A practical guide for an amateur photographer and Photoshop user wishing to shoot portraits like a pro. The book comes with a CD containing before and after sample image files in PSD format to help you follow the step-by-step tutorials in the book.

About the Author

Lee Varis has more than 30 years of experience in commercial photography. His images have been published in National Geographic, Newsweek and Fortune magazines as well as numerous photography journals such as Design Graphics and PC Photo. He can teach you how to set up lighting, shoot, retouch and print your images to make you a success.

Reader Reviews

The book received a number of raving reviews at Amazon.com. The only disappointed reviews were from professional photographers who expected to get an in-depth guide on beauty retouching. The subtitle of the book is "The complete guide to digital lightning, photographing, and retouching faces and bodies". Well, the phrase "complete guide" is overused in the publishing word. While the author says the book is oriented towards professional photographers, I believe serious beginners and intermediate photographers will get more from this book. No matter what your experience level is, if you are serious about improving your shots, you will benefit from this book.

Of course, the book contains some technical stuff like camera calibration, but that is just basic knowledge and you will have to learn it anyway. It will not take you long to read through the first two chapters written in very clear English, and then you get to really exciting things like lighting, photographing people and beauty retouching taught to you by a Hollywood professional photographer who knows how to make even somewhat complicated concepts such as color correction easily digestible and fun to learn.

Chapter 1: Digital Imaging Basics

In brief covers what hardware (a camera, memory cards, batteries, TV monitor (allows you to review your images on the spot), computer, monitor and calibrator) and software (Adobe Photoshop and Bridge) you will need for capturing and improving your images.

Chapter 2: Color Management, Workflow, and Calibration

Here’s what you will learn:

  • How to organize your basic picture workflow: capturing images > downloading them to a computer > adjusting the images (cropping, correcting, retouching) > printing and saving > backing up.
  • How to to calibrate your camera for the best rendition of skin tones
    • What to include in the test shot when calibrating the camera.
    • How to compare test shots.
    • How to determine the best exposure.

Chapter 3: Lighting and Photographing People

Covers both basic and advanced lighting techniques allowing you to shoot beautiful portraits. The chapter is well-illustrated with images allowing to grasp the concepts. On the whole, the images in the book are well-chosen and there are no images you may not want your children to see.

You will get an entire collection of lighting tricks that will serve you well:

  • How to use light controllers (all kinds of reflectors and flags—white, black, silver and gold)—pages 54
  • How to lighten the subject.
    • Glamour/beauty lighting and light variations for fair-skinned and dark-skinned subjects—page 60
    • Rebrand lighting—page 68
    • Natural light—page 70
    • On-camera flash reflectors to emulate beauty light
    • Lighting experiments
    • Advanced lighting techniques
      • Ring light
      • Combination lighting: day light plus flash

Chapter 4: The Color of Skin

  • How to get the color right in digital photography.
  • How to achieve a better skin tone—not the accurate color, which  is often boring or undesirable, but the idealized Hollywood version that makes the subject look "prettier". 

Chapter 5: Tone and Contrast: Color and B+W

  • How to improve your photos by converting from color to black and white—page 142.
  • How to mix red, green and blue channels to get dramatic but natural results—page 143.
  • How to use channels to darken, lighten, or recover detail in your shot.
  • How to colorize your grayscale image (hue, saturation and toning effects).

Chapter 6: Retouching

  • Basic retouching techniques:
    • Use the healing brushes to smooth away wrinkles and remove unattractive shadows under the eyes.
    • Use Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to make red blotchy skin look healthy.
    • Use the Liquefy filter to make people look thinner.

Chapter 7: Special Effects

  • How to use the soft focus to hide skin defects and suggest glamour and romance.
  • How to blur the background to place focus on the subject.
  • How to create a more interesting complex background.
  • How to use grain and noise for artistic effects such as film grain and mezzotint as well as for eliminating banding and smoothing gradients.
  • How to create a cross-processed version of an image to alter hues for a more interesting look.
  • How to photograph and enhance tattoos.
  • How to fake tattoos.

Chapter 8: Preparing for Print

Learn the last minute tweaks that make the difference between a great print and a mediocre one:

  • Sharpening
  • Color management for print
  • Soft proofing
  • Desktop printing
  • Creative print finishing

Chapter 9: Parting Shots

The final chapter of the book discusses digital photo workflow and guides you through the companion CD with sample images and tutorials.

I enjoyed reading this inspiring book and highly recommend it. If you are serious about digital photography, get your hands on Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies.

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Written by Olia Picver
a blogger and a photographer. I'd love to connect with you. Add me as your friend and drop me a message as I'd love to hear from you and help you in any way I can. You can connect with me via the following social sites: Digg