and the best way is using hue and saturation sliders on a local area with layer masks. Recording an action for similar images will save lots of time on post-processing.
Some Other Useful Tips
- Create your own actions for each shoot.
- If the floor gets dirty with the footsteps of your team and your model, record an action (surface blur and noise). That works perfectly, especially on white backgrounds.
- Avoid using third-party skin retouching plugins. It’s 2016 and everyone knows they look fake.
- Try different action panels for dodge and burn and other workflow tasks. They are very handy for easy access.
- Use frequency separation for texture, not for color, if you want to achieve realistic results.
- Check your color management workflow depending on the usage of final images.
- Consider the fact that clients and other people will never see the images as you see. So, if you are using an Adobe RGB (wide gamut) monitor, and the images will be used only in digital, it would be better to check the images on a standard sRGB monitor. (simulating the client’s view).
- Finally, calibrate your monitor regularly.
If you have any tips based on your experience when dealing with large amounts of photos in a limited time interval, please share in the comments section below.