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Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies First Edition Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470047330
ISBN-10: 047004733X
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Editorial Reviews


A Hollywood photoillustrator with 30 years of experience, Varis has been published in National Geographic, Newsweek, and Fortune magazines. Far from a manual on fashion or nude photography, this is a comprehensive tutorial on how to photograph all types of people: young, old, and dozens of ethnic varieties. Varis supplements the book with a CD of numerous before-and-after sample image files and technical reference materials. He begins with a discussion of the right hardware and software and how to configure them, then teaches digital color management and lighting techniques as they apply to portraiture. He also provides in-depth chapters on retouching and special effects, including such techniques as skin smoothing, beauty retouching, screen diffusion, and depth of field effects. Highly recommended for serious students. (Library Journal, March 15, 2007)

From the Back Cover

What is the color of skin?

A practical guide to photographing people in the digital age

It's one thing to snap someone's picture. It's another thing entirely to capture the essence that made you reach for your camera in the first place. Now a top Hollywood pro shares his secrets for the digital capture of human skin in all its variety: young, old, male, female, different skin tones and ethnicities, with makeup or without—even tattooed skin!

Using step-by-step tutorials and stunning full-color examples, industry expert Lee Varis teaches it all: the basics of digital imaging, essential tricks to shooting indoors and out, how to light your subjects in any pose, and much more. Above all, you'll find out why the color of skin that's best for final output is almost always a departure from reality.

Topics include:

  • Starting with the right hardware and software settings
  • Developing your digital color "chops"
  • Mastering Rembrandt lighting and other basic techniques
  • Overcoming common digital skin problems, such as too much red
  • Adjusting skin tones to withstand nearby colors like green grass
  • Faking tattoos and photographing the real thing
  • Trimming the fat, lighting up the eyes, and filling in wrinkles
  • Adding soft focus, retouching, and other advanced Photoshop® techniques
  • Discovering what can and what can't be done in post-process

Follow the tutorials in the book with numerous before-and-after sample image files on the companion CD. You'll also find technical reference materials to enhance and reinforce your learning.

  • Know how to soften wrinkles and change shapes—and when not to!
  • Beautifully color-balance every skin tone
  • Brilliantly light any number of subjects in any location

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Sybex; First Edition edition (October 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047004733X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470047330
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,081,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Conrad J. Obregon VINE VOICE on November 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
It probably says more about me than the book that I found a title which applies to something that surrounds every person provocative. However, it's likely that advanced Photoshop users will find something provocative in this book

The book is aimed at photographers who know the basics of photography, including exposure, and the use of Photoshop including layers and masks. The author's emphasis is on portraits and people photography and how to get the most from photographs of these subjects. Although the author spends a little time looking at hardware like digital cameras and at basic portrait lighting techniques, his main concern is with post processing.

The author's stated aim is to fill the gaps left by other books, like the reproduction of dark skin. And he does this in many ways that I haven't seen before. For example he suggests better skin colors can be achieved by looking at the CMYK readings and applying a rule of thumb. (If you don't know what CMYK is, this book isn't for you.) Varis suggests that for Caucasians magenta and yellow should be of approximately equal value, with cyan a fourth to a third of the value. Images of African Americans should have a higher percentage of cyan and magenta. He then tells you how to make these adjustments. He also shows how to make tone and contrast adjustments for both color and black-and=white images.

The author devotes a chapter to retouching, showing the reader how to ease those wrinkles and even do a little tummy tuck in Photoshop. He also devotes space to special effects, but he emphasizes alteration of the image not to tell lies, so much as to give effect to the photographer's vision. There is also a chapter on preparing output for print.
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Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies

I just finished reading Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies, a wonderful book for Adobe® Photoshop® enthusiasts. Although I would only consider myself an intermediate user of Photoshop, I found Lee Varis' book immensely helpful, and I highly recommend it to all those who photograph people.

Chapter 1: Digital Imaging Basics is a brief introduction to digital imaging basics. It quickly covers chips and pixels as well as dynamic ranges. Furthermore, Varis covers JPEG artifacts, cameras, memory cards, computers and monitor calibration. He finishes the chapter with a discussion on Photoshop preferences.

Chapter 2: Color Management Workflow, and Calibration is as the title suggests. The first few pages provide a high level overview of workflow management. Then Varis discusses color and light calibration. I must admit, he does have a rather funky looking set up of test targets that include the GretagMacBeth 24 patch plus Styrofoam cutouts and black traps. Varis provides a lengthy and detailed discussion on his calibration method. He also mentions that he prefers 8 bit processing as opposed to 16 bit. Moreover, he comments on the popular expose to the right practice.

::::The idea is good theory but bad practice because the histogram cannot tell you where you are placing your tones with any precision, and it can't tell you whether the histogram is appropriate for the subject. (What picture goes with this histogram?
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Format: Paperback
How many times have you taken a photograph that was "almost perfect"? You know what I mean. Either there's something in the background you didn't notice, a shadow or blemish on someone's face, or worse yet, it's the best photograph you've ever had taken of yourself, but your stomach was sticking out. As someone who has worked with Photoshop pretty regularly for a few years, I'm happy to say I can remedy most of those situations. Although I've used 'Photoshop for Dummies' and it has been helpful, 'Skin' offers suggestions most photographers never even though about. It was mostly through creativity and tenacity that Photoshop worked fairly well for me. It wasn't until I read 'Skin' that I realized I was working entirely too hard to achieve the effects I was after. Achieving appropriate skin tones is no longer guess work, eliminating or softening facial lines is a snap, and balancing colors throughout the photo has become a mandatory element. Trial and error is no longer a prerequisite in my photography. Author Lee Varis offers more information than I will ever use as an amateur. However, whether or not I ever incorporate all this information into my photography, it was fascinating to read about how easily it's all done. For me, the portrait "tricks" alone make this book worth while. I plan to keep it on my desk and use it every time I work on a photo.
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Lee Varis has written a superb treatise - and that's what it is - on "digitally lighting, photographing, and retouching faces and bodies". He joins a short list of Katrin Eismann and Steve Caplain as the best teachers of Photoshop I am aware of.

Eismann has written books on retouching and masking that are absolutely essential. Caplain has written the bible on Photoshop montage. Varis has written the last word on on photographing people in the digital age.

One aside: all three of these authors are to be thanked for not attempting to be comedians along the lines of Scott Kelby, Deke McClelland and Russell Brown. Where this business of Photoshop authors trying to be "funny" started is unknown, but it is a ghastly thing when the author truly isn't funny.

Anyway, Varis covers the waterfront here, when it comes to photographing people. Everything. Color. Lighting. Correction. Retouching. Printing. In all, this book is about making the most of the people you photograph.

Profusely illustrated, Varis takes the reader step-by-step through each and every process.

There are a lot of Photoshop books out there, but few truly great ones. This is one of the few.

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