Portrait Editing with Photoshop

Photographers strive to capture images that have no need for major edits, that’s why we spend so much time adjusting settings and creating the perfect lighting (check out my post on portrait lighting here). However, when it comes to shooting portraits and our imperfect subjects, a little bit of editing is usually required. Here are my tips for a quick and effective retouch.

For starters, I use photoshop to edit my photos, it is the easiest and most advanced editing software (and honestly the most widely used). With all kinds of photography, we want to edit in a nondestructive way, so the first step will be to duplicate (Cmd + J) your first layer.

Retouching skin

  • Create a new layer and name it blemishes.
    • This is where you will fix any spots on the skin.
    • Have a separate layer gives you the ability to reduce the opacity of concealment.
  • Use the healing brush or the spot healing brush to conceal any blemishes on the skin.
    • Make sure you specify to sample from “all layers”
    • Select areas with similar skin tones, do you do not have discoloration
    • Blend mode = normal; diffusion = 5

* remember not to conceal permanent blemishes, like beauty marks and scars

Stray hairs

  • Create a new layer and name it hair.
  • Use the spot healing brush to erase any out of place hair, whether that be fly aways or hair across the face.
    • Remember that removing too much of a flyaway will just make the next section look odd.

Whiten teeth

  • Using the lasso tool, select loosely around the teeth.
  • Make a hue/saturation adjustment ( this will create a new adjustment layer, name it teeth).
    • Select “yellows” and desaturate.
    • Occasionally, I will also lighten the selection during this time.

Whiten eyes

  • Press Cmd + Shift + N to create a new layer as an “overlay” and fill with 50% gray.
  • Paint with white at a low opacity (10%) and a soft-edge round brush.
    • Remember you can build intensity, don’t do too much at the start.
    • Paint the whites of the eyes, and a little bit of the center of the iris around the pupil.

* I will often need to lower the entire layer to keep the photo looking realistic.

Darken eyes

  • Cmd + Shift N to create a new layer as an “overlay” and fill with 50% gray
  • Paint with black at a low opacity and a soft-edge round brush.
    • Paint the pupil and outer edge of iris
    • You can also use this method to darken eyelashes giving them an extended look.

Skin softening

  • Composite all layers together (Cmd + Opt + Shift E)
    • It is important that this is done after all your individual edits; You will need to re-composite the layers if you need to make additional edits.
  • Duplicate composite layer (Cmd J) and name it skin soften.
  • Filter > High Pass filter
    • Adjust (to the left) only until you see the outline, when you see skin texture you have gone too far.
    • This will create contrast and is actually sharpening the image.
  • Change the skin soften layer to “overlay” and inverse the entire layer (Cmd + I)
    • This will soften what you sharpened
  • Now add a layer mask to the skin soften layer
    • Paint with black anywhere you want to hide the softened look
      • The sharp details like: mouth, nostril, eyes, eyebrow, and jewelry (jewelry will depend on the depth of field for reality purposes).

And voila! Of the two images below, the top is my before and the bottom is my after, following these exact instructions.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 1.37.42 PMScreen Shot 2019-03-14 at 1.38.31 PM

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