Before and After - Intern Edition

posted on: March 11, 2009

Before I got to work cataloging Anne's hard drives last night, she was kind enough to take a look at some images from a dog portrait session that I did this weekend. She gave me some great feedback, and suggested a couple easy ways to improve the images. I thought I'd share a before-and-after with you and show you the steps that I took.

Internet, say hi to Gunner. Isn't he handsome? Except for some minor tonal adjustments in lightroom (mainly exposure and contrast), I haven't done anything to this image. Not bad, but we can make it better.

The first step I took was to crop the image a little tighter to get rid of some of the distracting trees in the background and to focus more on Gunner's sweet face.

That's already a big improvement. Because the background is still pretty contrasty, we want to tone that down so it's not competing with Gunner for our attention. Trees are great, don't get me wrong, but I want the dog to be the most compelling part of the image. I used one of Kevin Kubota's actions to burn, or darken, the edges of the frame. The amount of vignetting is purely a personal preference. I like it when it's not-so-subtle, but it depends on the image and your own personal aesthetic.

The last step that I took on this particular image is to bring out his eyes a little more. It's not a smack-you-in-the-face adjustment, but it does help. By adding an empty curves level to the image in Photoshop and changing the layer blending mode to "color dodge" (or one of the other lightening blending modes...totally up to you), you can brighten the eyes of your subject. Just add a layer mask and brush the eyes back in!


And there you go. Quick, easy, and makes a big difference. I heart you, Photoshop! And Lightroom. And Gunner. I just have a lot of feelings, ok?

7 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. Alexis, Thanks for sharing these steps with us. Glad to hear your learning a lot from Anne.

  2. To Anne,
    I'm sorry I posted some of your photos over at my blog without asking permission first. I hope you don't mind. Thanks for dropping by. =)


  3. Great job! Those subtle changes made a big difference.

  4. What a cool looking dog! I also love photoshop. A little too much. I am officially addicted to actions. :)

  5. Anonymous3:45 PM

    What kind of dog is he? He's beautiful and I want one of my own.

  6. Looks great! Lovely image :)

  7. Hello Alexis!,
    Thanks for the tips, all of them are highly appreciated. I live in Cabo and I admire Ann's work. I see that you too are getting some good tips as well. What kind of camera did you use to shoot Gunner?


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