il·lu·mi·nates M

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Toronto Strobist Group Meetup

Published February 13th, 2012

BTS Video Here:

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That old...faded B&W Look

Published February 7th, 2012

Seems to be in style least for fashion editorials...

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The Beauty Shoot

Published January 20th, 2012

My photo goal for the first quarter of this year is to do a set of video tutorials (maybe more like a "how I do it") for a typical beauty shoot.

Part 1 - Casting and Team Assembly

Part 2 - Concept and Lighting

Part 3 - Workflow and Post Processing

Part 4 - Finished work output for Web/Printing

I'm going to do the entire project using Adobe Photoshop CS5, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.

Adobe Lightroom

- Tethered/Import of captures

- Sorting, naming and global adjustments

Adobe Photoshop

- Retouching of selected images

- Proofing for Print

Stay tuned. The first video will be online by February 30th, 2012.

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Beauty Retouch

Published December 30th, 2011

A clean beauty shot retouched.


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3 Things That Make My Shoots Successful

Published December 29th, 2011

1) MOST IMPORTANT, aside from the camera: Music. Nothing gets things flowing better.

2) Positive Attitude

3) Energy

You can always buy better lights, a more expensive camera and a good retoucher. None of them beats those 3, for me. Music is number 1...I can always get my hands on a camera but good music is worth it's weight in gold. I keep about 10GB worth in my iTunes catalogue.

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Anatomy of a Beauty Retouch

Published December 28th, 2011

Photoshop is like a big box of tools. Any number of features can get you where your headed but they won't work in every situation. The real trick to Photoshop is learning which tools do what and how.

When I shoot for myself I can control things like camera settings, composition of the subject, lighting etc. Especially the subject. I pick models with the right combination of features that I'm looking for: Great Skin, Even Tone, Striking Bone Structure. I have custom made action/filters to speed up my workflow when the variables are to my liking.

I don't get that luxury when I retouch for clients. I pretty much have to work with what I'm given. That's where understanding the PS tools, etc comes in handy. Then I can build the retouch workflow based on what works for the image and the expected outcome.

Attached is the stack for this retouch as asked for by a viewer.

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Published December 22nd, 2011

I got an email last night from someone wanting to know how I get perfect skin color in every retouch...the short answer is that they aren't perfect. Not by a long shot. I do try to get something that's pleasing at the very least.

No two people have the exact same skin much depends on race, environment etc. I have a set of tone which I've blended and converted into Photoshop swatches. When a subjects skin needs a little help I rely on those as a "filler".

I really only use the swatches in extreme cases where a person's skin is so uneven that none of my usual retouching tricks get's me to the picture in my head. I first get the skin cleaned up as best I can correcting exposure and white balance then fixing blemishes. That get's me in the ballpark so I can spot areas that will benefit from "painting".

My preferred method

1) Create a blank layer and select the "Color" blend mode

2) Set the layer Opacity anywhere between 5 - 10%

3)Select a soft brush and set it to 20 - 30% Opa ...

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Published December 20th, 2011

A followup to the previous post:

A few emails about my post processing equipment. It's plain jane as computer systems go. I've made some upgrades to allow for video editing as well now.

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What I Shoot With

Published December 9th, 2011

To answer the emails: Canon EF 50mm 1.4 USM

It's sits on my camera 90% of the time and I'm reluctant to take it off unless absolutely necessary to get the shot. It's not fancy (by today's standards), cost much less than just about everything else excepting the nifty-fifty (50mm 1.8 MKII), and the AF motor is frail. That said, I've broken it just once, almost 4 years ago. Fixed it myself and it's been just fine ever since. At $300 and change most pros can afford to replace it once or twice.

I use it for fashion, commercial & lifestyle shots, occasionally swapping it off the 5D when I'm shooting beauty work. Landscape shooting is another application but most people prefer something wider to add some dynamic qualities to the picture..usually between 18 & 24mm.

It's a great lens because the resolution matches well with the 5D and 1Ds series cameras. It's actually pretty good on crop bodies too but then it becomes a telephoto lens with the 1X6 multiplying factor. It's also the sharpes ...

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Quick Model Test

Published December 6th, 2011

Portfolio development for a commercial model.

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Adobe Lightroom Post Processing PT.1

Published November 28th, 2011

I get bunches of emails asking about my workflow in Adobe Lightroom so I decided to put together a quick step by step tutorial.

The shot for this example was taken on a road trip out to Calendon, Ontario. A few people I know kept telling me about a geological feature in the village called the Badlands...I'm sure there is a correct name for it but it's so named because nothing can grow directly on it.

On the way back to Toronto I caught this view out the passenger window and pulled over to take a shot. For the gear hounds the settings were:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

50mm lens at F11

Shutter Speed at 1/50th of a second

ISO 100

I didn't choose these settings for any particular reason..the camera was set that way from something I shot previously. I adjusted the shutter speed for the exposure.

Once the file was imported into Lightroom I tweaked it as follows:

1) Lowered the exposure slider to -0.97

2) Raised the Recovery slider to +15

3) Raised the Fill slider to +45

4) Raised the Blacks s ...

