The Fighter: Photo Shoot followed by Photoshop

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 2, 2011

Category: General

Ok so the reason for this post is two fold really; firstly to show what went into making the image you see below and secondly but more importantly to show that every image starts ‘in camera’. Incidentally, this image  is a composite of one that I took at the very end of a recent shoot for a Fitness/Personal Training client once I’d captured all the ‘must have’ shots. Taking shots at the end of a shoot for personal/portfolio work is something I do almost all of the time and something that my clients always seem happy to take part in as it invariably gives them images they would never normally have had…

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a huge fan of editing and creating composite images in Photoshop but none of that is possible without first working hard behind the camera to get ‘the shot’. The old adage of ‘Garbage in, Garbage out’ still rings true despite the incredible advances that have been made in Photoshop over the past few years. You see Photoshop is an incredible tool, but that is all it is…a tool and when all is said and done, the majority of enhancements have served to make what has always been possible, that much easier to achieve. For example, the Refine Edge Command in Photoshop CS5 is incredible for making selections, but we’ve always been able to make selections with all the other methods available to us…Channels, Pen Tool etc…

I’m sure we’ve all heard comments such as “Yeah but that’s all been done in Photoshop” on more than one occasion and that’s just the sign of the times. There can’t be a person on the planet that hasn’t heard of Photoshop; heck I’ve even heard it being mentioned in TV dramas but the fact that people have heard about it, doesn’t mean they understand it. There has never been nor will there ever be a ‘Turn this piece of c$&p into a Masterpiece Filter’ and for that reason there’s no escaping it…it all starts ‘in camera’ and making the best possible image at the point of capture; it’s at this point we can then bring Photoshop into the mix.

Anyway, having said all that let’s get back to how the ‘Fighter’ image was made. Below is an iPhone photo showing the set up used which consisted of 2 strip lights and one beauty dish…

Here’s the RAW image exactly as it was when imported into my MacBook Pro at time of capture i.e. no editing applied. The time was taken during the shoot to set the lighting so that highlights and shadows fell exactly as I wanted so as to really show off Ricky’s physique to the fullest and subsequently look right in the final composite image.

*Note: The white walls of the studio have been turned to a mid(ish) grey ‘in camera’ by the distance Ricky and the lighting were from them.

Once I was happy with the ‘in camera’ image it was then a case of working in Photoshop to create the final composite. To give you an idea of the work that went into the final image here’s a screen grab showing all the layers…

Below you can see the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ comparison which clearly shows that on Ricky himself the editing has only enhanced what was already present in the original RAW image. The background that has been added in was originally a shot of a plain grey brick wall that I have added a Union Jack flag onto in Photoshop and painted away portions of it to give the weathered/grunge look…

In another post I’ll give you a run through of how other photos from shoot were made such as the ones you can see in the Lightroom screen capture below.

In the mean time though I’d love to ‘hear’ your thoughts on the whole ‘in camera’ issue and the role that you see Photoshop plays in today’s Photography. It’s a topic of conversation that will always be around and will generate serious debate. Personally I think Photoshop is a vital part in today’s Photography however as I’ve already eluded to it isn’t a cure for poor photography. First and foremost we are photographers and that’s what we need to show our clients and I think we owe it to ourselves to be the best we can be and that starts ‘in camera’.

If you have any comments, questions or general feelings about anything you’ve read or seen in this post then as always please feel free to make use of the comments section below, but in the mean time,
Enjoy 🙂

*One more thing…if you’d like to see a series of videos showing the editing process for this ‘Fighter’ image then again just ‘shout me out’ in the comments section and I’ll look at putting something together.

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  1. Allen Ross Thomas

    Valuable instruction as is customary, Glyn. Thank you.

    To me photoshop is in fact the darkroom of modern times. I appreciate it when photographers such as yourself light and capture the image optimizing it for pre planned post production (which you often do).

    I get annoyed when poor photographs are attempted to be salvaged by running them through the “Action O’ The Month” club.

    Loving the look of that Profoto lighting as well!


  2. Pedro Vasconcellos

    Video please =)

    I think male models are underused, this photoshoot is wicked! This was a “photoillustration” for a client right? Than photoshop is more than ok…

    Just in news photography and newspapers in general that PS is kind of taboo…

    Awesome Work Glyn

  3. DaveT

    Yes please to the video.

    And I couldn’t agree with you more about getting it right in camera. Coming as I do from a slide user background, it’s something that I try to achieve every time.

    What amazes me about the general public’s conception of Photoshop is that they think anyone can achieve great results with this programme. The point is – they can’t. It is a complicated application that requires knowledge and skill to use effectively and that is why at the very top end of the game (fashion mags and advertising) Photoshop experts are highly valued.

    The analagy is like playing piano. With a few bits of practice anycone can play chopsticks, but is takes year of practice and dedication to become proficient enough to play a concert piece.


  4. Dave

    Your timimg with this was perfect Glyn – I have a shoot booked for next week with a MMA fighter as part of my degree work and this is almost exactly the look I was going for. I really love your tutorials and I tend to watch the video once then again making notes. Having your diagram/workflow listed is really helpful and if combined with a video it would be so much easier to learn. I found your website through looking at Calvin Hollywoods work and between the two of you I have learnt so much, so quickly.


