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Photo Adjustments in Photoshop

Lesson 28 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

28. Photo Adjustments in Photoshop


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Location Assessment


Gear Overview


Direction and Wardrobe


Exploring Location and Available Light


Bar Owner: Setting the Scene


Shoot: Bar Owner


Shoot: Bar Owner, Evolving the Look


Lesson Info

Photo Adjustments in Photoshop

I'll just pull this one of Ryan in, just so you guys can see the quick raw process. I won't do Photoshop on it completely, I'll just show you just kind of how we would handle it. Luckily this one's already in a good spot which is kind of, as we had mentioned before, where we really like to end the shoot, so that when we get back into the studio we're pretty much set. Jumping in here first thing in Photoshop what I would do is I come over to the Camera Calibration. And you can see that kind of flatness of the file when you first pull it in and now when I change to the Camera Standard you see how you get that contrast back? Which gives it more of the JPEG out of camera look as opposed to just the flat raw file. So I get that warmth and that color that Joe was looking at outta the LCD. Coming over here there's a couple of things you can do, I don't think it's an issue right here. You can enable the profiles for the lenses. I dunno if you guys work with this at all but if you're pretty clo...

se with maybe like a wider lens you can just kinda see how it's starting to correct. It's taken the actual, the vignetting, from the edges of this frame, and kinda spreading it out. I dunno if it's a good thing or a bad thing here. I almost prefer the darkness in the corners 'cause it really kind of brings me more into our subject. So I don't think that I would switch that there. One thing we do is just try to sharpen, just in Camera Raw. I don't do too much with this and I know a lot of Photoshop gurus would probably call in and say, "What the heck is he doing?" But, we kinda get this into-- This is such thin ice, 'cause there's a million different ways of doing things in Photoshop, and then, "Oh, you should never do that." And opinions, there are a lot of, you know, again, it's a very subjective process. All of it is valid, all of it is valid. And so people work, tend to work in, the curve in raw as opposed to when you pull it into the actual program. I know everyone's different. Sometimes, I generally like to work in Photoshop just on my layers. I don't want everything to be done in raw because I want to have control if I want to come back to it, or Joe says, "It's looking a little too light", or "it's looking a little too dark." I just prefer having my layers. Coming in here I'm looking at the shadowing and the edges again, so I just kind of see where the sliders are working. So if I'm pulling this out you can see how it's just taking a lot of the drama away from the shot when I'm coming all the way up here. It's nice to see a little bit more so maybe I'll just bring the shadows up a bit. The whites, I dunno if I wanna work with them too too much here 'cause I think they're in a good spot. So if I bring these, let's see, I'm just gonna elevate these so you guys can see what I'm lookin' at here. Maybe bring these back to about there. Once again gonna bring the blacks up just a little bit. Exposure's pretty much where I want it. I don't think I would change too much about the exposure. Color tone feels good to me. I always just mess with the slider to see what, if you cool it down a bit, what it would look like. More neutral but I just think here that the warmth of the bar and what we have going on in the background, it doesn't really make too much sense to change that around. The greens, the magentas, look good to me. Yeah, I think that this file, as I said, I think is in a good spot. Like I said, not a whole lot that I would do. You can just see very subtle changes in Camera Raw. I'm bringing out a little bit more up here in the brick. Maybe a little bit more down here in the shadows here. Yeah, so from here I would just make sure that I'm, what we do is we have 16 bit here, 360 DPI. Open Image. And at this point, honestly, I'm pretty much done from that kind of exposure, contrast, standpoint. Things that I'm looking at right now on the screen that I can see it's like, "Where does your eye go, where is it pulled? "Am I looking at the subject "or is something pulling me right off the bat?" Oh, I'm so glad you said that because I was gonna just jump in 'cause like it's been bugging me like crazy that button. Yeah, the button's a problem here. I think he's so striking looking in the photograph right outta camera, so gorgeous, and that button is just like. So there's a couple of ways to handle this button. I mean, like I said, I'm not gonna go into full blow Photoshop mode here. Obviously by removing this button it just kind of, your eye might get confused as to why there's not one there. There's other ways that you can do it is you can find a file that maybe has a similar one that has the button that's not shining off the light or the window, that you can grab in but that kinda brings in the whole concept of picking and pulling from different shots, which we normally don't do. But I would probably either tone that down with the curves layer, just bury it as much as possible. But to me that's the only thing that's really sticking out that I feel like that's overly dramatic in terms of the highlights. Everything back here feels pretty good. I maybe would still like to see a little bit more under this bar. So I might take a curves layer, and what I would normally do with that, kinda working a little bit weird here. So I grab a curves layer and I would just take this up, this slider up until I can start to see a little bit more under that bar. So right here you have a little bit more of a feel of what's going on. So if I go before and after, like that, and then I would just mask it in. So you Command-I, and now I have a brush that I basically just take. Bring the opacity way down, and flow, and keep these pretty low. And then I just start to paint that in. And I'm working on a laptop right here so you're not gonna, it's not too great but, um... Now I'm starting to get a little, a little bit more detail, as much as I can under that. And it's just subtle things like that that are just kind of taking affect. I might even bring some out over here as well. But