How I Shot & Edited a Girl Senior Session

I had a couple of questions on this beautiful girl’s senior mini-session.  So I’ll do my best to answer them in this post.

Senior Girl

A mini-session is shorter and doesn’t include outfits changes.  We spent 45 minutes at an outdoor location and that was it.  Oh, except it was horribly windy.  Super windy.  Extremely windy.  Windy-windy.  Blow Dorothy and Toto away kind of windy.  This lovely senior was a trooper with dealing with the wind and I tried my best to find spots that weren’t too windy and tried to time my shots.  Not super easy when the wind is swirling in every direction.  But that’s springtime for ya!

Camera details: I used my Nikon D3100 with the 35mm lens.  My ISO was 100 because it was a sunny late morning.  My aperture was F2.2.  My shutter speed varied depending on the areas I moved her to.  It ranged from 1/640 to 1/1250.  Remember…your settings depend on the exposure you have and your exposure triangle.  I shot in manual mode and RAW.  I used spot metering and single-point focusing, since I didn’t have a subject moving on me (other than her hair).  I used all natural light.  I brought my reflector with me, but ended up not using it due to the fact that it was about flying away in the wind.  I used my Expodisc to set a custom white balance each time I moved her to a different location.

For editing: I’m not going to show you screen shots for these edits, because I don’t have any.  You can look at how I edited these senior’s photos if you want screen shots.  It’s similar.  His photos were taken the same week.


I used Dsisk Photography’s Make Me Wonderful Action set for Elements to help me edit these photos.  I use Photoshop Elements 11.


Here are my steps:

1) Opened my RAW file up and adjusted anything I needed to in Adobe RAW.  I mostly played with the highlights and shadows until they were pleasing to my eye.  That’s how I get the photos to be the lighter and brighter look that I prefer if I don’t totally get it in camera.

2) I started with zooming in on the face and editing there.  I edited the eyes with the Eye Enhancer action using a soft white brush at 30%.  I then used the Sharpen the Details with a soft white brush at 30% to sharpen the eyes and lashes.

3) I made a copy of the background to touch up any non-permanent skin & hair issues and background issues using the clone tool and spot healing brush.  I didn’t spend a long time trying to deal with the wind-blown look.  Sometimes it’s just best to leave it.

4) I used the Mouth Makeover to add some polish with a soft white brush set at 60%.

5) I used the Perfect Complexion Action with a soft white brush set at 30% and ran it over her skin.  I used the reduce reds layer and set it at 25% opacity and also the flawless glow layer at an opacity of 15%.

6) I used the Enrichen action and painted it on the background with a soft white brush set at 30%.

7)  I ran the A Little Punch action and set the opacity of it to 15%.

8) I then color matched an area on her cheek, put in a solid color layer in the soft light blending mode and put the opacity to 15%.

9) I cropped and was done.

That was it.  I did play with a few photos.  I added some sun flare to some and another I totally changed the background.  But those were some extra ones I threw in there because I wanted to play with them!  You can see the difference in the Before and After photo below.


There’s the quick version of how I edited those photos.  If you don’t understand all of it, I apologize.  It takes practice with Photoshop and I probably speak my own Photoshop language.  I’m all self-taught. Are you a Photoshop lover too?

How I Edited the Urban Senior Photos

How was your weekend?  Filled with stuff?  Mine was, but it was great.  I got to learn how to make chocolate truffles.  Anything with chocolate and girlfriends is a great time!

Today I’m going to quickly show you how I edited a photo from this senior’s session.  Here’s the before and after:


It’s not a huge difference.  Some people might like the before better, but I’m the one playing with the photos and I like the after better!  I prefer a brighter, lighter photo….almost nearing a little overexposed.  Personal opinion, it’s a great thing.  Sometimes.  You just gotta know when to keep it to yourself!  I do have to say…using an ExpoDisc to white balance has made a huge difference in my straight out of camera shots.  I have got to do a post on that in the next year.

For editing I used Photoshop Elements 11.  You can use real Photoshop or get by with a different version of Elements, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 13.  I also used the Make Me Wonderful set of actions for Elements from Dsisk Photography.  They’re $2 and so worth it to speed things up in your workflow.  Every action mentioned is from that set.

For this session I used my Nikon D3100 with the 35mm lens.  It was taken at around 12:30PM.  I used my Expodisc to set a custom white balance and I shot in RAW and in manual mode.

I’ll give you my camera settings for this photo, but remember that your camera settings will not be the same as mine.  It depends on your light and what is going on with your exposure triangle.  My camera settings for this shot were: F2.8, ISO 200, SS 1/1000.

I opened my RAW file in Photoshop Elements 11 and it brought it to Adobe Camera RAW.  I only tweaked the shadows a bit to -10.  I then opened the file into Photoshop Elements 11.

Here are my editing steps:

1) I made a copy of the background using the short cut Ctrl-J.  I put that in the blending mode of screen and set my opacity to 20%.  Sorry, I didn’t realize how hard it was to see these screen shots.  Something for me to improve on.  Isn’t there something to always improve on?


2) I did a levels adjustment.  I moved the black slider to the right to 5 and the gray slider to the right to 1.08.  This makes the photo a wee bit brighter to my liking.  I just go by my eye.


3) I did another levels layer adjustment to give some contrast.  I pushed the black slider to the right to 13 and the white slider to the left to 245.


