The Red Dress / before and after

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Hey’a! Ready to start a new week? Thankfully, today is Saint Mary’s Day in Romania, which means it’s a national holiday – so I get to stay home and catch up with all the pile of stuff waiting to be done 😀 I really need to improve my time management and work-life balance before I burn myself out. Any tips or ideas?

Anyway, this week I thought I should give you a glimpse of the workflow behind my finished images, illustrated by two before and afters from the “Red Dress” photoshoot.

First of all, I don’t have a certain recipe that I use on all my images. Although I did create a few actions over time with my favourite settings to speed up my workflow, I often have to play a lot with the color toning to achieve a certain look while the amount of time I spend on an image can be anything from 10 minutes to a few hours. It all depends on the image itself, how much retouching is involved and how fast I can achieve the desired look.

Second of all, even if I get an image almost technically perfect right on camera, that’s not enough for me. I’ll always work on it afterwards as well, making it pop, retouching certain flaws, or even completely changing color tones to bring it closer to my imagination. Also, sometimes I know exactly what I want to achieve from the start. Other times, it’s a matter of experimenting for ages until I like the result. And there are also times when I randomly play with the settings and love the outcome in only a couple of minutes.

Now let’s see the two examples.

First one was quite fast – about 30 minutes. The dress was nicely exposed, but the sky was overexposed, so I tried to fix that in RAW as much as I could. Manuela, the model, has natural beautiful skin, so there wasn’t much skin retouching needed in this capture. I enhanced the highlights and shadows and lightened the dress up a bit. I added some flare on the right side, where the light is coming from the sun, but at very low opacity and masking out the rest. For the coloring, I played with my usual – Curves, Selective Color, Color Balance, Levels – to give it a warmer look.

Now on to the second one. It took me a longer time to achieve this look – about an hour or maybe a bit more. We shot this in a forest, and the light was gorgeously passing through the trees, creating spotlight areas. I had Manuela walk around one of this areas and twirl the dress’ fabulous fabric. It was hard to pick my favourites, as I already mentioned in the previous post, as every single capture felt like taken out of a fairytale.

However, as you can see in the before image, the whole scene came out quite dull overall. The dress isn’t really popping and the light looks washed out. It took me a lot of layers to get to the result on the right. Again, there wasn’t much skin retouching involved, but plenty of experimenting with color toning and enhancing lights & shadows. Once obtaining the final result, I simply copy the layers on the other similar captures to get the same look on them too and only adjust where necessary.

Oh, yes, I also composited part of the dress from another similar capture, because I loved the pose and expression in this one, but I didn’t capture the dress to its potential. I did the compositing part first things first, before the rest of the edits.


Model & MUA: Manuela Ticarat

Dress by Gabriella Olar.

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