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Basic Retouching

Lesson 9 from: Compositing for Commercial Photography

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

9. Basic Retouching

Lesson Info

Basic Retouching

All right, so I'm gonna go ahead and start. We're gonna start the retouching session here, and I'm gonna talk about my files. In fact, hold on a second. I'd like to be on this screen here, and I wanna talk to you about my sample job folders. So inside this particular job, what I have going on is I have my assets. I have an alternate tabletop. Do you remember that set? That table was this big. Guess who's putting in a new table. Me. Because we need the extension, all right? I have, the background is built. Do you remember we printed that background? Well, that's a file, right? I make sure I have it just in case, and I'm gonna use it. I have stock images of lemon, lime, and an orange in case they change their mind. All right? I have the layout from the client. If I have markups, it goes there, client notes. There's no version, 'cause I haven't done it yet. There is, in my work in progress, I have the composite file that we're about to look at, that I'm gonna start. And this is a little c...

aveat, unusual 'cause it's not normal in my workflow, is stacked images, which I love. I think stacked images are a work in progress. I'm certain some people would prefer that to be in the asset folder. Do what you like, but make sure you have it. Remember, she stacked that image, and we wanna have that. So we're getting ready to rock and roll here. So I'm gonna, first thing I always do is I put the layout in, all right? So what I have going on here is I have a giant template and that's based on the buy. And I want a little extra room. So the measurement of it, the image size, it doesn't really matter. This is just for me, okay? You guys will have your specific image size. What I'm trying to convey here is you wanna have some space, space to move, space to grow, to draw a gradient or two. And then what I will do in the file is I will stick what I call layout screens. Let me see. I am forever checking my layouts. Do I have enough? Do I have enough? Do I have enough? In case I need to make a communication with a client or I just need to do different retouching, okay? And then, then I start building. So how that works for me is I put the stack image in. Now, what I do, I think you guys are probably, for the most part, pretty decent at Photoshop and I don't have to explain this, but I simply drag and drop from my hard drive onto my file, and I stick the image in here. Now, for you advanced people, don't fall asleep on me for a second, because I wanna say something. It opens in camera raw, right? Do you see that it wants me to do something? We did a stack DNG. Yay! So I can adjust this as needed. I wanna keep that as a raw file. So I would normally say okay, I'm gonna hit cancel because I've actually put the file in here. I always keep in that file build the absolute original that can go all the way back to a camera raw. I do not rasterize this. I do not pass go. I do not collect $200. I always have in my main file that raw so I can go back to it. You guys understanding? Cool. So as far as layer order, that's probably gonna be under the layout, right? And I wanna see if I've got it right. I think I got it right, but let me show you. I take the layout frames, and I put it at 50% opacity. And I look and Christina's good, man. It's pretty, pretty tack on. What's not on, and trust me, you get these sketches and things are all out of proportion. You get sketches and things are all out of proportion 'cause someone drew it. So is the angle of the lemon the right size? Is the face of that, it's gonna be different in the photo. You know this, right? It's, also did the focal length, we didn't talk about that too much, but the focal length of the lens, did they use a wide-angle or more of a telephoto? That will affect it. And why I wanna stress this so much to you is this might be the first point you say hello, client, I just wanna let you know that this is a half an inch higher than it was on the drawing. Y'all cool with that? I don't know, but these are the little things that'll bite you in the heinie, this little kinda stuff. So I'm gonna presume that she did a really great job and we like this. Now, do you remember I said I put the background in? Well, why didn't I put the background in when we shot it? Because, do you remember, we shot this? And I need this. Now, I will tell you an honest truth and it might be a little OCD of me. I always put the background in, even if I don't need it, just in case. Because I find that timing gets so crazy that you're doing it the last minute. And oh, where is it? And oh, is it scaled right? I don't wanna be doing any guesswork at this point. At this point, it is the pedals to the metal and you are hurrying. So let's talk about what I have. I have the background. I don't know if I'm gonna have time to discuss it. If we do, I'll go back to it later. But inside the file is my background build. I'll do this really quick. The sky, the mountains, it's more complicated than it looks, but we'll talk about that later. And then I merged all of that below and I used a smart filter and I darkened, I used a camera rod to darken the top gradient, and I blurred it. Now, why am I doing this? Because you know how much blur the client said they wanted on Tuesday? On Friday, someone who works at the reception desk said well, why is the background blurry? And the client calls back and says oh, we loved the shoot, but you know what? We really want it more in focus. No problem. And that's a fee. It's 30 seconds of work, but it's a fee 'cause I'm smart. And you get paid for being smart, okay? So that is why you wanna do this kind of thing. I have dropped a tabletop in. I'm gonna try to do that later for you. I just really would like to explain the file as you see it right now. But I'm gonna turn that off for right now. And, in fact, for giggles, I'm gonna move it down below just to not have it be confusing. So here's my stacked image, and now I am ready to go. What do you do? What's the first course of action? I have to tell you, you know what I do? I mask it out. I know the background shot there. I know it. I'm gonna mask it out because I need to have control. I need to have control of the file quickly, and it's easier for me to