overall I think this image, outside of that button, is exactly where I would want it. I would zoom into his face a little bit, get any pimples, or anything like that I would clean up, with the healing brush. And I would save this out as a PSD. I save it out as a full res TIF, as a presentation JPEG, and then as a blog JPEG. So four different files from this one and then everything gets shipped out. Nothing too crazy, we keep it as simple as possible. What do you mean by a presentation JPEG? So Joe tends to do a lot of talks, keynotes, workshops, stuff like that. So I just get the files prepped so that they're large enough that when he's showing them on any kind of monitor that there's nothing to worry about. Whereas the blog JPEGs tend to be way way small. And when you try to reproduce them in let's say a massive screen or something then you get all that pixelation. I use a program, I have it local to my computer, it's called Mylio, it's actually based here in Seattle. It's an acronym for my life is organized. It's a way of, just for me, to sort my folders and files. It's a terrific piece of software and so I have that on my computer. So when I'm on the road I'll say, "Can you take that recent shoot that we did "and drag those files onto PhotoShelter." PhotoShelter is a lifeline for our studio. And it's a way we communicate with files when we are offsite. So there's someone in the studio, so if I needed like, if someone said, "Can, can we see something "for a prospective job?" Or something like that or all of a sudden I'm on the road and we need to make a pitch, and Lyn needs to create a mood board. They'll put up some images onto a PhotoShelter link, I'll pull 'em down, I'll look around, put 'em back up and say, "I'm happy with these." So PhotoShelter becomes a huge huge pipeline for us back and forth at the studio. And then me locally, what I do with my slideshows, Mylio, to me, kind of replaced Aperture. Aperture went down the tubes, and that was kind of an intuitive program for me. What Cally just did in Photoshop, ah, you know, I can't do that, I really can't. I burn and dodge. I'm still in a black and white darkroom from the '70s. So, um, all of that is the way we communicate as a studio via our raids back at the studio and then offsite raids where we have our safety security measures that we take for our files. And then Cally, if he's on the road with me or not, I can call up files, PhotoShelter link, download back and forth, that's what we were doing at the Olympics all the time. So that's kind of the underpinnings of how we communicate with pictures. If by, you know, in the imaginative world, you cared for Photoshop a little more do you think that would change the way you approached your light, or your shooting style at all? Not at all, no. I, actually, it's one of my obligations really, it's one of my aims to get better at Photoshop. John Cospeito, who is excellent at Photoshop and left our studio, gave me a series of little movies to go to Rio with. So I had John in my ears at night. So when I would finish and I wanted to get something out quick I would listen to John. He would say, "Okay, open this, do this, do this, do this." He just gave me basic steps and then I would pop out the file. Most of the time though at the end of a day of an Olympics you're working, you're back in your room at 11, or midnight or something like that, then I'm culling my images and then I'll send five via PhotoShelter and they're waiting for Cally when he comes into the office the next day. Then I'm up at five and I'm off to a venue and he works those images and deposits them back on PhotoShelter. And then during a break at lunchtime I'm able to pull 'em down from PhotoShelter and launch 'em into social media. So that was our system there. I mean I can, I can, I can burn and dodge, I could-- Joe can what I just did. Yeah, no problem. I mean today was a very basic scenario. And obviously this is the stuff that everyone in here probably knows and everyone watching probably knows. But the point of me showing you this is to show you that we don't rely on Photoshop for these pictures to be great. It's all done in camera, it's done on location, the problems are taken care of. Like that, specifically for that watch, if that watch was causing us a problem and no one took it off, then that's a problem in post. And that's time, and that's effort, and that's money. And stuff like that is the stuff that you have to think about, that Joe thinks about always onset. "I wanna have this shot done here "so that when Cally takes it back "he just takes two minutes, cleans it up, "cleans the skin up and it's off and it's ready to go." And too often we hear, "Oh, we'll fix it in post. "Oh don't worry about it it'll get fixed in post." It's not always that easy, you know? Everyone shops different. Yeah. This is just how we work.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Joe McNally Gear List
McNally Lighting Diagrams

Ratings and Reviews


What is there to say, this is a master at work. I feel like I owe Joe a hundred lunches for the information I’ve learned from him and used in jobs through the years. Personally I relate to his slightly self-deprecating style quite well. Joe’s a confident, supremely knowledgeable and incredibly experienced photographer who doesn’t need to wear that on his sleeve to get the point across. He is also clearly a great leader who has built a terrific team. I snap up everything of Joe’s I can find and use it as a library, where every time you watch you take away something new. Thanks Joe, you’re a legend and good on Creative Live for offering this wonderful and beautifully curated course.

ileana gonzales photography

When I saw the chance to learn from the great Joe McNally I jumped through the screen at the chance to be in the audience. It's one thing to see how a fantastic photographer works, thinks, composes and styles, but to get a behind the curtain view at the way his entire shop operates was truly amazing. By allowing us to see Lynn's processes and Cali's workflow it encouraged me to diversify before taking the plunge into the business side of photography. Truly an amazing team and an unforgettable learning experience.


Joe is fantastic! The wealth of information, experience and extraordinary talent he shares is invaluable! He's also a very engaging, humorous instructor who keeps an audience a part of the "discussion." Don't miss a Joe McNally class, seminar or workshop opportunity!

Student Work