Create a high-key portrait


 Adobe Camera editorGeorge Cairns shows you how to process a raw file to get the balance between revealing detail and deliberately over-exnosine hiehliehts

High-key portraits tend to be lit from the front, creating a relatively shadow-free image. The over-exposed highlights help to smooth out skin tones and dial down distracting details so that key features such as the eyes and lips stand out more dramatically.

The challenge with high-key photography comes when deliberately over-exposing a shot to produce bright flat skin tones while preserving shadows and midtones on the eyes and lips. Itall too easy to go too far and lose valuable detail throughout the entire tonal range, especially if you shoot in compressed JPEG format, rather than raw.

So here, weshow you how to unleash the power of the Photoshop Elements Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) editor to increase the brightness of a correctly exposed portrait and create the flat wash of bright highlights associated with high-key photography. Because a raw file has more tonal information than a JPEG, you can reveal as much highlight detail as you like post-shoot, while giving the tones of key features such as the eyes and lips an independent tweak to produce a portrait that has far more punch.

Because our subject is blonde, wedemonstrate how to use ACRExposure slider to blow out the highlights in her hair so that it merges with the white studio background, creating a clean and delicate high-key look that flatters her feminine features. Wealso show you how to tone down the imagecolour intensity to create a delicate palette that complements the overall effect.

Boost the exposure

1 Click on the link to download the Look folder. Go to File>Open and browse to highkey_before.dng. Click Open. As the file is a digital negative (.dng), it will open in Photoshop Elements  Adobe Camera Raw editor.

To brighten the skin s highlights, drag Exposure up to 0.95. Press O to view the blown-out (detail-free) areas.

Increase the contrast

There s a little clipping in the subject s face, so drag Recovery to 20 to restore some detail. The edge of her hair is brighter than the rest, which helps it merge with the pure white background. Press 0 to turn the highlight clipping warning off. Push Contrast to 50 to lighten the whites and darken the shadows.

Boost the blacks

 Adobe Camera editor

3 The skin is now flatter and smoother, but the eyes and lips are a bit washed out. The histogram shows us that the shot lacks any strong shadow detail. By dragging the Blacks slider to 25 you can give the eyes and lips much more presence and impact.

Tweak Clarity and colour

By reducing Clarity to-14 you lower the skin s midtone contrast and gently soften and simplify the flesh in the high-key shot. For a more subdued colour palette, reduce Saturation to-19. Pop Vibrance up to +30 to gently restore some colour to the lips.

Improve the composition

5 Hold the mouse button down on the Crop tool icon and choose Normal. Click and drag to lose some of the studio backdrop and make the face more prominent in the frame. The overlay grid lets you break the backdrop, hair and face into three vertical columns.

Tidy up

6 Click Open Image to take the shot into the standard Elements editor. Grab the Spot Healing Brush and set Size to around 60 pixels. Set Type to Proximity Match. Click and spray over remaining skin blemishes and spots of mascara.

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