Retouching photos in raw: give your portraits a pro-quality makeover

Retouching photos in raw: give your portraits a pro-quality makeover

In the latest post of our Raw Tuesday series on editing raw format images we show you how retouching photos in Adobe Camera Raw can give you professional photographer quality portraits.

Retouching photos in raw: give your portraits a pro-quality makeover

Retouching photos – in particular, portraits – is all about making selective adjustments to certain areas of the face. It can be helpful to think of the face as a series of zones, each requiring a particular edit.

You’ll lighten the eyes, soften the skin, boost the lips and sharpen the lashes. You might think the best place to make these changes is in Photoshop, but Adobe Camera Raw also has a few powerful retouching tools.

In fact, using Adobe Camera Raw, it’s possible to perform a complete retouching workflow without even entering the main Photoshop interface.

What’s more, by making tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw rather than in Photoshop, you’ll ensure the best possible quality. And because Adobe Camera Raw is so neatly organised, easy to navigate, and totally non-destructive, you may find it’s the ideal choice for enhancing your portraits.

SEE MORE: How to retouch – pro techniques in 10 easy steps

How to use Adobe Camera Raw’s Adjustment Brush for retouching photos

Retouching photos in raw: sharpen the lashes

Sharpen the lashes
Paint over the lashes with the Adjustment Brush, then use the sliders to sharpen and add Clarity.


Retouching photos in raw: lighten the whites of eyes

Lighten the whites
Carefully paint over the whites of the eyes, then increase Exposure and Highlights to lighten the whites.


Retouching photos in raw: soften the skin

Soften the skin
Drag the Clarity slider down to soften the skin, and increase Exposure slightly to lift the tones.


Retouching photos in raw: add make-up

Add make-up
Paint a mask over the cheeks, then introduce red with the Color Picker. Add blue to the eyes in the same way.


Retouching photos in raw: enhance the irises

Enhance the irises
Boost the colour, contrast and detail in the irises, but keep the circular edges dark.


Retouching photos in raw: improve the lips

Improve the lips
Boost the colour in the lips. Paint a precise mask to cover them, then increase Saturation and Clarity.


Retouching photos in raw: boost the clothes

Boost the clothes
Use the temperature and Saturation sliders to warm the hues in the jumper. Increase Clarity and Highlights.

How to paint a mask

How to paint a mask

Our original image before retouching

Most retouching work in Adobe Camera Raw is done with the powerful Adjustment Brush. It allows you to paint a mask over an area, and then apply changes to it, so it’s ideal for retouching a face. We’ve used it here to soften the skin, boost the eyes, enhance the lips and even add digital blusher.

The Adjustment Brush works by setting pins, each of which represents a mask. To set a pin, click over the part of the image you want to change, then paint over the rest of the area.

It can be helpful to check Show Mask while you’re painting, so you can see where the mask is operating. It also helps to set an obvious mask colour – such as the garish green we’ve used here – by clicking the colour picker next to the Show Mask check box.

When painting, use the ] and [ keys to resize your brush tip (hold down Shift and ] or [ to change the hardness). To erase parts of the mask, hold down Alt and paint. You can use the resizing shortcuts for the Eraser, too.

When you’re happy with your painted mask, uncheck Show Mask, then make your adjustments using the sliders on the right. To add more pins, check New at the top right.

The tool remembers the last-used settings, so be careful to reset the sliders each time you want to make a different adjustment. You can edit any mask’s shape or settings at any time by clicking the related pin.


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