GET SUPERB LOOKING PORTRAITS
Portrait retouching has come a long way in recent times. Thankfully, many of the trends that plagued the early years of digital imaging now look outdated. These days we can all spot an overly processed portrait – the blindingly white eyes, the plastic skin, the hyper real tones – so now there’s more of an emphasis on natural- looking retouching.
Of course, the flip side of this is that – with enough skills – it’s easier than ever to completely change the way a person looks, but in a way that looks almost entirely natural. We can reshape bodies, change hair colour, enlarge eyes, eradicate wrinkles, swap heads, comp in muscles and more. But just because we can, it doesn’t mean we should. There is a fine line between subtle augmentation and excessive manipulation.
Those of us who use regularly know the huge depth and potential it offers, but to the layman, its name is synonymous with one thing: artificial portrait enhancements. As such, retouching is often seen as a negative, but ask almost any person if they want that zit removed before you print the photo, and there will only be one answer. As such, the job of the responsible retouches should be about making a person appear at their very best without looking fake or unnatural. The techniques explored can all help you achieve this.
One of the best tools for boosting eyes is the Adjustment Brush. Found in Camera Raw and Light room (or via the Camera Raw filter), the tool lets you apply several tonal changes at once. So with an iris we might want to load the tool with positive Saturation, Clarity, Exposure and Contrast, then paint precisely over the iris (making sure not to go over the pupil). The iris can be enhanced further by darkening the rim – again we can use the Adjustment Brush, hit N for a new adjustment then load the brush with negative Exposure and paint around the edge of the iris to darken it slightly. The whites of the eyes can also benefit from a subtle lift to exposure, which is easily done by adding a third pin. Finally, the Spot Removal tool can be used to heal any blood vessels that stand out.
The Texture command
As the name suggests, the Texture command – which was recently introduced to Light room and Camera Raw – is a tool that is used for enhancing textures and details in your photos.
Interestingly, it was originally designed to do exactly the opposite. As such, it can be very effective for smoothing skin. To do so, grab the Adjustment Brush, load it with negative Texture (start at -50), then paint over the skin to smooth out the tones. Once done, turn on the mask overlay to check that the effect doesn’t cover important detail like the eyes and lips (if so, Alt-paint to erase). Then fine-tune the Texture setting until you hit upon the right strength (a touch of negative Clarity can work too).
The Texture command works over mid-range frequencies in the image, so it ignores the finer frequencies that include skin textures and pores.
There are other, more-refined skin smoothing techniques such as High Pass and Frequency Separation that are superior, but these can take time. If you want a quick effect then negative Texture can do a for you.