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Published November 20th, 2011

My take on a trendy fashion/beauty look.

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Published November 16th, 2011

I'm doing some system upgrades and came across these images from a shoot last summer. The focus was the accessories designed and made by Colleen at Clockwork Zero. She makes the most amazing products from small watch and machine fav was a necklace made from snake bones she found at the side of a road once.

The look I went for is a high contrast black & white so I wasn't too concerned with skin texture or any real attention to realism. I used a combination of Dodge & Burn layers to get it. Actually I didn't really use the D&B tool, instead I created two curves layers; one for highlights and the other for shadows. The magic comes when you set each for a minimum/maximum threshold. All you have to do at that point is use a soft brush at low opacity (20 to 30) and paint in on the areas you want to lighten or darken. In most cases the lighting already spells out the roadmap and you just D&B'ing to enhance that natural pattern. You can use the same technique to bring out the detai ...

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Beauty Retouch

Published November 5th, 2011

Here it is, from start to finish.

Adobe Lightroom for global adjustment to the image (WB, Exposure etc) then off to Photoshop CS5 for the more specific work.

-Skin Cleanup


-Added some noise in the smoothed areas to simulate normal skin texture

-B&W Gradient layer to enhance contrast

-Dodge & Burn layer

-Curves layer

-Sharpening with a High Pass layer

I didn't shoot this image so I had to pay some special attention to lifting the dark areas under the chin. My usual setup includes a silver or white reflector under the chin to bounce light for fill in that area in addition to the main light.

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The Ross Sea

Published October 22nd, 2011

I came across an excellent and short video about this region while doing some research for an upcoming assignment.

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Emilie & Jessica Beauty Shoot

Published October 21st, 2011

Shot with a 100mm macro lens and lit with a reflector and Octabank with the front diffuser fabric removed. Because Jessica has dark skin I thought the specular light would be flattering and edgy.

Processed In Adobe Lightroom 3.5 and retouched in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

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Beauty Shoot

Published October 19th, 2011

Emilie Plamondon serves up a great look for Yana.

MUA: Emilie Plamondon

Model: Yana with Corestone Model Management

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No Shortcuts

Published October 15th, 2011

Image retouching is here to stay. Deal with it.

Everyone from clients, models, brides and makeup artists ask for it. If you want the business you have to do exactly what the client is paying you for. That said, there is some crazy stuff taking place out there. Sometimes it seems like the wild wild west is back. Check out any magazine with a celebrity-of-the-moment on the cover and compare them to the real thing...shocking. Either someone has found the fountain of youth and selling it to the rich and famous or Adobe is making their own version of the magic elixer. Wait...they are, it's called Photoshop.

That said, there are good and bad examples of retouching. Poor use of "fix everything" filters right down to sloppy retouching practices.

My roadmap isn't quick. Sometimes it isn't easy. It get's the job done.

1) Exposure & White Balance

2) Skin Cleanup

3) Dodge & Burn

4) Hair & Eye Enhancement

5) Smoothing & Contouring

5) Cropping and Sharpening for output

To answer a few emailed ...

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MODEL: Alena Lyubavina
<br/>MUA: Amanda Tacus

Sucker Punched!

Published October 13th, 2011

.....Right in the mommy-maker.

I got an email out of the blue from someone who hates image retouching (I'm guessing). She complained about the state of advertising where women are retouched to unrealistic too smooth, no fat, no stretch marks, big knockers etc...the list was pretty long. She definitely let me have it with both barrels. Apparently she came across some of my work and questioned if I really thought anything but a blow up doll looked so perfect.

For the record, I like women of all shape and sizes and I admit to my share of retouching. 50% of my business comes in the form of retouching projects that I happily take because I enjoy it. Guys like me simply give clients what they ask for. If they want clear, healthy skin and great hair but the model looks like hell there are just two choices.

1) Throw out the shots and shoot a model with great hair and skin.


2) Photoshop to the rescue.

Obviously they contact me because option #1 is off the table.

On an ...

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Published October 12th, 2011

Have you ever thought about how your life would change if fresh water suddenly became scarce?

You could live in a world without money, big houses and fancy cars but without water, none of that would matter. Conservation has long been my passion. I consider myself to be a nature buff and my camera is an extension of that. Before career, family responsibilities and life in general took over I spent many hours deep in the most remote areas taking pictures of wild animals and landscape. I did a search recently in my Adobe Lightroom catalogues and found no fewer than 7000 images over the years not counting the ones I have backed up on CD/DVD and external hard drives. In 60% of those images a body of water was somewhere in the frame.

Few people outside of my family and close friends realize how deeply connected to water I am, right from birth. I was born mere steps from the Atlantic Ocean. For my siblings and friends it was the best playground an adventurous kid could have. I'm always happ ...

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Fashion & Beauty

Published July 12th, 2011

Shoot for Chacha Cosmetics

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Tat's & Stuff

Published July 12th, 2011

I had the pleasure of shooting Andrea yesterday in the studio. She and her husband own two small businesses and she models a bit on the side to show off her full body tattoos.

For this shoot I used an 86" Flashpoint PLM in conjunction with with a beauty dish.

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