just mask it out. Now, I'm going to manage expectations just for a mere moment here. How many times have I said this is a four- or five-hour job and I'm doing it in 40 minutes? So this is gonna be a bit down and dirty. So how I like to mask something like this is I path it out. So I'm just gonna continue on with the path. And I have a rule of thumb, select subject will not work for this, okay? Select subject will not work for this. I use select subject, I think I lost a few people. I heard it. It was like a suck went out of the room. I could hear it. Select subject. Select subject is awesome. When you're in the magic wand or select tool, Photoshop's gonna try to select the subject for you, and it's awesome. As a general rule, I use it for non-organic things, people, people, hair, sweaters, organic objects. A car, a refrigerator, a glass beverage, bottle like this, I will path it out. I know some people are crying 'cause pathing can be a pain. It's just more precise, and I feel like rather than chasing, chasing your select subject to try to get it right, just put your music on, go to your happy place. And if you do not know the pen tool, you can't be a retoucher. I said it. It's on tape. People have it. It's going down in infamy. You wanna be a retoucher, you need to know your tools. And the pen tool is no fun, no fun at all. I'm sorry. Eat your spinach and learn the pen tool, all right? Now, I'm not gonna worry about the shadow. We're gonna put that in separately. And why I put the shadow in separately is I need to control it. So do you remember we talked about all those different outputs? The shadow density you want for a magazine is not the shadow density you want for a billboard. You have to change it per medium because of ink densities. So I'm gonna say, for giggles, I think that's pretty good. I just used the pen tool. I'm certain Creative Live has a masking class. I'm certain of it. That can help you with this. So I'm gonna just make sure my path is named so it won't disappear. You ever done that, started a work path and started a new one and went ah? Don't do that. All right, I'm gonna feather this just a bit, maybe, maybe 1.3. I don't know, it doesn't really matter. Excuse me. It doesn't really matter right now because we're not doing print-level work. And then I'm gonna go ahead and mask this out, and I'm gonna start here. Now, at this point, for me, and this is really a personal choice. Some people work from the back up, and some people work from the top down. I like to kind of meld everything, and the fact that there's no table is making me crazy. Right? So I'm gonna bring in an alt table. Now, I already went and got an alt table off of Adobe Stock, and let me show it to you. It's just a table. Adobe Stock is fantastic. It's actually called isolated rusk tabletop, and I'm gonna use this. I do need to call attention to something very important about this. Horizontal tabletop. I have a vertical tabletop. When we first shot this, the demoing, we had vertical lines. We now have horizontal lines. Don't sweat it. This is just for a demo, but pay attention to that in the future. And the client might actually like it better this way. You just wanna pay attention to that kinda thing. So I have an alternate tabletop that I put in. I used a layout. I'm jumping back and forth between my layer set, which I had 50% opacity, and now my alternate tabletop is on the top. I do this a lot. I will zoom in. I put the new element on top, figure out where I want it. I think that's all right. And then I move it down into position. So do you remember earlier I talked about managing files? One of the ways you wanna manage your files is not to get lost as to where you put it. So when I drag and drop stuff, I drag it, put it on the top, and then go is that good? And then I put it in position. Because how many of you have worked on these and you stuck something inside a folder, and then later you're like ah, where's my table? So be precise. Little monkish thing going on there. All right. Please make sure your shots are labeled properly. So that's stack two. If that's the file name, then call it stack two. If it's job number 6751, shot 21, you name it that so that you can always go backwards. Okay? So now I'm heading into the zone. Now, what I'd like to do is I'm gonna start color correcting a little bit, just a little bit. And one of the things I wanna call attention to is making layer sets. So what I've done is I've just grabbed this layer, my stack two, and I dragged it to the layers, put a folder, put it in a folder, make a layer set, whatever languaging you wanna use, and I'm gonna call it main bottle. A little sticky point for me in Photoshop, and I do love Photoshop, it defaults as pass through. Please, I beg of you, turn all those onto normal. Turn all your layer sets onto normal. Because if I color correct the bottle, I don't wanna touch the background. Okay? And I don't wanna have to link it. Have you ever seen files everyone links everything to? It's a mess. You don't need it. So I'm gonna just start moving around the file, and I'm gonna start brightening it up. Okay? Now, I'm gonna let that go for just a second, and I'm gonna say yeah, I'm in the ballpark. I have to tell you, and I'm not sure if this is helpful, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. Bottle and glass. I like to work around the file. Some people, when they're working on a file, they'll do every little, like oh, let's get that line and let's get it perfect. Oh, let's move to the glass. I like to massage the file and kinda work around it. And I dance. I do that, I dance at home a lot. Partially because clients will call me up, hey, where we at? Where you at? Where you at? And I don't wanna just send 'em a picture of line. So I can say hey, I've got it blocked in. We're moving along. This is fine. Calm down, everything's fine. And so I'll move in. So at this point, what I wanna do, that line looks just nasty, doesn't it? And it can't bear it, so I'm gonna go ahead and get my stock shot of my line to put in for reference. Now, we either use this to color correct the line that's existing, or I'd be a very lazy or smart girl and I would actually just use that line. That's what we're gonna do.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Compositing Companion Handout
Delivery Worksheet
Estimating Shoot Worksheet
Retouch Checklist 1
Retouch Checklist 2
Solar-Curves Action

