Portrait editing: simple tricks to add a touch of class to your people pictures

Portrait editing: simple tricks to add a touch of class to your people pictures

Perfect your people pictures and flatter your subjects with these simple portrait editing tricks.

Portrait editing: simple tricks to add a touch of class to your people pictures

All portrait subjects want to look their best, and now that we are bombarded by masses of images of models and actresses with flawless skin, perfect teeth and captivating eyes on a daily basis, the yardstick by which we measure ourselves has been radically altered.

Traditional photographers had to spend many hours retouching with inks and brushes, and although some professional digital retouchers can spend almost as long, Photoshop has a few tools that can help the average photographer produce a great portrait in much less time.

We’re not talking about dramatic transformations, but losing the odd pimple, a little skin smoothing and maybe touching up dark hair roots can give your sitter a ‘fresh from a health farm’ appearance that they will thank you for.

You don’t want people to look artificially smooth or plastic, but you can add a healthy glow and sparkle here and there.

The key is to be subtle. As well as looking amateurish, obvious signs of heavy retouching are pretty insulting to the sitter. Imagine your subject showing her mum the end result – you would want her to say, “You look nice, dear,” not  “What’s happened to your nose?” or even worse, “Who’s this?”

The idea is to tone down any imperfections rather than completely cover them up. After all, it’s those imperfections that add character to a person’s face.

Get it right and you’ll have people queuing up to be photographed; get it wrong and you might have to pull your Christmas cracker alone.

Portrait editing tricks: heal and clone

Portrait editing: heal and clone

The Healing Brush and Clone tools are central to retouching, and enable pimples, blemishes and dark circles to be concealed.

To ensure all the work you do is reversible, do it on an empty layer (select Layer>New Layer) rather than directly on the image. And check that Sample All Layers is selected in the Options Bar.

For maximum flexibility, add a new layer for each section you work on. So you could have a layer for the teeth, a layer for the lips, a layer for the hair, and so on.

Use the Spot Healing Brush tool to remove spots and blemishes or tone down wrinkles.

It does a good job of automatically sampling and matching colour and texture to the surrounding area as it covers the mark – use a brush that’s slightly larger than the blemish being tackled.

Meanwhile, the Clone tool allows you to specify the area you want to sample from, and when its Opacity is set to about 30% and its Effects Mode to Lighten, it’s really useful for removing dark circles under the eyes.

Hide roots and greys
To conceal dark roots, simply select the desired hair colour by sampling from the image, and then paint over the offending area using a new layer with the Blend Mode set to Soft Light. When you’ve finished, adjust the layer’s Opacity to blend it in.

To cover greys in dark hair, set the Burn tool to Midtones with an exposure of 20% or less, then paint over the affected areas.

PAGE 1 – Portrait editing tricks: heal and clone
PAGE 2 – Portrait editing tricks: re-colour eyes
PAGE 3 – Portrait editing tricks: smooth out skin with the High Pass filter
PAGE 4 – Portrait editing tricks: raw retouching


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