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.

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What to Wear: Family Photos

One of my guilty pleasures? Scrolling through Instagram admiring all the big-name bloggers’ perfectly styled family shoots. Another guilty pleasure? Shopping.

So, if you are finding yourself freaking out about what to dress your family in for your family photo shoot, look no further! I came up with a set of guidelines to take the pressure off.

  1. 1. Toss out the graphic tees! Not only do they look a little frumpy, logos change, text can look warped depending on the pose, and it makes editing a pain for your photographer.
  2. 2. Choose a color palette! Palette as in multiple colors, not one shade of blue for the entire family. Need help choosing a color? Visit color.adobe.com and explore thousands of palettes!
  3. 3. Choose different articles for each person! Have you ever seen those cringe-worthy family photos where everyone is wearing jeans and a white tee? Change it up: put the hubby in a sweater, wifey in a dress, the boys in a button up (maybe even toss a vest on), and your girls in a shirt + skirt + leggings combo.
  4. 4. Mix up the textures! Solids are cute but mix and matching is definitely more fun. Guys look great in plaids, and sweaters with texture (like wool or chenille) are a perfect match.

I hope you found this post helpful, but if words just aren’t doing it for you, check out some of my favorite bloggers for more inspiration:

@amberfillerup @caraloren @kristinamcpherson

Portrait Photography

I spent most of the last two weeks working in the studio, trying to perfect my portrait photography technique and working with different lighting set ups. I have to say my favorite (and one that I have never shot before) is definitely split lighting. This is when you use only one flash (usually with a softbox covering) and position the light directly on one side of the face. I had some fun editing these photos, using the black and white adjustment in photoshop or adjusting the hue and saturation. Check them out below 🙂


Sioux Falls Spotlight: Bravo Photography

Jonathan Bravo, of Bravo Photography, has been known as the King of Senior Photos since the year after I graduated high school in 2014. He produces high quality images, does whatever it takes to get the perfect shot, and is always down to make his clients’ crazy ideas come to life – whether that be a Senior Session at Buffalo Wild Wings or an Engagement Shoot at HuHot Mongolian Grill. 

I’ve had the opportunity to watch Bravo in action at two different occasions. The first was back in 2014 when he shot my close friend’s senior pictures. This is when his personality really shines, and his humor definitely comes in handy – he will do and say just about anything to get a real smile out of his clients, and that truly makes a difference. The second opportunity I had was watching Bravo shoot a dear friend’s wedding this last winter. Honestly, my favorite takeaway from that, was that Bravo was barely noticeable. He got incredible shots of both the ceremony and reception without stepping on any toes.

Below are a few of my absolute favorite senior portraits shot by Bravo. Don’t forget to check out his website jbrav.com for more! And get the perfect mixture of his humor and talent on his social media pages @jbravsd.

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