Welcome to One Light and a Reflector. I wanted to see what type of self-portrait I could get using just one light, a reflector and a white background. These images will take you through the process from the straight out of camera photo to the fully processed image. I think this shows that you can get a pretty good final image with minimal equipment and a little Photoshop know how. The diagram below shows the setup. The reflector was flat and right up against my stomach on a stand with a Westcott Omega Arm.
These were the settings. Nikon D610, Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 at f/8, 1/200sec. ISO 320. Nikon SB910 in a Westcott Rapid Box Octa at 1/2 power. Below is the straight out of camera shot.
So in terms of the lighting, I was quite satisfied with the results with one flash and a reflector. The light is fairly soft and diffused. The white background appears grey because of light falloff. (The Inverse Square Law) You can see an explanation of this here. If you want a pure white background you need to use an additional light and maybe touch up in post. I also liked the catch lights in the eyes. If there are no catchlights, the eyes are kind of lifeless. Now let's move this over into Photoshop and begin retouching.
The whole idea of retouching can be a pretty controversial subject. In my opinion however, if I can make you look better with a little retouching, why wouldn't I. If I can remove the odd blemish, the odd stray hair, lighten up the bags under the eyes, soften some of the wrinkles, brighten up the eyes, why wouldn't I do that. I have never had anyone say to me, "Make sure I don't look my best." When I retouch, I try to make the client look natural but refreshed. Usually my first step is using frequency separation to touch up the blemishes and to smooth out the skin a little. Below is the image after this step. I will put the before and after side by side so you can see the difference. You can find an excellent tutorial on frequency separation here. It even has an action download to make your job easier.
So if you click on the image on the right you will see I have removed some of the sun spot from my forehead, removed wild eyebrow hairs LOL and stray hairs around the head, softened some of the wrinkles in the eye area, lightened the bags under the eyes, and lightened some of the issues in the neck area as well as a little skin softening while still retaining the overall texture of the skin. If you click on the image you can go between the before and after. The next step was to add a little brightness to the eyes. Again you will see the progression of the image below.
You will probably have to click on the image and go back and forth to see the difference in the eyes. It is subtle but it just gives a little more pop to the eye.
The next thing that I usually like to do is drop in a textured background. You can see the background added in the image below.
My next step is colour grading using luminosity masks. I am just learning to do this, but it does give me a look that I am trying to achieve in my portraits. Here is a great tutorial that also comes with a downloadable action. Below you see the before and then the after at this point.
At this point I really think it comes down to personal preference. Some may prefer the before to the after but in this case the after is what I was going for. Well almost...I did a colour lookup table adjustment.
Again here it comes to preference. I liked the slightly muted colours here and I knew that I was going to apply a final step here by brightening the face, adding a slight vignette, and adding a bit of sharpening for the final effect.