Highlight recovery / portrait processing with Bibble 5

Welcome to 2011 ;) First post of the year is made from half year old picture of Desiree Hermann. During Christmas vacation I was playing with one of the (technically) messed up pictures from that photo shoot. The picture is slightly overexposed. Not completely blown out, but not usable straight out of the camera. So I decided to have some practice with highlight recovery and play more with Bibbles layers and new feature of 5.2- layer opacity to try and add more depth to the portrait.

Here is a screenshot of the final image and how it all came together from the original RAW file (straight out of the camera, without even my default RAW settings for Bibble applied to it):

Click on the image to see it bigger!

Jump inside the post to read more details how I got to the final version of this photo. All in all I am seriously happy with what Bibble 5.2 delivered!

To start off I needed to fix the blown highlights (third photo). Therefore I pushed the highlight slider to 6 and reduced exposure by -0.3 to start with. Also added heal/clone layer to clean up a few minor blemishes and another layer to sort out purple color cast on the background (just desaturated the colors and masked top right white area).

This gave a very nice result already- a clean well exposed and smooth picture. Now I wanted to add a little more punch to it, therefore decided to add more contrast to highlight and shadow areas of this portrait.

I added two separate layers to control each of the extremes. In the screenshot above you see the curves adjustment I have made to the shadow layer. Adjust it to what ever feels right and then mask it. You can see the mask I applied to shadows in picture number two. Only those areas are affected and darkened by the curve adjustment. This masking bit took most effort, but it is quite cool to see the effect of this very small change to areas that form the face (cheek lines, nose and eyebrow shadows, hairline etc).

Afterwards did a similar thing to highlights (masking forehead, top of the nose, under her eyes, under lips etc) and fine-tuned everything by adjusting opacity on both layers plus reducing exposure on the main layer further down to -0.48.

Finally added last layer to brighten up the eyes just a little bit. Final image- number one - done!

Two things to think about here. First- a very similar effect is achieved by just creating a rather strong S curve on the main layer. It beefs up the shadows and highlights. But I find that selective adjustments with the help of layer masking give a much more subtle result, it allows you to have more control over shaping the portrait.

Second- normally one would use Photoshop or Gimp for this type of portrait post processing, but in reality this is completely possible within Bibble 5. As far as I'm concerned the only disadvantage Bibble has is lack of ability to smoothen out the mask (apply Blur filter on the mask or something similar) so you have to use various intensity/size brushes to paint smooth transitions yourself... But that effort compared to moving to another tool (Gimp in my case) to do these adjustments equals to nothing for me... It feels really good to have complete portrait processed with only one piece of software.

Oh, almost forgot, smacked my website address on the final image with TypeWriter plugin!


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