Home for the Holidays-Making a CD Cover

By Mark

It has been a month since Roger and I have had a chance to write and post a blog.  We have been in the midst of corporate transition and have been pretty overwhelmed.  Despite that, we have managed to stay busy with some photography projects.  One that I got to work on was an opportunity to help out a very talented musician surprise her family and friends with a Christmas CD.  The good news is that you can get your own copy of the CD for yourself at https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/amygodeaux

She needed a photo for a CD cover with a nice Christmas background and asked if I could help.  We started with a basic photoshoot.  I asked her to bring a couple of outfits in order to give us more options later.  I didn’t actually have an appropriate background but I knew we could create one later to meet her requirements.  I figured that I could just use the background of my unfinished basement insulation—turned out to have not been my best decision.  The photography was pretty simple.  I set the camera on f/8 and ISO 100.  I was using my 70-200 zoom lens.  It stayed right around the 85mm focal length, which is why Nikon’s 85mm f/1.4 is one of the premier portrait lenses.   We used a two flash set up.  One main one in front with my 60” soft box and the second one behind her right shoulder in order to create a nice rim/hair lighting effect.   Both units were set up with Pocket Wizards for control.   We wound up with the main light at about 50% power and the back light at about 15%. 

I’ve known Amy and her husband for quite a while, but she somehow has not aged much at all, so we got a good selection of shots to choose from.

My processing plan was intended to be pretty straightforward, but it proved challenging in two areas. I needed to:

1.       Perform general image wide adjustments

2.       Apply a minimal level of skin retouching

3.       Extract her from the background

4.       Replace the background with a better one and then ensure that it looked realistic.

I’m going to break the process up into two blogs to provide some details.

For any photo job where color control is important, which should be all of them, I began by having Amy hold my X-rite color checker.  When I started processing I would use that to set up a custom white balance profile for all the images in the set. 

More of a mug shot than a good photo--Sorry Amy!   I told her she didn't need to smile for this one.

More of a mug shot than a good photo--Sorry Amy!   I told her she didn't need to smile for this one.

I did a preliminary select from each pose and outfit to weed out any bad ones—only one with eyes closed.  I then found the best ones and did normal adjustments—mostly opening up the shadows a little bit and applying sharpening to the RAW images. 

I have several applications which are specifically designed to help do portrait retouching.  Typically, ladies skin gets “softened” a little bit, the eyes brightened as well as the teeth.  I actually ran the images through all three of my tools separately in order to compare the results.   I have OnOne Perfect 10, Nik and my newest one, Perfectly Clear.   I was impressed by the results from the last one especially.  

The images just looked better, but it was very difficult to see what was actually different.  At this point, I had 4 very nice images which I sent to Amy for her selection.

All that selection and  preliminary processing hadn’t taken that long, but are an important step before you send anything to a “client” even if they are a good friend.  You never want to show a bad image.  When she made her selection, the real fun and work started.  You can read about that next time.