4) I now make a copy of the background and do minor touch-ups.  I use the cloning tool for anything in the background (I don’t think I did on this photo).  I use the spot healing brush tool (Band-Aid) on any facial marks that will eventually go away.  I try not to get rid of anything that is permanent.  I do edit faces, but I try to use a soft touch and not alter the look of a person.  I didn’t do any softening on these photos, but I often will on females.  Just cause I’m a female and I like my face softened, so I do it to the other girls a bit.


5) Instead of my usual eye edits, I opted to use the Make Me Wonderful Set from Dsisk Photography for these photos.  I used the Eye Enhancer first.  I set my brush to a soft white brush at 30% and ran over the whites and color of the eye. In this screenshot, I’ve only painted the white brush over the eye on the left of the screen (his right eye).  It’s a subtle difference.  You don’t want alien eyes.  You can barely tell I did anything.


6) I then used the Sharpen the Details action to sharpen the eyes.  I had a soft white brush set at 30% opacity. I ran the brush over the whites, color, and eyelashes of the eyes.  That’s my preference, to always sharpen the eyes a bit more.


7) I decided I wanted a little more contrast or punch to the photo.  I used the A Little Punch action and decreased the opacity to 10%.


8) I use the Deepen the Background action to well, deepen the background.  I use a soft white brush at 30% opacity and run it over the background, avoiding the subject.  I want the subject to stand out a bit more.


9) In some photos I burn (darken) parts and in some photos I dodge (lighten) parts.  I tended to burn these photos more in the background or around the edges.  Kind of like a light vignette.


10) Then I would straighten and crop the photo, if needed.  I did it a bit to this one.  Then I sharpen the photo and save it.  Done.

Senior Guy

That’s it.  It’s more than some people do on photos and less than some.  I just enjoy playing around with photos.  How about you?

Portrait Preview: Lovely Senior Girl Mini-Session

This beautiful young lady and I were both hoping for a non-windy day for her senior mini-session.  Alas, this state can have horrendous winds in the spring and we didn’t get lucky on the wind front.  She gets the honorable recognition of being my “windiest session” ever.  With no option of rescheduling due to busy schedules, we dealt with the circumstances.  We may not have been lucky in the wind department, but I think we did get lucky in being able to get this girl some gorgeous photos.  She even looks great with the wind blown look.  This lovely lady definitely gets all the credit for being gracious with a not-so-perfect portrait day.  This is one of those sessions where I realize that God has His hand on it all.  It’s not in my ability to take great portraits, I work hard at photography, but I’m not naturally talented at it.  But it is God’s ability to use whatever measure of talent He gave me to deliver something special and show the people in the photos how truly beautiful they are.

Pastel Senior Girl Mini Session


It’s truly an honor to meet such wonderful people as this young lady and her mother through photography.  It’s even more humbling when I have past clients refer me. Thank you!!

Portrait Preview: Urban Senior Guy

This is was a really fun session!  It was my first time photographing in an urban setting, so I loved getting to find and try new backgrounds.  Also, this was photographed just after noon, so I got the challenge of finding places that weren’t in the direct sun.  Tall buildings help to create wonderfully shaded places to get some great photos!  Much better than the dabbled light you get through trees.

Here’s a peek at this senior’s urban session:

Portrait Preview: Urban Senior Guy | Chrissy Martin Photography

Thanks so much to this senior and his mom for suggesting the setting.  I really enjoyed getting the chance to do this session.  Good luck with the remainder of your senior year and with your opportunities for next year!

Weekly Photography Favorites

I can tell when I’m busy, I have a serious lack of posts…..and sanity.  I can almost keep up with these quickie favorite things posts on a weekly semi-weekly basis.  I try and mark the articles/posts down as I read them, so it’s quick to get my post up.

I was busy taking and editing 2 senior sessions in the last week.  They were so much fun and presented new challenges to me.  I shot my first urban setting!  I’m use to shooting in the mountains and out in nature, so an urban session was fun!  I also photographed on the windiest day ever.  The beautiful girl was a trooper and we got it done!  I really enjoy doing senior sessions.

Senior Girl Senior Guy

On to some great reads from the week:

Underwater Portraits of Babies in a Swimming Pool at PetaPixel. Seriously, if you don’t smile while reading this, I’m sorry.  This is pure awesomeness.  My kids would have never done that as babies, they were the ones who inhaled the water the moment they went under and made me use my lifeguarding skills.  I still have bad memories of that.  Thankfully, they no longer inhale water and they can hold their breath.  Though I still shudder with the memory when they jump in.  And this coming from a former competitive swimmer and lifeguard.  Ugh.

Wrap Up Wednesday at Son Kissed Photography. One of my favorite newborn photographers, she is just amazing.  I wish I had those mad wrapping skills, it’s just beautiful!

5 Simple Tips to Get Rid of Glasses Glare in Portraits at Clickin’ Moms An older post, but a helpful post.

One Sigma 1.8 Zoom or a Stable of Three Nikon Primes – What Would You Choose? at SLR Lounge.  Yes, please!  This is now number one at the top of my wish list.  (Wish…meaning I can’t afford it and it will take me forever to save for it).

This Mom is Taking the Most Incredible Photos of Her Fearless Daughters at Buzzfeed.  I know I’ve seen one of her photos in Click magazine.  Amazing.  Inspiring.  Wish I could do that.  I really need to get back to just focusing on my children and what it is I love about them.

Enjoy your weekend!  I’m going to take some photos of my kids.  Hopefully.  Or I’ll just enjoy being with them. Because I’m been crazy, lunatic, busy mom this past week.  What have you got planned?  Or what were your favorite things from the week?

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