The Skinny on Skin, and a Master Retoucher's Portfolio

When I first saw the Skin book pop up on the Amazon reports, I really wanted a little more to go on than the reader reviews listed on the product page.

It just so happens that one of our own, Greg L, has posted a review up on the Flickr Strobist threads. Short answer is 'two thumbs way up.'

But we'll get to that in a second. First, take a look behind the scenes at what one of the real hotshots in the industry (a different guy) is doing when it comes to retouching.

Glenn Feron has been doing this stuff since the 1970's. You know, back when his version of Photoshop was an airbrush. Cruise through his site and you will never look at a celebrity magazine cover the same way again.

And we're not just talking smooth, blemish-free skin, either. Need some cleavage reshaped? No problem. Is that booty not quite bootylicious enough? Feron is your man.

Does some of this stuff stray so far from reality that it strains credulity? Yes it does.

But the point remains that, in the absence of the "before" photo, 99% of the public takes the "after" photo as gospel.

Makes you think, huh?

Good lighting can only go so far. And that, apparently, is not enough to satisfy the hyper-perfect standard of celebrity portraiture. Honestly, I am so glad I do not have to deal with standards like this on a daily basis. Not to mention the egos.

Nope, as a photojournalist that creative playground is completely off limits to me. But not to many of you.

No way, you say? Follow me for a sec.

You'd be more rudimentary and subtle than Feron, of course. But you make a real estate agent or two really happy with their headshot, and before you know it people start talking - and you are one busy photographer.

Very few people complain that they look too young, too tan or to thin in a photo.

The trick is to be subtle enough for your client to retain a smidgen of deniability as to whether or not you actually worked your Photoshop magic. You know, maybe they just looked good that day.

Really good.

Back to the book, Skin, here's what Greg had to say about it after getting his copy:

"If you are a PJ and all your images need to come straight from the camera I would suggest you pass on this one. The lighting section, while good and informative, is not the driving force behind this book.

But, if you are interested in improving your photos with all the tips, tricks, and tools available with Photoshop CS2 then this is the book for you. While the author's emphasis is obviously on skin color, contrast, tone, saturation, and retouching, the knowledge gained will apply to almost any photo.

The first section, an essential in-depth chapter on color calibration, had alone sold me on the book. But the real guts are the step by step tutorials on improving pictures and portraits through Photoshop and the demonstrations of the variety of ways to skin a cat. Many of the previously mysterious and misunderstood tools and options in Photoshop are explained and put to practical application.

This book is over 400 pages of small-font information and lessons. It also includes a CD with all the images used in the lesson plans, lighting diagrams for print out reference cards, etc.. This book will take some time to fully read and digest but will forever have a place on the reference shelf right next to my computer.

Basically this book lets the cat out of the bag on how all those beautiful portraits we drool over are retouched."

Asked later in the thread whether the book is for Photoshop beginners, Greg says:

"Not beginner basic, no. It is expected that the reader has a decent level of experience with Photoshop, layers, masks, common tools, etc..

They do cover some basic stuff like blur layers but also get into more advanced techniques like (well advanced for me) split toning, luminosity blending, figure thinning, octave and overlay sharpening, cmyk -vs- RGB, using contrast and tonal structure of B&W in a color photo, etc..

Some of this may be basic to a pro retoucher, but is just the stuff I need as a long time Photoshop amateur."

I've heard enough to include Skin on my next Amazon order. Even though I cannot use much of this stuff for the paper, it is an area I really want to know more about. I am still pretty much a luddite when it comes to Photoshop's true capabilities.

And even if you aren't into the high-end Photoshop stuff, make sure you cruise by Glenn Feron's website .

It's amazing.


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