Mari in Kimono for Shichigosan 2005-11-14
Mari in her kimono. She turned three this month, just in time for Shichigosan No Hi (7 5 3 Day).
Damon recently commented that you can point a camera at a cute kid and come up with great photos pretty easily. Don't get me wrong, I definately agree. But in this case I worked HARD for this shot. In fact, maybe Damon's statement needs a qualifier. When you dress a kid up and really NEED a great photo today, then all bets are off. Mari was tired; she didn't want to wear her kimono (period); didn't want to pose for a picture (period). Maika was tired, too, and only slightly more cooperative. And these girls can be tough, too. I think Mari only flashed this smile (when I had the camera out) for a few seconds here and there all afternoon. But each time I was ready... :)
I want to give a credit to David at Chromasia. Some time ago he posted a tip describing how he uses Photoshop to give portraits a softer look. I copied the steps to a Notepad file and never gave it a try until yesterday. Now I'm sure I'll be using his suggestion a lot more. It involves creating a couple of layers with certain styles/blur effects, blending them together, and then making this new filter transparent so the original photo shows through. Then you erase the part over the eyes. The result is that everything is soft, the skin is gently and evenly toned, and the eyes appear very clear (especially when you manage to get them in focus just so).
I know someone's going to ask me to post the steps, so here you go (how can I keep it a secret when this tip came to me as a gift):
1) Make two duplicate layers of the image. 2) Set the blend mode of the first to Darken and Gaussian blur it by 40px. 3) Set the blend mode of the second to Lighten and Gaussian blur it by 60px. 4) Create a blank layer above these two layers, make sure all other layers other than this layer and the two layers you just created are hidden, then merge these three layers (Merge Visible). 5) Set the opacity of this layer to around 20-30% and unhide your other layers. 6) With a soft brush erase any of the areas of the images you want to be sharp, or use a Layer Mask (with a portrait this would be the eyes, teeth, and so on).
Additional Tip: Create an Action to perform steps 1-5 automatically with one click. :) As with any tool, don't overdo it. I'm sure I will, though, for awhile. I also used it on yesterday's photo, erasing the soft filter the highlight the rails of the red bridge rather than a pair of eyes.