Create high impact portraits

If your people portraits look a bit flat, learn how to transform it into a high-contrast shot here

Professional portrait shots from high street photo studios are easy to create when you have Photoshop on your side. By removing the background from your subjects, correcting the colours and warming the skin tones, you’ll be able to present well rounded and polished portraiture with relative ease. This tutorial will also show you how to use a Levels Adjustment Layer to brighten selected areas of your image.

1. Isolate the figures

Duplicate the Background Layer, then hide it and work on the duplicate. Use the Background Eraser Tool, with a Tolerance of 50%, carefully brush around areas of contrast, such as the man;s shirt and hair. Reduce the Tolerance to 25% and brush around the other edges.

2. Correct colour and brightness

Make the Background Layer visible again and select it. Go to Levels (Ctrl+L), click the middle eyedropper, then click on a neutral grey area to remove the orangey colour cast. To brighten things up, move the right-hand (Highlights) slider to meet the histogram (about 200).

3. Boost the contrast

Duplicate the Background Copy Layer, then go to Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U) and reduce Saturation to -100. Change the Blending Mode to Overlay and Opacity to 50%. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer, andfine-tune the contrast to taste; values of about 8 and 220, respectively.

4. Warm the skin tones

Now Ctrl-click the original Background Copy Layer thumbnail to select the couple, then add a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer using Warming Filter (85) at 25% to give a natural skin tone. Paint black into the Mask to remove the influence from the eyes and teeth.

5. Brighten eyes and teeth

Add another Levels Adjustment Layer as the top Layer and brighten the teeth and eyes – values of about 15/1.25/10 should do it. Now click this Layer’s Mask thumbnail, press Ctrl+I to invert, so the effect is hidden, then paint the whitening back in using a white brush.

6. Flatten and sharpen

Reduce the Opacity of the whitening Layer to 50% so the eyes and teeth don’t jar. When you’re happy with it, flatten the image and go to Filter>Adjust Sharpness. Sharpen using an Amount of about 80% and Radius around 1.6 pixels so you don’t over-sharpen, and you’re done.