Bad Photo to Awesome Photo

Ever take a photograph and when you look at it on your computer you see so many errors that you cast is aside? But, there are one or two intriguing elements so your mind keeps being drawn back to it. Well, this photo is one such example for me. So let’s turn this from a bad photo to an awesome photo.

before milk bath photo


I had the pleasure of photographing a milk bath shoot for a local model. But this wasn’t just any milk bath shoot. Nope. She wanted a scary creepy yet beautiful clown look for the occasion. I will include a few more photos at the bottom of this post. But for now let’s focus on the photo at hand. As you can see, I really messed up with the shot. I wanted to get a view of the model through the taps of the bathtub. This wasn’t really planned in advance because, as you can see, I didn’t extend the backdrop far enough. Also, the one handle of the tap ended up blurring to much of her face. But, I was so intrigued by her eyes and the hand gesture in a kind of “come join me in my milk bath” look.

So, I decided to give it a shot and try to see what I could create with this photo.  Firstly, I cut and paste the backdrop to extend the black beyond where it was. Secondly, I cropped the photo to take away some of the unnecessary elements on the left side. Then, I used a healing brush and stamp tool to remove some of the tap and add more skin to the face. It is important to do all the major edits of a photo before focusing in on the details or the fine tuning.

As you can see, the lighting and mood of the photo is a bit harsh and not really that sensual. So the first thing I did is smooth the skin. For this type of photo where realism isn’t necessarily the goal but being sensual and surreal is, I was fairly aggressive with the edit. I almost always use a Photoshop plugin call Imagenomic. It is by far and away the most impressive skin masking program on the market. I know many pro photographers that use it and save them hours of time. It is available as a stand-a-lone program or as a full professional suite with skin, noise and real grain editing capability.

Once I finished with the skin I did a little trick that I just love the effect. Duplicate the layer. Add a 30px gaussian blur to the entire photo. Then set the layer to multiply. Immediately you can see a dreamy image unveil. However, the effect is far too much and needs to be edited. I then add a layer mask and with my paint brush set on about 15% I paint out the effect on areas that I want to brighten and sharpen. Also, when it comes to the areas I really want to bring out, for example the eyes and lips. I will set the brush at about 60% and make the brush size very small to only cover the area I want to really paint out.

Almost done. Next I use the lasso tool and capture the skin on the face. Sometimes depending on the photo I will capture all the skin visible. Then, clicking on image and color balance I will very subtly add more cyan and remove some of the yellow. The result is a much more appealing skin tone.

Finally, I used the lasso tool to select the glove and the face and added sharpening to create a more 3 dimensional image. I will discuss my sharpening technique in a different post. One that has been passed down to me by a few incredible photographers.

So, here is the result. Hope you enjoy !

after milk bath photo


Additional photos..

milk bath clown

milk bath clown black rose


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