The Graduate in University Tutorial

The Graduate in University Tutorial

Last month was the graduation period in Hong Kong. And today I’d like to share with you how I shoot this grad photo.


I took this photo in the University of Hong Kong Main Building. This building is one of the most accent historical building in Hong Kong. The building is a great place to take some vintage feel photo with soft light. Let’s begin with the camera setup.

Camera Setup

It was the afternoon time, the sun was too bright  for outdoor shooting. Therefore, I went indoor. In this sense the window gave amazing soft light which is great for portrait. I used spot metering and single point focus for this shoot. The focus point was placed on the model face which gave me a normal exposure for her face. I’d like to have a shallow depth of field and hence I used f/2.8 for this shoot. I wished to use a Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D for this shoot so as to get a wider view of this building. However, there were so many graduates walking back and forth on the corridor. In order words, I can only use a Nikkor 35mm f/2D because I didn’t want those graduates in my picture.

Lighting Setup

I placed the graduate next to one of the window. The window light lit up her right face softly. That was a great soft light. However, the shadow side was too dark on her left. Therefore, I fired my Yongnuo YN-560II to the white wall on my right so as to create a bounce. The light bounced back and become a much softer light. This fill light lit up the shadow to bring out the detail. The power of the light was at about 1/16 or 1/32. The most important point is the check the histogram to see if there is any black blipping. If any black clipping occur, I cannot bring out the detail in post process.

Post Process

Here is the un-processed image.


For this picture, I first used Adobe Lightroom 5 to have some basic adjustment and then transfer it into Adobe Photoshop CC for more detail adjustment. I’ve also used the Portraiture for Photoshop Plug-in for skin smoothing and the Topaz ReStyle Plugin for Photoshop for the final styling layer.

Lightroom Adjustment

For most of the photo I shoot, I’d try to get as perfect as I can before pressing the shutter. I also have to know how many things Lightroom can do for my photo. In this case, Lightroom is only used for fine tune exposure, adjust highlight and shadow area, clarity, and colour. Below are the image with Lightroom adjustment.


  • Exposure: +0.3 (To have a little overexposed feel)
  • Highlight: +100 (To blow out as much detail as possible outside the window and also create a nice rim light on the model face)
  • Shadow: +50 (To bring up more detail of the shadow area.)
  • Clarity: +10 (To create more mid tone contrast.)
  • Vibrance & Saturation: +10 (To try to regenerate the original colour.)

After the adjustment, the image is as below.


Photoshop Post Process

After the basic adjustment and I put the image to Photoshop for more detail processing. Just simply hit Ctrl+E or Command+E in Lightroom and it will automatically bring the image into Photoshop.

First thing first, hit Ctrl+J or Command+J to duplicate the layer. It is because once you make a un-reversible editing on the image, you still have the original image backed up.


I then remove the black thing outside the window by the clone stamp as shown in the above image. I am not going to remove all the detail outside the window because the photo would become too “fake”. Simply hit S to call out clone stamp tool and hold down Alt key or Opt key to select the location you’d like to clone.


Then, remove the sign on the right as shown above too.

Skin Smoothing with Portraiture

I highly recommend Portraiture for Photoshop Plug-in by Imagenomic because this plug-in make the skin smoothing process sooooo easy. What you need to do is just, first, select the skin colour and, second, choose the smoothing level and then you are done.


The above image is the printscreen of the plug-in.

  1. Click the droplet logo to select the skin tone.
  2. Select the smoothing level.
  3. Check the checkbox so that the plug-in will create a new layer with the smoothing effect for easier process later.


As you can see in the mask preview screen in the above, the Portraiture plug-in also had smoothen the window which is not I want. Therefore, I need to remove it by creating a layer mask or just use the eraser to erase all of them.

Fine Tune Colour with Topaz ReStyle

After skin smoothing, I have come to the final step which is fine tuning the colour. Before opening the plug-in, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E or Command+Opt+Shift+E to create a new layer with all visible layer. I am using the Topaz ReStyle by the Topaz Labs because it gives me so many presets which fulfil almost all my needs. As this photo is shot from a accent building and therefore I’d like to have some vintage feel.


I choose the Soft Siam Fade preset from the Portrait collections. Then play with the blending mode and opacity and finally I sit at normal mode with 50% opacity.

Here is the final image.


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