How to: The Post Process of Ages of Man Photograph

published August 19, 2011 by
Add PhotoExtract Social to Your Facebook Timeline:
PhotoExtract Social - Connected
PhotoExtract Social - Activity Shared (unshare)

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+.

Do you like this post?

Add PhotoExtract Social to Your Facebook Timeline:
PhotoExtract Social - Connected
PhotoExtract Social - Activity Shared (unshare)