Posted July 11, 2011

Makeovers aren't just for models: Photoshop Retouching

As many of you probably know, the magazine models we may have drooled over in high school are anything but real. They are made slimmer, their pores disappear, their eyes have no wrinkles, lashes long and luscious. All of these things and more are done in Photoshop.


This example is extreme, and most photos can be edited with just a few simple adjustments to turn a good picture into a great picture.

As an example, I’ll show you what I did to a professional photo of a Mizuno shoe for their Slowpitch Innovation Landing Page. Keep in mind, I never would have been able to transform the shoe the way I had wanted if the original photo wasn’t spectacular in the first place. Even a photo taken with a $40,000 lens needs some TLC. I want all the designers to know that you should never leave a photo alone in your design - at the very least it will need its levels adjusted and most likely color balance. A photo that looks adjusted on white can look dull and flat against a black background. It’s all about the context.

Here is a shot taken by Greg Slater of a Speed Trainer shoe for Mizuno. We specifically asked Greg to get interesting angles of the shoes for us to have more creative freedom when creating the environment the shoe would live in.


I found a stock photo of dirt that had a lot of texture. It doesn’t matter that there’s a baseball in it, all I needed was a small area of dirt to make the composite.


I chose to rotate the shoe to make it look like it was sitting on a slightly inclined hill. I then decided to find a complementary color to really make the blue pop. I took a dull brownish ground and bumped the colors to be more of a hot orange. I adjusted the levels on the ground to make it really textured.

If you plan on adding a ground to your composition the ABSOLUTE most important thing is to find one on the same plan as your object. Look at the angle of where the camera shot it from, is it the same angle that shot your object? If it’s not the perfect angle you can adjust the perspective in Photoshop to fake it, as long as the adjustment isn’t too extreme. If you want to change perspective evenly then simply go to Edit>Transform>Perspective. If you need a bit more control, just hit command T and then hold down the command key while hovering your mouse over a transform point.

Here’s where the composite was after adjusting perspective and a tiny bit of lighting to focus on the shoe:


From there I adjusted the levels and color saturation of the shoe to make it dramatic. As a finishing touch I created a deep shadow toward the back right of the shoe but left a rim light so you could still see the silhouette. The next time you’re watching a movie, look for these techniques - rim lighting is very common especially in dramatic scenes.


Notice that I made the shoe fit in with the dirt and ambient light by adding hints of orange highlight as if the surrounding orange is reflecting onto it - that’s how it would be in real life.

Don’t forget the details, in the end, the smallest details are the most beautiful part.