Friday , April 19 2024
If you intend to photograph people, this book is a must have.

Book Review: Skin – The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces And Bodies by Lee Varis

What is the color of skin? That is the question that Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces And Bodies tries to answer. Lee Varis, a Hollywood photo-illustrator who has been involved with commercial photography for the past 30 years, intends to explain as he explores the techniques in capturing human skin in all of its variety – young, old, male, female, color, with makeup, without, and even tattooed.

Skin is more than just skin, it is a technical book about professional digital photography. While it is aimed toward the commercial world and professional shooters, the technical applications are just as valid for fine art photography as well as your own home hobby. The author's intent is to fill the rather large gaps found in most other books on the subject of portrait photography.

Skin is contained in nine chapters and a CD that contains the images to work through the tutorials contained in the book as well as some technical reference material to reinforce your learning. This book is not a book on basic digital photography or Photoshop. It is about using photography and Photoshop to learn professional techniques for making creative images.

Chapter one, "Digital Imaging Basics," begins with a basic explanation of concepts used throughout the book. These include chips, pixels, dynamic range, and compression. You will also learn about the hardware such as cameras, memory cards and computers, and software, such as Adobe Photoshop, Bridge and calibration software, to make your screen correctly show your images.

Chapter two, "Color Management, Workflow, and Calibration," further explores the task of making sure that when you look at the image on the screen, it is the image that is in the graphic image file. Here the author explains workflow, calibration and color management.

Chapter three, "Lighting and Photographing People," shows how digital photography is the process of recording focused light that falls on an image sensor within a camera. You will learn about lighting technology and equipment. You will learn how to effectively use that equipment to create different effects. You will even learn how to break the rules. Here the author has excellent illustrations that show you how each photo was set up.

Chapter four, "The Colors of Skin," is about skin. According to Varis, "Most people will say they want 'accurate' color, but what they prefer (and what clients buy) is 'pretty' color – not wild surrealism, but usually some departure from reality." This chapter will show you how to get 'pretty' color.

Chapter five, "Tone and Contrast: Color and B+W," shows you that creating a B+W image is more than just mode change. Photoshop provides many different methods for recreating monochrome images. Here you will learn of the types of controls that are available as well as how to apply the B+W tonality to color images as well.

Chapter six, "Retouching," explains the techniques that purveyors of commercial photography use to 'clean-up' a photo. This can mean anything from removing items from images, image repair, blemishes, color repair and sliming and age restoring techniques.

Chapter seven, "Special Effects" is all about digital trickery. These are techniques that are uniquely digital even though they may emulate traditional effects. These are soft focus, film grain, cross-processing, and working with tattoos – even faking them.

Chapter eight, "Preparing for Print," takes your final form of digital image and readies it for the printer. Here you will learn of color management for printing, sharpening and soft proofing. You will look at desktop printing and creative print finishing.

Chapter nine, "Parting Shots," finishes up the book with some additional food for thought. The author touches briefly on digital workflow, the things that are included on the CD and a short discussion on future developments in digital capture technology.

This has to be one of the best books on digital photography in general and the most focused book on dealing with the treatment of photographing people out there. It is the kind of book that you will read, reread and reread again. You can move from start to finish or you can choose the tutorials that suit your immediate needs.

You will find a lot of techniques that become of immediate help. In many instances, there are several suggestions to correct a problem. As with any advanced technique, some patience and time is required, but the results will be astounding. If you intend to photograph people, this book is a must have.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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