Why Affinity Photo is becoming the go-to app for photography professionals

Affinity Photo offers the complete solution for modern image editing and retouching, and after winning a plethora of prestigious awards including a TIPA Best Imaging Software Award and being crowned Apple’s App of the Year in 2015 and 2017, it’s fast becoming the go-to app for professional photographers, retouchers and digital artists around the world.

Available on Mac, Windows and iPad, Affinity Photo combines lightning speed and incredible processing power with a huge toolset specifically engineered for creative and photography professionals.

It comes packed with everything you need to make quick corrections, professionally retouch portraits, apply non-destructive effects, work with raw files, paint digitally, import and edit Photoshop files and write back to PSD – making it easy to import and edit existing work and collaborate with others.

An early adopter of Affinity Photo, professional product photographer Fernando Martins Ribeiro has worked with many well-known brands including Finlay & Co, FORA eyewear and Luis Mercader sunglasses, photographing products for their commercial projects and advertising campaigns.

Fernando has always been keen to try out new software and after discovering Affinity Photo several years ago, he has never looked back. It’s now the only software he uses in his retouching process.

There’s a lot more to taking professional product shots than meets the eye and in this article, Fernando reveals the magic behind photographing one of his personal projects − suspended shoes and talks us through his retouching process in Affinity Photo.

This time-lapse video shows the whole project from start to finish – prepare to be amazed!

Equipment used

Camera: I used a Phase One camera with a P65+ digital back, mounted on a FOBA stand. Lens was a 120mm macro lens.

Lighting: I used 5 Broncolor SIROS 800 S with a variety of softboxes and reflectors. Large softbox (150×75) on top for general lighting, 60x60cm on the sides, a P65 reflector with a grid to light the soles of the shoes and background.

Software: Retouching done with Affinity Photo. Capture One for tethered shooting, BronControl to remotely control the lights.

Time taken

All the work took around 10 hours. Preparation, research and testing took four hours. Setting up the shoot, lighting and capture, around three hours, and retouch another three hours. Of course, the ideas are matured along a larger period of time and I’d been thinking about shooting this image for several months.

Inspiration

This particular shoot was a personal project and not a client brief. I did a similar shoot a couple of years back, and at the time it was very time consuming to get the shoes in position and have the proper lighting. After that, I decided to do some research and try out several ways of achieving these types of images. When I felt I had all the info I needed, I started working on a specific image, which was achieved with this shoot.

Setting up the shoot

When shooting suspended objects, one of the most difficult aspects is to get all the elements in the right position. The method I have devised is to use apple boxes, or other solid objects to roughly position the subjects, in this case, shoes.

When they are in place, I use two fishing-wires passed under each shoe, to keep the shoe stable when suspended, and to allow me to rotate or reposition as needed.

Above the set, I used a frame with a custom-made net to hold all the fishing-wires. One of the ends has a loop that attaches the wire to the net. I pass the other end over the net and use crocodile clips to hold the wire. This allows me to re-adjust the fishing-wire if needed.

Once the shoes were suspended, I removed all the apple boxes and table, leaving the space free for placing the lights. Then it’s just a case of working on the lighting to get shape and dimension.

The last image we shoot just uses background lighting, this is to get a silhouette to create a mask layer for post-production.

Retouching

I’ve started the retouching by removing the wire, using a mixture of Inpainting Tool and Healing Tool.

Masking

Using the back-lit silhouette image of the shoes, I use a Dodge adjustment on the background to get a good contrast between the shoes and the background. The remaining area was selected with the Freehand Selection Tool and filled with white. I also used the Inpainting Tool for minor corrections. When it was ready, the layer was rasterized to create a mask.

I then started correcting some of the minor issues on the shoes (dust and small defects), using the Inpainting Tool, Healing Tool and Stamp Tool, particularly on the areas were the glue naturally shows.

When I was happy with the result, I created two Curves layers, named DB- (darkening the image) and DB+ (lighting the image) in Luminosity Blend Mode. I invert them and using the Brush Tool and a white, soft brush, started to sculpt the shoes to give them more volume.

The background

The background started with an elliptical gradient, using colours present on the shoes. Since the image is mainly monotone, the shoes being grey with gold highlights, I thought the gold would make a great background.

After some adjustments, the background was finished, and I added some noise to prevent banding. The shadows were created in an unconventional way. To create an idea of a horizon, I used a diamond shape and, using the Layer Effects Panel, blurred the edges. This is non-destructive and allows for further adjustments if needed. I used a similar solution for the shoe shadow, but this time using a triangle. I separated the shoes in two different layers, to make them moveable.

Colour grading

On top of all the layers, is a fill layer with the background colour, with Opacity at around 10%, to colour grade all the elements in the image and give it some uniformity.

The last step was blending the shoes with the background colour by creating a duplicate layer of the background colour. I then masked it with the edge of the shoes, blurred it and blended it as to a very low opacity. This allows for a better transition between the shoes and background as if the light from the background was bouncing back to the shoes.

Making the switch to Affinity Photo

I’ve worked with several other software packages and I’m always keen on testing new apps when they become available. I was quite surprised at how easy it was to adapt to Affinity and how fast it was. The fact that there was no subscription was something that really helped me decide to work exclusively with Affinity Photo.

Inpainting and the Clone Brush tools are my most used tools. In product photography there are always small imperfections that need to be corrected and these tools are my first choice. I would say my favourite feature is Live Filter layers. That is the best tool to work non-destructively and to be able to correct the image after revisions from the client.

My advice to commercial photographers considering switching to Affinity Photo is make a list of what you do most often in your current software and its limitations. Watch some tutorials about Affinity, and then have a trial run and see if you can do the same and even surpass your current software. Do it for a few days, not just a session. If you have questions, the Affinity forum is the first place to go as there are a lot of really great people there ready to help you.

Try out the full version of Affinity Photo for free!

If you’d like to give Affinity Photo a try its creators Serif offer a 10-day free trial of the Mac and Windows app, which allows you to play with all its awesome features before you buy.

And if getting your head round new software feels daunting, they have produced a vast library of tutorial videos to help users learn all they need to know about the app. You can check them out on Serif’s YouTube channel here.

Affinity Photo is available for a one-off payment of £48.99/ $49.99 USD/ € 54.99, for Mac or Windows, and £19.99/ $19.99 USD/ € 21.99 for iPad with free updates until version 2 bargain!

You can find out more information about Affinity Photo at https://affinity.serif.com/photo.

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Affinity is a next-generation suite of award-winning software for creative professionals, comprising Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo, with Affinity Publisher coming soon.

Built from the ground up with a meticulous focus on workflow and blazing performance, Affinity apps are engineered to be the smoothest, fastest, most precise, and most integrated creative apps available. Created in partnership with some of the world’s leading designers, they have won over 200 awards internationally and have reached over 6.5 million customers worldwide.