Deke’s Techniques 376: Developing the Perfect Holiday Portrait

376 Developing the perfect holiday portrait

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques movie, Deke takes an ordinary snapshot (taken by a nostalgic mom on the day of Senior Prom) and turns it into a suitable-for-framing-then-gifting portrait. It’s the least he could do after turning this poor beleaguered teenager into a dark elf a few weeks ago.

Let me be clear, it’s not an ordinary snapshot in that it’s a) my son, and b) I did manage to get out the DSLR for this one—-so he gets to start with a raw file. This allows him to make all the exposure, white balance, and retouching edits dynamically from within Adobe Camera Raw. The final bit of post production, namely sharpening for printing, is then applied in Photoshop.

Before and after portrait developing in Camera Raw

There are a lot of cool tips in here that you can use to make something special out of your otherwise-ordinary candid shot, including how to sneak up on exposure changes without clipping, how a negative Clarity setting can smooth out skin, and how to finesse spot removal changes in ACR.

Meanwhile, this will be the last Deke’s Techniques for 2014. We’re taking next week off to hang with the kids (including this one). There’s a whole collection’s worth of movies to keep you occupied in the meanwhile, and if you need a free week’s subscription at to check out exclusive episodes, you can sign up at


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  • eyes

    There is something wrong with those eyes ;O)

  • The techniques were useful

    I think it’s also proof how much in Photography is subjective. The RAW photo definitely needed adjusting, but to me he looks like a vampire in the second photo. I wouldn’t call it an improvement.

  • There seems to be universal agreement re: the eyes

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have used to word “perfect” in the title. Call it “Developing the Imperfect Holiday Portrait,” and I think it makes a lot more sense.

    I suspected I went too far on the eyes at the time, and almost re-recorded the video as a result. But in its defense, Deke’s Techniques is designed to be off-the-cuff, as close to a live performance as a training video gets. So after reconsidering things a couple of days (even the subject of this image, Colleen’s son Wheeler, objected to it), I decided to leave it as is and let it go.

    Also, and for what little it’s worth, if I ever teach something that’s tasteful, it’s only by accident. I’ve never been quite sure I know what tasteful is. I’m all about what’s possible and, on the rare occasion, expedient.

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