Between his full-time job and love of photography, Nolan Lister took off some time to answer a few questions about Photoshop.

He fell in love with photography with the first click of the shutter on his dad’s Pentax 35mm camera.  As his dad was an amateur photographer, Nolan can remember his dad always having his camera close at hand; sharing that some of his fondest memories were of him rummaging through his dad’s slides and the feeling of those old black and white prints between his little hands.

Girl in window sill with sun shining through

Photo Credit – Nolan Lister

“With all the exposure to photography (excuse the pun), it was quite a natural progression that I developed such a passion for the subject”.  From there on he has always expressed himself through this art medium, whether taking part in his high school camera club or having photography as a subject in his Technikon years.

The art photographers have produced is what inspires him and drives him to always improve his skills and knowledge base.  He used to take a lot of time to study different images, trying to understand what exactly it is that the photographer has done and how he/she did it and then tried to recreate those images.  He did the same with Photoshop.  As the Technikon lecturer for the Photoshop class never pitched up (for the entire year) the class had to take it upon themselves to learn how to use Photoshop.  He feels the fact that he is ‘self-taught’ added to his constant need to grow.

Black and white portrait of a rugged man with tattoos

Photo Credit – Nolan Lister

As far as talent goes, he is his own worst critic, always seeing the bad before seeing the good.  “My biggest weakness is not shooting enough.  Practice is a big key in developing a unique style and oneself as photographer”.  He also feels that with a lack of shooting, comes a lack of images to retouch and therefore a lack of improvement.

When it comes to the practical aspect of shooting, he is of the opinion that it’s always a good idea to have a vision of where you want the photoshoot to go, but has to admit it doesn’t always go according to plan.

Girls in water

Photo Credit – Nolan Lister

When we asked him if he could share his 5 tips for retouching in Photoshop his answers were:

  1. Understand the tools and what they do.
  2. Don’t rely on Photoshop to fix a mistake or bad image – shoot it properly.
  3. Edit your images in a non-destructive manner by using layers.
  4. Try new things and experiment.
  5. Don’t be lazy! Too many photographers spend so much time shooting an image but only sets aside 2 minutes for retouching. Stop relying on plug-ins to fix skin, etc. Spend the same amount of time and energy in post-production, after all retouching is 50% of the final result.
Black and white portrait of a girls face

Photo Credit – Nolan Lister

Portrait of a girls face

Photo Credit – Nolan Lister

When it comes to retouching, he uses Adobe Camera Raw to process his images and then retouches in Photoshop.  “I bring out the best I can get out of the RAW file and let my imagination go wild in Photoshop”.  He does skin smoothing by using frequency separation with a few layers added in between.  For black and white images he starts with a good colour image, then converts it to b&w; he uses luminosity masks and channels to create the look he’s going for, tweaking the curves adjustment layers and dodging and burning using curves layers.

His favourite ‘effect’ has to be using the blue channel as a layer to give skin, especially in his black and white images, a dark look.  “It also works well with enhancing freckles”.

Studio of a girl with mouse ears on her head

Photo Credit – Nolan Lister

To date, his proudest moment is an ongoing moment, getting requests from people asking him to photograph them.  When asked which model he’d like to work with he said it has to be actress Tilda Swinton, stating that she has an extremely versatile look and her androgynous look is really attractive.

We scoured through his website and found his ‘water blue’ work to be nothing less than stunning!  After that, we continued to ask him if his work has ever been published to which he replied with a “Thank you for the kind words, but my work has unfortunately never been published before, not with my consent anyway!”  If given the choice, he’d be honoured to have his work published in a fine art publication or gallery and would never say no to Vogue Italia, Purple or the Hunger magazine.

Black and white portrait of a girl with blond hair

Photo Credit – Nolan Lister