Basic Portrait Retouching

I thought it would be fun to share how I like to retouch a basic portrait. Nothing too fancy, just a quick enhancement to make it pop a little.

Below, you will see the original image on the left and the finished edited version on the right.

Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 9.23.52 PMYou will notice that it’s a lot brighter and the focal point are his eyes.

First I open the RAW image (I am using Photoshop CS6).

RAWHere is where I do most of my editing. I adjust the exposure, contrast, brightness and white balance. I’ll also fix the lens distortion and also add a vignette if the picture calls for it. I find that most portraits look nice with some sort of vignette. Sometimes I nail the picture the first time around I don’t have to many, if any adjustments. Sometimes I am caught by surprise and maybe my exposure is wayyy off. I am happy to be able to use this tool to “save” the image and make these necessary adjustments. For this image, it was just a little underexposed.. that’s an easy fix!

Now I will open the image into Photoshop.

crumbsRight away, I notice two things. The uneven skin tone and the dry skin/crumbs around his mouth.
We’ll start with the crumbs.clone

Now you can probably go about this 1,400 different ways. But this is how I was taught way back when digital art was just starting to take off. I worked at a photo lab right out of High School and was a “spotter”, die cutter, and in charge of a beast of a roller coater machine. Out of all these jobs, I enjoyed spotting the most. I sat down at an easel, grabbed a stack of photographs and spotted out the dust spots with dye and a paintbrush. Remember, we’re dealing with film here. So, you can imagine, while going to College for Graphic Design I was very intrigued with the idea of doing all of this retouching digitally and was able to learn directly from our digital artist.

First I copy the original layer so I can flip back and forth between the two to see my progress. To get rid of the blemishes, I like to use the clone stamp tool. I set it back to about 10% with a soft brush and go to town. I find that I have more control with this tool. The other ones I end up just getting frustrated, unless it’s just a small mark I’m fixing. I don’t want to take out every speck of dry skin or uneven tone.. I have another strategy for that, and it will keep the photograph looking natural.

Ok, now the photo looks pleasing to my eye when it comes to blemishes. Next to correct the color.

Notice how his lower cheeks and around his mouth are kinda pink compared to the creamy look around his eyes? Let’s get rid of the pink and stick with creamy.

There are plenty of actions out there that will give a creamy effect. But again, I like to have control of where it goes and how it blends for this specific picture. And, I am not against actions at all, I use them.. but just not for this.

First I make a new layer and choose the creamy color with the eye dropper tool. While on the new layer, and the using the paintbrush, I will adjust it down to about 6% and with a larger brush, I’ll brush the area I want to correct.
MaskYou can see that I drew a little on his lip. No worries! Grab the eraser and erase the areas that got a little sloppy. Now when you’re happy with the coverage change your layer from normal to overlay. Adjust the opacity until it blends perfectly and evens the skin tone.

OverlayDone! Doesn’t that look better? Scroll up a little and take a look. It’s a subtle thing, but really makes a difference.

Then the next thing I like to do is make the eyes pop.

I use an action for this because it’s simple and easy. I also use another action to sharpen the eyes and facial features ever so slightly.
The actions are on the Pioneer Woman website and available to download for free. The are called Bring Out the Eyes and Sharpen This. Check them out here.
Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 10.03.52 AM

Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 10.06.36 AM
Above is the before popping the eyes.. and below is after. Doesn’t it make a difference?

Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 10.04.16 AM

So there you go! How I do a basic portrait edit. This would take me about 5 minutes to do.
I never really wrote a “how to” photo post. I suppose it’s written for someone who knows their way around Photoshop. So sorry if it’s confusing.
And of course, if you have any questions, please ask! πŸ™‚


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