6 portrait editing tricks for timeless and on-trend images

6 portrait editing tricks for timeless and on-trend images

In our latest portrait photography cheat sheets we illustrate the effects of 6 different portrait editing tricks you can use to add some creativity to your portraits.

When you’ve got to grips with the basics of portrait photography, why not unleash your creativity and give your portraits even more impact? Whether it’s using a nifty accessory, indulging in some digital darkroom skullduggery or simply daring to challenge the conventions, there are plenty of ways to make your mark.

The important thing to remember is that every portrait tells a story about the subject, and because each subject is different you’ll need to adapt the way in which you approach each subject.

It’s a good idea to talk to your subject first and get an idea of who they are, what they want their portrait to look like or what you want to portray.

Whether you’re shooting a model’s portfolio, a formal corporate headshot or some warm and cheery family portraits you’ll need to make creative decisions about lighting, lenses, camera angles, lenses and more.

Here are a few ideas, tips and techniques – both in-camera and in post-processing – that’ll give your images that extra pizazz.

SEE MORE: 10 portrait photography mistakes every photographer makes (and how to avoid them)

3 portrait editing tricks for timeless images

3 portrait editing tricks for timeless images

Click on the infographic or drag and drop to your desktop to see the larger version.

01 Soft focus
Soft focus techniques have been used in portraiture since the very beginnings of photography. The ethereal and dreamlike impression it evokes can look desirable if applied with caution. However, it’s very easy to go the other way and your shots could easily end up looking like some horrendous flashback to the 1980s.

In-camera techniques such as using filters, Vaseline or even stockings can work a treat, but you can also get great results using blur filters in Photoshop, and you can revert to your original if you’ve added the effect in Photoshop and don’t like it after all.

SEE MORE: Orton Effect – try this quick, soft-focus Photoshop trick

02 Black and white
Portraits can look great in black and white. Shifting to monochrome can reduce the visibility of some skin imperfections.

Switch your camera’s preview mode to monochromatic so you can previsualise the end result at the time of capture. It will help you to get the lights set up for the effect you want, whether that’s a dark and moody image with plenty of shadows or a bright high-key shot against a white background.

If you shoot in RAW you can always revert to the colour file if you or your subject decide that a monochrome look isn’t actually wanted.

SEE MORE: Black and white photography – what you need to know for perfect mono pictures

03 Retouch
Most portraits could do with some basic retouching in the digital darkroom. The Healing and Clone tools are ideal for removing unwanted blemishes, and there are various techniques and plug-ins that can used to smooth skin, whiten eyes and teeth and even help shed a few pounds.

However, it’s crucial that you don’t go over the top – there’s nothing worse than seeing an ‘overcooked’ portrait with hyper-smooth skin. The art of a good retouch is subtly improve on but celebrate the wonders of your subject’s features (even the wrinkles!) rather than obliterate them.

SEE MORE: Free family portrait photography cheat sheet

3 portrait editing tricks for on-trend images

3 portrait editing tricks for on-trend images

The cross-processed look is all the rage, especially after being popularised by smartphone apps such as Instagram and Snapseed. The characteristic saturated colours and increased contrast are easily replicated in Photoshop using Curves or Levels.

SEE MORE: Cross processing – a simple, but effective, way to get this classic effect in Photoshop

Using some basic image editing skills it’s fairly easy to transport your subject into a new scene. Shooting your subject against a plain background makes it much easier to create a digital cut out. We did a guide to this in issue 16 – turn to page 38 to find out how to get a copy.

Don’t be afraid to be bold with your cropping – either when shooting (by zooming in or moving closer), or in post-production. There’s a general misconception that the whole of a subject’s head should be in the frame, but it doesn’t need to be, and more often than not a tight crop into the head can work wonders for the composition.


54 Portrait Ideas: free downloadable posing guide
40 More Portrait Ideas: part 2 of our free downloadable posing guide
Photoshop effects: how to recreate the look of a medium format portrait
How to mimic studio lighting for stylish portraits