Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: how to deliberately overexpose the highlights using Photoshop Elements to get a stunning effect

How to make a high-key portrait in Photoshop Elements

 

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: step 1

01 Boost the exposure
Open your original image file. If the file is a digital negative (.dng), it will open in Photoshop Elements’ Adobe Camera Raw editor. To instantly brighten the skin’s highlights, drag Exposure up to 0.95. Press O to view the blown-out (detail-free) areas.

 

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: step 2

02 Increase the contrast
There’s a little clipping in the subject’s face, so drag Recovery to 20 to restore some detail. The edge of her hair is brighter than the rest, which helps it merge with the pure white background. Press 0 to turn the highlight clipping warning off. Push Contrast to 50 to lighten the whites and darken the shadows.

 

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: step 3

03 Boost the blacks
The skin is now flatter and smoother, but the eyes and lips are a bit washed out. The histogram shows us that the shot lacks any strong shadow detail. By dragging the Blacks slider to 25 you can give the eyes and lips much more presence and impact.

 

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: step 4

04 Tweak Clarity and colour
By reducing Clarity to -14 you lower the skin’s midtone contrast and gently soften and simplify the flesh in the high-key shot. For a more subdued colour palette, reduce Saturation to -19. Pop Vibrance up to +30 to gently restore some colour to the lips.

 

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: step 5

05 Improve the composition
Hold the mouse button down on the Crop tool icon and choose Normal. Click and drag to lose some of the studio backdrop and make the face more prominent in the frame. The overlay grid lets you break the backdrop, hair and face into three vertical columns.

 

Abuse your raw files for a striking high-key portrait: step 6

06 Tidy up
Click Open Image to take the shot into the standard Elements editor. Grab the Spot Healing Brush and set Size to around 60 pixels. Set Type to Proximity Match. Click and spray over remaining skin blemishes and spots of mascara.

READ MORE

Bleach Bypass: how to make extreme portraits
Orton Effect: try this quick soft-focus Photoshop trick
Fake a tilt-shift effect in Photoshop Elements
Free portrait lighting cheat sheet