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How To Edit A Bridal Image Using Photoshop Actions

Learn my photo editing process from beginning to end for a bridal image.

I use Photoshop for all of my editing – starting with the RAW images from my Nikon D700 in Adobe Bridge to completion in Photoshop.

In Adobe Bridge:

  • Turn the Brightness down to +40 (I tweak until the histogram is more evenly distributed). There is a little more bright than dark to begin within this photo, so it won’t be completely equal, but you don’t want anything climbing the right side of the histogram.
  • Under “Detail” I pulled luminance up to +5 under noise reduction. It’s­ very effective for both reducing noise and softening. Next I open the photo in Photoshop to complete the editing process.

In Photoshop:

Step 1 (Cropping): I don’t like the column on the left or the way she is centered completely in the photo, so I’m going to re-crop. Generally it’s a good idea to get your crop right in camera so you can maintain the most information possible. Sometimes, however, it’s just not as easy as others. This picture for instance was taken while I was 2nd shooting at a wedding. So the main photographer was directing the bride, and I am literally just shooting a 2nd perspective. The bride may never look at me, and in this case was only standing here for about 30 seconds.

 

 

Step 2 (Cloning): Now we have our basic composition to where we like it. I do NOT however, like the big gaudy black hand rail running through the pretty white column. So that has to go. We’re going to get rid of it by cloning. Be precise when cloning, and always do it on a separate layer. Once you clone, you delete the data that was in that spot. Duplicate your background layer. You should always do this before editing so that you can always undo whatever you have edited. I named this layer “Handrail Clone.” This fix is all I will do on this layer.

Click on your “clone” tool from your tool selection.  We’re going to start on the column and work our way left. You want to do this in as few and correct motions as possible. So make your clone tool the size of the rail. You’ll find the sizing selection at the top left corner of your screen.  Also make sure your opacity is at 100% for this. So you don’t have to go over and over to get the desired look. Once this is done, find the spot on your photo you want to replace the rail with and click on it while holding ALT.  You can see the preview of that you’re going to move over when you hover. Just make sure any lines, or designs match up how you want them to.

Removing the handrail

 

So far we’ve gotten rid of the bar completely that was on the column. All of our lines match and you can’t tell it was ever there!  Finish your cloning. Try not to clone using the exact same place as your source the whole time. It will look good as you go, but when you finish and look at the whole photo you’ll see an undesired pattern or repeat in your photo, and it won’t look natural.  Just to make sure all of my bushes blend together, I’m going to select my blur tool, which is under the little button that looks like a tear drop. Select about 50% opacity, and blur my bushes a little.  I also cloned the small portion of the white column that remained on the left side of my photo. I wanted to keep this size, but don’t want the column.

As of now, this is what we are working with.       

 

Step 3 (The Eyes): I want to make her eyes a little more clear. For me, in a portrait, the eyes should always be the focal point.  I use the MCP Photoshop Action “Spark” from MCP Fusion set. It also automatically creates a new layer which I love. After running this action, I painted on her eyes to activate at 50%.

Step 4 (Teeth): I like for everyone to look their best in photos, so I generally whiten teeth and clear up and skin issues as well.  MCP has an action called Eye Doctor and Dentist  and another called Magic Skin so check those out for action based retouching.  For teeth, I do it manually by duplicating my last layer and call it “teeth.” I like to just use the DODGE tool. I put it at about 17% opacity, and on midtones to start. zoom in close enough to see the teeth, and make your brush about the size of one tooth.

Step 4 (Lightening and Darkening): Now I want my subject to pop a little more off of the backdrop, so I want to darken behind her, just a LITTLE. To do this I’m going to use the MCP Fix Overexposure Photoshop action in Fusion. It automatically defaults at 0% opacity, so you just increase it to suit your needs. In this case I’m going with about 30%. Remember this layer is masked, so you only want to judge it based on the area you want darker, were going to erase this action over the rest of the photo. So now just use the mask, (a soft black paint brush, while the fix overexposure layer mask is clicked on).

Step 5 (Enhancements): I like to do as little as possible. LESS IS MORE! For this photo, I ran the Sentimental and the Fantasy actions in Fusion, but turned off One Click Color. I added a mask over the Sentimental layer and turned the opacity up to 57%. I used masking so that it only affected the surroundings and not the skin tones.

Below is the before and after bridal image:

My Before and After

 

Jenn Kelley is a VA Wedding and Lifestyle Portraiture photographer in Chesapeake Virginia. In business for 2 years and studying photography for 8. More info on Jenn and her photography can be found on her website/blog at WWW.JennKelleyPhotography.com.

 

MCP Actions

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19 Comments

  1. 1
    Karen says:

    Thank you for this post. It is so helpful to understand someone’s work flow… the why, the when, and the how. Your work is great!

  2. 2
    Lori says:

    I find it very difficult to maintain straight edges with the clone tool and make lines match up exactly. In this application, I would have copied a width of the column from higher up, and pasted it over the column where the handrail is. I can move the new piece to make it exactly line up with vertical lines (use transform if the perspective made it larger/smaller) It would have also removed the shadow from the handrail that remains.

  3. 3
    Janet says:

    Thank you for this….

  4. 4
    Ronnie says:

    the clone is showing up on both sides of the bride.

  5. 5
    Kelli says:

    Thank you! This is great for a beginner like myself, I love hearing other photographers talk through their workflow.

  6. 6
    rhondi says:

    Than you so much for sharing your workflow. It’s always nice to see how somebody else gets from start to finish. Great actions.

  7. 7
    Georgette says:

    Great post! I am confused by the last point however, how does adding a layer mask keep from changing the skin tones? Do you actually brush away the effect on bride? Or is there a quicker way to do it?

    • 7.1
      Jenn Kelley says:

      Yes, when adding a layer mask, you can essentially delete the action or enhancement anywhere you choose.(in this case the Sentimental layer.) You can run the action and then add a mask. It allows you then to brush over what you dont want affected by the action you ran.

  8. 8
    Amber says:

    This is great! So appreciate of start-to-finish workflow posts!

  9. 9
    Erin says:

    I love seeing what the work flow looks like. My only comment is in the cloning… you have to be incredibly careful to not make it look like it was cloned… if you look at the image it is very clear where it was cloned with the removal of the handrail, as well as the unmentioned cloning on the left side removing the other column.

    I’m not trying to be critical or mean, I hope no one takes it this way. Just constructive, I hope!

  10. 10
    Ryan Jaime says:

    I agree with the cloning comment, however I’m always grateful for others showing there methods! Thanks again and keep it up!

  11. 11
    Lindsay says:

    I agree. The cloning is way too obvious.

  12. 12
    april says:

    thanks, this is awesome!

  13. 13
    Rixie says:

    The patch tool has become my best friend when retouching. After I use the cloning tool I like to go back and use the patch in a few spots to break things up and keep from getting that cloned look. It has a lot of uses, but it is easy to forget it is there sometimes.

  14. 14
    Ted says:

    Yeah, using the clone tool to remove the rails works for the column area, but not for the bushes. It looks fake. A better choice would have been (assuming you are using CS5) would have been to use the Content Aware fill for the bushes area. I did a test on the before photo, and it is much more convincing.

  15. 15
    Carleeh Mulholland says:

    love this thank you!

  16. 16

    This is very informative, thank you.

  17. 17
    Melissa says:

    Such a great post and definitely something that I needed to read! Time to revamp the product list. Thanks Jodi!

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