A long awaited detail post. — Stark Elegance revisited

Back in 2011 I posted this shot of Jessica and a few people asked me to detail how I accomplished it and how much editing it took.  I realized that I never actually made that post.   So, here’s that post.

NSFW photos ahead.  Over on another site I frequent, there was a discussion about post processing for black and white photography.  I shared this photo with them:

Final Image

Several people asked me how I achieved this and how much post processing was involved.   Here, in brief, is how I did it.

First I imported and zeroed out the RAW file.  I always shoot raw for studio work.  The ability to correct or modify almost every aspect of the color, exposure, contrast, and features of a photo are more than worth the additional space taken up by the files.   I really do not see a reason to ever shoot straight to JPG for any studio work.

Imported and zeroed out raw shot.

As you can see, it’s kind of a lifeless shot.  First step was bring up the brightness, contrast and correct some of the purple cast to her skin.  The model here has almost translucent skin and it reflects colors better than some of my backdrops do.

Color correct photo

The primary change here was an increase in brightness and contrast. I also brought down the reds and blues a touch so her skin would lose the purple cast.  It doesn’t really affect the black and white rendition, but I like to start with as finished a color photo as possible before moving to the fun stuff in black and white.

Next step is to convert to grey.

Converted to Grey

Some of the skin tone loses it’s luster, but we’ll fix that shortly.  Now the real fun begins.

I was going for a very stark, high contrast / high key effect with the final image.  To achieve that, I dove into the tone-curve adjustments.

I wanted to bring her skin tone way up, almost to the point of too bright, but did not want to lose the details of her hip bones and subtle shading of her breast.

I set the tone-curve to ‘high contrast’ and brought both the highlight and light settings up.  Highlight was increased about 80 or so and light about 30 or so.

Dark and Shadow Tones I brought way down to about -60 and -90 each.  This pulls the black coat and dark backdrop way down into black and pushes her skin tones way up.

Tone Curve adjustments

We’re almost finished.  I cropped it slightly to balance the ‘weight’ of her white skin against the lighter tones of the backdrop, giving the backdrop a bit more weight.


The change is subtle, but noticeable.   The only remaining issue is one I didn’t correct until just a few months ago when revisiting another set of photos from this set.

The model has exquisite, black hair.   That disappeared completely in the original b/w treatment here.   So with a little bit of brush work, her hair comes back.

Final Image

One bit of photoshop work was done (amusingly AFTER I had a 19×24 print of this on the wall at a gallery show) to this image.  I used photoshop to remove her birth control patch.   If you didn’t notice it in the photos above, you’ll understand why I missed it too.

So there you go, 2 years late, but delivered as promised.

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