How to: The Post Process of Ages of Man Photograph

published August 19, 2011 by
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This is a guest article by Mike Shaw.

Learn the technique that is behind the photograph Ages of Man.


Ages of Man – the final version

The Original Image

The Steps Between the Images


The original image was shot at mid afternoon using a Canon 7D with the 28–135mm lens attached, the rest of the details are:

F-stop: f/4.5
Time: 1/250sec
ISO: 100
Focal length: 60mm

It was shot in RAW format (if your camera can shoot in RAW then you should, the information retained in the file is invaluable)

Raw File

The images is opened as a raw file in CS5 and the clarity and the sharpness is tweaked. Contrast is also tweaked while still in colour to give a stronger contrast, needed later.


The image is then opened in CS5, it is then cropped to focus on the face and remove some of the background clutter.

Silver Efex Pro Steps

Using the plug in Silver Efex Pro it is converted to black and white, once again here the contrast, brightness and structure is tweaked, stronger contrast and more brightness added and structure increased by around 20%.


At this point there is still some clutter behind the subjects head, so I set about getting rid of the background using the burn brush, set at a round 25% to 35% exposure I darken both the highlights and mid tones first, I then move onto the shadow and set the exposure to around 50%, at all the times the brush is kept small when working near to the face with the hardness set at 30%.

A lot of this technique is how you use the brush, as you work around the face you need to sweep it gently as each pass will darken the image, be aware of where the brush is falling within the frame. You also need to understand the lighting of the image, for this I wanted it be lit toward the face so I darkened the back with stronger strokes, more delicate to the front.

Export to Lightroom

The image is then exported to Lightroom, in here I use the Tone sliders, I both lighten the image with the fill light and darken the blacks with the black slider. I also use post crop vignetting to really darken the edges of the frame but I use it in highlight priority mode to retain the highlights were needed. I also sharpen the image in here looking also to reduce any noise. Once happy I export back to CS5

The Last Stage

The last stage is to use the brush tool with a soft edge set on black to tidy up any areas, with this image I also increased the structure again in Silver Efex to bring out more of the detail in the finished image.

Its sounds complicated but it is easier than you think, make sure you have the right image to begin with, it does not work on all portraits and less so on a subject that is looking directly at the viewer.


Mike Shaw is an experimental photographer that still thinks of himself a novice to the media Mike has had no education in photography.

It was a case of picking up a camera in 2006 and seeing what he could do with it.

After many months of frustration and a complete refusal to read any manual he started to produce images that showed some semblance to many photographers he admired.

He now see his world through a viewfinder and frames each day as it comes, photography has become a passion.

You can circle Mike on Google+.

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2011-08-24 22:32:48+0200

A nice article, it is very inspiring for me

Lubomir Baramov

2011-08-27 17:08:01+0200

Michael, you gave us a quiet description of your post process. I like to bring in my own experience to it, maybe it will help you or others in next projects.
It is impressing, how many programs get involved in all of that transformation. I would suggest you to try to do all of those adjustment in your CS5, instead of jumping back and forth to different programs. All of those programs use same adjustment tools, it is just mater of learning. That save you lot of time (even time is not an matter). I hope your image was save in TIF, so when you have to save and resave it in order to get to different editors, you not losing too much info. I think you try to create portrait from street photo, and that is almost impossible task. You got pretty good result, but not enough for hanging it on a big wall over fireplace. Your object, head of the man, has hot spot, which don’t look so bad in color, but in B&W, with all yours adjustment is really not so pleasant. Anyway, you have very interesting portfolio, and I like lots of your picture.

2011-11-09 15:12:18+0100

Good morning! Very helpful responce. From your perspective, how do you clean up the hot spots? (and for all that, what is a hot spot?)

2011-12-11 21:20:18+0100

Hot spots are overexposed places with NO info at all, you ca use different technique to fix that, BEST is proper exposed photo in beginning. here is some more info:…s_in_ph.html

or over here:…n-photoshop/

2012-02-22 21:27:24+0100

In my opinion, the shot is properly exposed. I think if you were sitting there when he took it, you'd see the shine on the head just as he exposed it. Sometimes hotspots are actually part of the scene, and it's likely that if he'd tried to compensate at the time he shot the image, he would have either underexposed, or would have lost the spontaneity of the scene. To me the capture of the mood is more important.

There is a big issue with a lot of photographers on proper exposure these days. The truth is that exposure, as long as it is not extremely blown leaning toward degrading the image (this photo does not suffer from this) does, and should take a back seat to the overall shot. In this case, there is no apparent loss of integrity from bad exposure. The image is communicated properly, and the emotion and effect the photographer set out to capture is, indeed captured.

Also, while many actions can be performed in different post processing software, not all actions will produce the same results. If that were true, we'd all be using one of the many free or cheaper programs that mimic Photoshop. It's a mistake to think that, because various post processing packages have the same buttons to do the same things you'll get the same results. Use what gets you what you're looking for, and what you feel comfortable with.

Thanks for a great shot, and a great tutorial.


2011-10-26 16:25:17+0200

Nice article Mike!!

Jason Hermann

2011-12-01 13:20:06+0100

very nice…

Richard jason

2011-12-11 13:10:52+0100

very nice


2011-12-15 21:29:35+0100

Thanks for sharing how you processed this. I've seen it in Google+ and didn't realize it came from a street photo… you had mentioned that he was playing music and your brief interaction. I assumed this meant in a dark club or some intimate setting, never imagined it was outside in broad daylight. Keep sharing your zest for photography… it never gets old!

Jon Gauntt

2012-01-05 15:24:57+0100

very interesting and impressive article..wish i can have a photoshop in order to learn how to tweak and make admirable photos…

i love B&W photos…

venerando buot

2012-01-09 10:19:06+0100

Michael, this is a great image and thanks for posting. I saw it on G+ as well and immediately set out to try and do something similar, but I must say I'm having a hard time separating the foreground from the background (in order to turn it black). It doesn't seem to be something that SFX pro does by default. Did you use a masking technique to achieve this?


2012-01-25 15:23:02+0100

Great example that you do not need any photography skills and still can produce great photos.

The final photo could have been taken almost like it is, with minimal need of retouching.

The original photo is less than mediocre. It's something I would toss into the trash.


2012-01-27 00:52:09+0100

Very nice tutorial and awesome results. Thanks for sharing!

2012-02-21 05:14:44+0100

WOW. Amazing photograph. Thanks for sharing the techniques you used. Please share more. I think everyone has a thirst for knowledge, and you are helping quench it. Once again Thanks.

Derron Fricke

2012-05-03 23:12:08+0200

Great image and editing

2012-07-10 20:32:50+0200

The end result is a great image, but in my mind photography, especially from the street, needs to be raw and authentic, and this ain't either. Bit of a fake in my opinion. Sorry Mike.


2012-07-11 09:51:20+0200

Despite the post op surgery, you have definitely retained the intensity of his gaze and in fact enhanced the overall persona of the image. I'm a bit of a purest but in this instance, the post op surgery has made it a better image overall. After all it is about the mans face, his gaze and his eyes. Well done.

2012-09-05 22:14:13+0200

It's very nice looking. However, I think this goes past the realm of photography and more into digital artwork. When it comes to editing, as a photographer, less is more.


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