My Editing Workflow; Editing with TAP Portra 800 in Lightroom
Hi friends! I’m back with another blog post to go in depth with another image from a recent family session and editing in Lighroom. If you missed my last post, check it out HERE, where I break down a couple of images and talk about my favorite film emulation tools. Last blog post, I talked a little bit about why I sold my medium format film camera, and hopefully this blog post will show why I’m really dragging my feet with buying a new one.
Today, I’m going to break down an image from a recent family session, and also walk through one of my new favorite film emulation profiles- Portra 800.
I was staying with my sister a few weeks ago while shooting a wedding up in the Finger Lakes, and my sister had asked if I could get a couple of shots of the family while I was up. I was glad she had asked, but knew that location was going to be an issue, especially considering it was several weeks past the peak fall foliage. She had a little trail behind her house, so we took a little walk and I scouted for a spot.
Things to ask before taking the photo…
When looking for a good location, I have a couple of boxes to check.
- Soft light. This particular photo was taken around 10am, so I knew I would need a wooded location that would be slightly diffused. If I were to take a photo outside the woods or without open shade, it would look really harsh (see below).
- Non-distracting elements in the photo. This is trickier in the woods, but I always like to have images that don’t have overly distracting elements in the foreground or background. Notice how I don’t have any trees coming out the top of anyone’s head. It is subtle, but that makes the image feel much cleaner overall.
- Backlight. I have a style for portraits that I like, and that includes backlighting the photo, so I made sure to put the sun slightly out of frame, and behind the subjects. The issue with backlighting is that images can have a tendency to be severely overexposed to favor correctly lighting the skin tones of the subjects, so I like to have a background that is diffused to create a more even image. The trees and the woods in the background allow the light to come through the image, but at the same time not be blown out. Look at the difference between these two images…
- 2. The first image has only sky in the background. You can see how harsh the light feels when the background does not have diffused light, and while it is still “backlit” the light feels very directional from one side. The second image to me feels a lot cleaner, with a soft, clean light coming from behind the subject.
One part of backlighting a natural light photograph is that generally the subject’s skin tones are around 1/2 to a full stop underexposed, so I always try to remember that when taking a photograph so it doesn’t feel too imbalanced when I go to edit it. When I adjust the image in Lightroom, I always brighten the image to prioritize those skin tones, so the images tend to have a lighter feel. I happen to like the look of it, so I don’t really mind that it’s not a technically “perfect” image. If I were going for a more evenly lit image, I would need either a fill light or reflector.
Editing the Photo in Lightroom
Let’s break down the edit. Here is the raw photo in Lightroom…
The first step I will do when editing any portrait is apply my film emulation profile (The Archetype Process- TAP for short. They are available for purchase HERE.) This particular image was taken in autumn in the woods, so I wanted to use a more colorful film profile to bring out some of those fall colors.
Here is the image withe Portra 800 applied… (Portra 800 Frontier Normal EXP 0 for those of you who already have the profile).
To me, this image is looking dark and a little cool. After a few adjustments to the tone curve and white balance, here is the image again.
It’s looking better, however the first thing I notice when I see the photo is “RUN”, which is not the best thing to have in a family photo. A few clicks later on the spot removal tool and they are gone.
That looks much better. The last step I do on most images is apply a little bit of texture, clarity, sharpening, and grain. I mentioned this a little bit in the original blog post, but I think it helps give the image just a little bit of density and texture that is a hallmark of film images. I don’t do it for every image, but I felt like it worked on this set of images.
That’s it! Here is the final result…
Pretty simple! I’ve heard it said that “it’s all in the editing” or “a great camera does all the work” but really it is all about identifying and utilizing the best light in any situation. If you are new to photography, I hope these editing tricks help but just know that getting great light consistently is the key to making a great photograph, so practice practice practice!