Sunday, November 6, 2011

Picnik/Ribbet Tutorial: Portraits

UPDATE: Although Picnik no longer exists, an identical online product, called Ribbet, is available. Try it!

Emily, one of my two beautiful daughters.
This is the unedited photo; I'm happy with the composition, the lighting, the crop and the alignment.
In my previous post, I showed you some of my before-and-after photographs and promised threatened to follow up with a tutorial on how I use Ribbet. Here is the tutorial. I decided to start with a portrait because that's probably the most common picture most of us take, as we document the moments of our lives.

Ribbet is an online photo-editing tool that is very similar to Picnik which I started using after a friend on Facebook mentioned it.

It just so happened that I had been looking for such a tool. I'd been using the software that came with my first digital camera and, while it did improve my pictures, it really only provided minimal control.

I started using the free parts of Picnik, and then I took a Photoshop course (part of my job is to design graphics), and discovered that Picnik offers a lot of the same tools, though far, far less sophisticated -- and only with the $24.95 annual membership. That price seemed a bargain compared to the the cost to buy Photoshop.


[These instructions and pictures are from the original Picnik software, but you should be able to find the same tools in Ribbet without hunting too hard.]

Once Picnik Ribbet launches (with it's lighthearted spin on "please be patient" while the app loads), and you have uploaded a picture, you will see a band of tabs:

With most pictures, unless there is something to fix with the straightening or cropping, I go straight to Advanced.

And the first thing I adjust is the levels.
The levels affect the clarity of the picture. I know my teacher explained how it works, but all I really care about is the results.

Click on the Levels button and you will see a colorful histogram. Click on the RGB button and a drop-down menu gives you the option to edit red, green and blue independently of each other. (Some tutorials suggest you just move them all together, but I prefer the results I get this way.)

In each panel, adjust the little inverted-teardrop slider until it just touches the edge of the histogram. The blank areas outside of that point (in this case, to the left) do not have any data, so in this case, the shadows were lacking data.
Staying on the Advanced tab, the next step is to adjust the curves. This affects the highlights and shadows. In some cases, I've used it to improve the exposure in just the midtones in a backlit picture without overexposing the highlights.

You can see why they call it curves.
In this case, I pulled the highlights up slightly and pulled the shadows down a little. This subtly increases the contrast.
So far, all of this takes less than five minutes.

Still on the Advanced tab, I now do the stuff that purists sneer at: I do touch-ups. But I do use a very light hand. This part is time-consuming.

Make sure you zoom in, so you can see what you're doing. 
Eye Bright darkens the black areas of the pupil, which really makes the catchlights sparkle.

Even male subjects benefit from a light touch of mascara as it defines the eye. (All it does is intensify the blacks.) Note that I reduce the strength to 60%

Don't we all wish our dentists were this efficient? Again, use a light hand (fade to about 50%) or you will end up with a freakily white smile. I know this from experience.
This may be one of the best features of Picnik Ribbet. Haven't we all been plagued by a zit on picture day? Blemish Fix is better than Proactiv!
Pretty impressive, I think. The picture looks clearer and brighter without looking "shopped."

But we're not done yet. Before I close the file, I go back to Basic Edits and sharpen the picture. With most portraits, I don't sharpen very heavily.
You really just have to eyeball this. Err on the side of UNDER-sharpening as the sharpening sometimes adds a grittiness or noise to the picture.

NOW, we're done. Time to save the file.

As I mentioned, I always used to overwrite my files, but I've since learned to add a version number to my edited pictures. This allows me to go back and compare the original or make fresh edits.

I also always save in the highest quality. It's always possible to go back and create a low-resolution version (which I always identify in the filename as lowres), but you can't go back and add pixels once they're gone.

After all that, this is how the two pictures compare.

I've also started working on a tutorial for pictures that require straightening and other edits. I'll post that one another time.

P.S. This post is also available as a Google Docs presentation. You can launch it below. If you click to view in a new window, it has the option to print the slides.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What did you think? Any comments?

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...