  5. David Kelly

    Great work again Glyn, you certainly seem to carving a recognisable ‘Glyn Dewis’ look / style in the work that I’ve seen on the blog over the past several months. Like Pedro & DaveT say, it would be great to see a tutorial video created for this image. The work on this image seems to be quite extensive, looking at those layers! 🙂

    In regards to getting it right in camera & Photoshop, having been brought up with film I’m a true believer in getting it right at point of capture (or at least as best you can). If nothing else it makes the PP work much easier 😉 In my film days, the less time I could spend in the darkroom working on a print the better, particularly as unlike modern day digital work, dodging/burning was real hard work & consistency in duplicate was hard to achieve (well for me anyway! :-))

    As Allen says PS/LR are the modern day darkrooms but with such great tools, caution should always exercised. Just because they make life easier compared to the old film methods, doesn’t mean photographers should be more lazier in their attitudes in capturing a photograph. PS is a great onestop shop tool for many things but it’s never going to turn a dog into a fox, so to speak.

  6. claudio.von.grubens

    Hi glyn,

    great shots – no guess! i agree with you, that ps i just a tool and tools are made for assistance! i have been in photography and design for 3 years now and i learned a lot, due to i didn’t know anything 😉
    Getting a good photo out of the camera is very important because of mood and feelings – you can add a moody sky(like one of your latest blogs) but it wouldn’t help anything if the person you shot hasn’t got the same feelings in his face…

    the negative point i’ve learned is that i trust no ad pciture on a billboard or in a magazine because i know what is possible and what even i can do with a few sliders in LR3…

    as i always say there is a positive point in every negative and therefore i see more the beauty inside people i meet on the street or wherever else -> this is very positive for myself 😉 So photography helps to improve my character…

    thx for sharing

  7. Rick Wenner

    I could not agree with you more about capturing the best image you can in camera before even considering bringing it into Lightroom/Photoshop. I am a firm believer in that you should know what you want out of the final images before you even pick up the camera. Set your lights, camera settings, and all other details first. Then, after the best photo is created in camera, then make your adjustments in LR/PS and make that image even better. I really like this photo Glyn, in fact, I like the before and the after images almost equally.

    • Glyn

      Thanks everyone for the kind words; it’s really appreciated.
      The whole topic of getting it right ‘in camera’ is certainly one that people feel strongly about and rightfully so. Photoshop clearly has its place in today’s photography; in some styles more than others but I guess the bottom line is that regardless of what style somebody has, how they edit their images and how much/how little they use photoshop there’s no getting away from it…it all has to start with a darned good image coming out of the camera.

      Thanks for dropping in and commenting,
      Glyn 🙂

  8. Mark King

    Please put together a video! I LOVE your work and the honesty of how you got there!! AMAZING! Also where did you get the stone wall background or any of the background textures that you use?? Love them!! Keep up the great work my friend!

    • Glyn

      @Mark…No worries mate; I’ll put together a few videos showing some of the techniques in the very near future. Thanks for looking in and for the really kind words; very good of you to say! Cheers

  9. Alistair McNaughton

    Hey Glyn, just discovered your blog – really enjoying the content. THis year’s resolution to get up to speed with PShop.(and get in right in the camera of course!)

    • Glyn

      @Alistair…Great to know you’re looking in mate; thanks 🙂

  10. heather

    Glyn, amazing post. Videos are always helpful when learning new photography ideas. I have enjoyed each and every video you have posted. Thanks for your time and energy you have invested in this blog. Awesome!

    • Glyn

      @Heather…It’s an absolute pleasure. I get a real kick out of putting this together and knowing that in some way it might be helping. Thanks for the kind words 🙂

  11. Ian

    Thank you for sharing your workflow. It is always interesting to hear how other photographers, particularly those you respect, process there images. Like you I feel post production is an essential part of photography, it always has been really. It should be used responsibly though, just like any powerful tool (I’m looking at you Liquefy).

    Out of curiosity how long would you say you spent in post on this image roughly?

    p.s. I realise no liquefy was used here, Ricky hardly needs it!

    • Glyn

      @Ian…Thanks for commenting mate. Re the boxer image I guess in total i spent around an hour and a half on it; down to me keep coming back and tweeking this and that 🙂

  12. Wee Joe

    Glyn, I would just like to say thanks for sharing your workflow and yes please to the videos too! I think new techniques are easier to learn if you see them rather than read about them.

    Am really enjoying the blog!

    Take it easy

    Wee Joe :o)

    • Glyn

      @Wee Joe…Thanks for looking in and for the kind words mate. I’ll be putting a few new videos over the coming weeks and will be posting them on the blog as soon as they’re done.


  13. José Parcerisa

    Hi Glyn, I new here in your blog, I can see you receive a lot of post congratulation you for your work, and all of them are wright, you are a really artist and your work is amazing. I appreciate very much that you share it and help us to improve our skills. Thank you very much. Have you any video about this technique ?
    Thanks in advance and thank you again.
    Your friend José.



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