If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you're probably familiar with the way I do my clean edits. If you're new, I'm happy to share! I have no editing secrets, and if you have specific questions, please feel free to ask.
OK, so let's take a peek at the SOOC shot of Drew.
There are a few problems here. It's underexposed, he has a smudge on his shirt from the rock wall, and his cheeks look a little rough. (I rarely smooth out my boys' skin, but in this case I did just a bit. Always be sure to use a super low opacity brush so it doesn't look like a mask).
For my edit, I did the following steps, all with free actions:
Aly's Color 60% (I will give you the link below)
soft light blending mode 20%
Coffee Shop's Baby Powder action
clone tool (for the smudge on his shirt, and to remove the color in upper right corner)
MCP's Touch of Light action (on the more shadowed side of Drew's face)
resize and resharpen for web
For a typical "clean edit," I usually do only the first two steps: Aly's Color and the soft light blending mode. This picture of Drew needed a couple extra steps because of the smudge on his shirt and the slight roughness on his cheeks. If you do only the first two steps, you'll see a nice "pop" in your photos, but they won't look overdone.
Before I forget, here is the link for Aly's Color. I LOVE this action and use it on 99% of my photos. You have to scroll down a bit, and it's #9 on the list.
I got a comment on Darcy's blog that is absolutely true, and a very important point: doing a "clean edit" first will make your black and white conversion much better. Exactly right! If I ran a black and white action on my SOOC it would be terrible. Dark, muddy, yucky...blah! You want to clean up your SOOC before running any other artistic actions. If you want a 70's look, for example, make sure to edit your SOOC first, and make it look as clean as possible. Then run your artistic action. This is so important.
I never sharpen eyes seperately; Aly's Color has a slight unsharpen mask, and I just run that over my entire image. I like the eyes to be enhanced a bit, but not unnatural.
Aly's Color defaults to 30% opacity and then flattens. On most shots, I use it between 15-30% opacity. This shot of Drew was underexposed enough that I brought the opacity up to 60%. Since the action flattens itself, you have to go into your "history" tab in Photoshop, delete the "flatten image" command and then you're free to adjust the action to your liking. (If this sounds confusing, you can run the action as is without adjusting the layers. This is just an extra step if you'd like more control over your end result).
Here's a side-by-side to compare. See? Nothing over-the-top. No super overexposed skin, no overly glowing eyes...just a nice little enhancement.
If you like a more overexposed look, that's OK. It's all about personal preference. I don't want to come across as my way is the right way - not at all! We each have our own editing style, and this is how I edit my photos. I hope you found this helpful, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Have a great Friday! :-)