How to edit your candid portrait photography
Download our images and follow along! Open the five start files in Camera Raw in Elements (as they’re DNG files they’ll open in ACR by default). Click the portrait_start_1.dng thumbnail, and set Exposure to +0.60 and Shadows +20.
Select portrait_start_2.dng and set Exposure to +0.65, Shadows to +38 and Blacks to +23. Select portrait_start_3.dng and set Exposure to +0.35, Highlights to -27 and Shadows to +43.
Open in Elements
Select portrait_start_4.dng and set Exposure to -0.75, Highlights to -45 and Shadows to +30, then select portrait_start_5.dng and set Exposure to +1.05, Highlights to -25, Shadows to +55 and Blacks to +42.
Click Select All at the top-left, and set Clarity to +10, then click Open Images to open all five images in Elements’ Expert/Full Edit mode.
Retouch the skin
Press Ctrl+J to duplicate the ‘Background’ layer, and use the Spot Healing Brush tool to remove minor blemishes and stray hairs by clicking on them.
Use the Brush tool to even out areas of uneven skin tone by Alt-clicking to sample lighter or darker skin tones and painting over areas at 20% opacity.
Take the Dodge tool, set Range to Midtones and Exposure to 20%, and brush over the eyes to brighten them.
Convert to mono
Take the Burn tool, set Range set to Midtones and Exposure to 20%, and paint over the lips and eyebrows to enhance them. Next go to Enhance > Convert to Black and White, select Scenic Landscapes and click OK.
Add a Levels adjustment layer, and move the Shadows and Highlights sliders in until they’re below the outer edges of the histogram, to set the black and white endpoints and boost the contrast.
Merge and sharpen
Move the Midtones slider left to brighten the image, then change the layer’s blending mode to Soft Light to subtly boost contrast throughout the tonal range – you may need to tweak the Levels settings after doing this.
Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to create a merged layer, then go to Enhance > Unsharp Mask and set Amount to 70% and Radius to 2 pixels.
Make a montage
Go to Layer > Flatten Image, then repeat Steps 9-11 for each start file. Select portrait_start_1, take the Crop tool, select Use Photo Ratio, click the arrows below to swap the height and width values and draw a landscape crop.
Crop portrait_start_2, 3 and 4 to square format by changing the height setting to match the width setting; leave portrait_start_5 as portrait format. Create a new blank document, copy and paste all the start files into it, and resize and position them to create a montage as shown.
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