Ratings and Reviews


Super Lisa is the best teacher. She makes learning Photoshop fun. Great course. Lisa has a great teaching style. She mixes in a great speech cadence, great voice up and down and pausing, jokes, and is extremely knowledgeable and fun to watch. Awesome course. Learned a lot from the course.

Anne Dougherty

I love Lisa Carney’s classes! She is casual yet precise, and she thinks like I do! The workflow logic of her process is brilliant. Really brilliant. I started working in PS version 1.something, as the publisher I worked for was just computerizing their department, and I was a total novice. But right from our first day working digitally, we had to create images and files that our novice printers could successfully print from. Lisa’s logic/approach is so familiar! Making things work on a deadline is an incredible way to learn time-saving techniques, and I wish I’d had Lisa crunching solutions with me. I am new to the newest PSCC, but all off her process made sense to me. She moves fast, so it might be a little tough for a total beginner, but she stops and explains things very clearly once she’s gone through it a time or two on a file, so, hopefully everyone can get things solidified for themselves. Now that I am retired and doing my photo work just for myself, her compositing techniques are helping me get to my end results much more quickly. I wish I had a Lisa sitting alongside me, with a glass of wine, while I’m experimenting with my creative composited work. Thank you so much for having her as a CreativeLive instructor/mentor.


I took advantage of Photoshop Week and caught this class live - and loved it! I own other CreativeLive food photography courses, but I really liked the way Lisa and Christina taught the image shoot segment in this one. They show us a little glimpse of how the retoucher and photographer work together, in real time, on the set and I like that. Lisa and Christina are also very giving with their knowledge of how things work behind the scenes as well. Though, the main reason I bought this course was for the info Lisa shared about file naming and file version organization. There are a lot of video's on how to perform functions in Photoshop, but almost none about correctly naming, and organizing your versions. Now, I've got a real base to start from. Thanks :)

Student Work