The Red Dress / before and after

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 ūüėÄ 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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