With a few notable exceptions, I dislike photos of myself. I like to be behind the camera, taking pictures not starring in them, but sometimes it’s necessary to have the camera turned in my direction.
For instance, over the last few months, it became increasingly obvious to me that I needed a new profile picture. The last one was taken in 2008 when I was a) younger and b) heavier, but I’ve been struggling to find the right image. I was going to ask one of my many photographer friends to take one for me but then, whilst at the recent B2B Huddle, I found myself in the company of John Cassidy, who was creating fantastic headshots of attendees for a very competitive price.
In just a few minutes (John normally spends more time with his clients), shooting tethered into Adobe Lightroom with a Nikon D3, 85mm f1.4 lens and a collection of lights and reflectors, John managed to create the proverbial silk purse from a sow’s ear in that he made me look quite presentable! In fact, I was amazed at what he had done with me*. One of the resulting images is now my profile picture on most of the websites that I use (I keep finding odd ones with old pics that need to be mopped up, and I still use an image for my Flickr profile that Benjamin Ellis took of me, “caught in the act” of photography, although he’s since removed the image from his photostream).
I also wanted a higher-resolution image for my about.me page but, to my eyes, the image I’d selected seemed just a little soft around the eyes. It was taken at a reasonably narrow aperture (f5) but I wanted to sharpen up my face (just the face – as sharpening my suit created some strange results due to the weave of the fabric). A few minutes in Photoshop was all it took to create the effect I required for a punchy on-screen image, although it would be inappropriately sharp for a printed version:
- First, I created a copy of the background layer.
- Then, I created a new layer and applied a black mask before painting over my face with a white brush.
- Next, I applied the high pass filter with a value of 3.0.
- Finally, I set the blend mode for the high pass layer to Overlay. Soft light will also work for a more subtle effect.
These are before and after images, at 25%:
It’s a useful tip, and I’m not the first to write about the high pass filter – it’s all over the ‘net – but it’s a technique that’s worth knowing about if you really like a shot but are finding it just a little too soft for your taste. In addition, the eyes may be sharper now but it does have the side-effect of enhancing wrinkles, etc. in my skin. That’s probably OK for a 40-year-old man but not too flattering for a woman so more selective editing may be required.
* My wife used the word “handsome” but I wouldn’t go quite that far.