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How to Use Adobe Photoshop for Improving Portrait Pictures

5 top tips for professional looking images

how to use adobe photoshop for portraits

Here is a short, sharp guide on how to use Adobe Photoshop to enhance your portrait photos.

There are hundreds of cool techniques that can be applied to portraits, but the purpose of this tutorial is to provide you with 5 quick and easy ones that will give your images are real boost (all possible using Photoshop Elements ).

We all take loads of portraits and they frequently turn out not quite right!

Get these techniques nailed and you'll know how to Photoshop portraits in rapid time and with impressive professional results...

This is our starting image. Let's see how applying a Photoshop trick or two can improve it...

 

Studio Portrait Lighting Lessons

Creating the perfect light is fun! How would you like to learn the secrets from one of the world's top studio photographers?

 

1. How to use Adobe Photoshop to correct skin tone

 

Lots of people find this a really annoying problem! It's no good having shots of people with bright red lips or icy blue skin. If you've been plagued by this problem you'll be pleased to know there's a simple solution.

So, here's how to Photoshop portrait photos and return skin colour to its natural tone.

  1. Open your image in the Editor workspace and click on the adjustment layer icon, choose 'Levels'.

  2. Select the leftmost pipette tool on the right hand side of the dialogue box, to set the 'black point'. Move the pipette over a point on your photo that you know should look totally black and click on it.

  3. Repeat this with the middle pipette tool to set the gray point - moving it over a gray section of your photo - and the right hand pipette for specifying the white point.

  4. As you do this you'll notice the colour tone of your photo changing. You might need to slightly adjust the white, gray or black points a few times before you see the skin tone on your portrait photo look as you'd like it.
how to use adobe photoshop for portraits

(It's easy knowing how to use Photoshop to improve skintone. One click with the gray pipette in a Levels layer brought the colour back to how it should be!)

 

Quotable Quote:

Oh, yes, I was a great retoucher. A retoucher is an aesthetic surgeon !

Man Ray

 

An alternative technique, or one to supplement the one above, is the following.

  1. Open your image in the Editor workspace and create a 'Hue/Saturation' adjustment layer.

  2. In the dialogue box select a colour from the 'Edit' drop-down menu that you wish to work on (by default this is set to 'master'; to adjust reds select 'reds' and so on).

  3. Move the 'hue' and 'saturation' sliders right or left until the colour tone looks accurate. Repeat this with other colours as necessary.

 

Since skin tone can be such a nuisance, one of my top photography portrait tips would be to get the hang of white balance. This is something that will help you to produce photos with the right skin tone 'in camera'. Here's my thorough guide to setting white balance.

 

2. How to use Adobe Photoshop to whiten teeth and eyes

 

These are amongst the most common photography portrait tips that people ask me about!

Of course, depending on the style of portrait you're dealing with, you might wish to make someone’s teeth as yellow and grimy as possible, or accentuate the redness in their eyes! To achieve that, just reverse some of the steps in this Photoshop trick.

How to Photoshop eyes to make them whiter:

 

  1. Open your image in the main Editor workspace and zoom in close to the eyes by pressing 'Ctrl' and '+' ( 'Control' and '-'zooms out).

  2. Select the lasso tool and carefully make a selection around the whites of the eyes. Then go to the 'Select' menu and choose 'Refine Edge'. Feather the edge by 2 px to avoid an artificial looking adjustment.

  3. Create a 'Hue/Saturation' adjustment layer and choose reds from the drop down menu. Move the saturation slider to the left to reduce the appearance of red in the eyes.

  4. Next move the 'lightness' slider to the right to brighten up the white. Alternatively increase the highlights and midtones a touch in a new 'Levels' adjustment layer.

 

Photoshop Video Lessons Reviewed

My opinions on these online Photoshop videos. It's surprising how quickly you can pick up all the basics.

 

How to Photoshop teeth to whiten them:

  1. Open your image in the main Editor workspace and zoom in close to the teeth. Make a selection with the lasso tool and then feather the edge by 2 pixels.

  2. The process is the same as for whitening eyes, but here you need to select yellows from the drop down menu in the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Move the saturation slider left to get rid of yellow stains (or right to increase them if it’s that kind of portrait!)

  3. Use the lightness slider, or a new 'Levels' layer, to brighten the teeth and make them appear whiter.
how to use adobe photoshop for portraits

 

3. How to Use Adobe Photoshop to brighten eyes

 

One of the most crucial photography portrait tips is to pay attention to the eyes. When taking a portrait you can focus on the eyes and use a wide aperture to set them apart from the rest of the face.

But in addition to the techniques for whitening above, this Photoshop trick will help to give a really bright sparkle to people's eyes

  1. Open your image and duplicate the background layer by right-clicking on it in the layers palette and selecting 'duplicate layer' from the menu.

  2. Select 'Unsharp Mask' from the 'Enhance' menu. Apply these settings: Amount: 85% Radius: 1 Threshold: 4, then hit OK.

  3. Return to Unsharp Mask and apply the same settings again...and then again! No doubt you'll see plenty of nasty speckles and noise on your photo now, but ignore it.

  4. In the 'Layer' menu select 'New Layer' and drag it between the background image and sharpened layer. Link the sharpened layer to the new empty layer. Move the cursor over the line that separates them and hold 'alt', left click when the link symbol appears. This will make the sharpening disappear.

  5. Select black as your foreground colour. Select the brush tool and set opacity to 20%. With the middle empty layer selected, begin painting carefully over the pupils and irises to bring through the sharpening. Stop when the eyes like bright and sparkly enough for you!
how to use adobe photoshop for portraits

 

Studio Portrait Lighting Lessons

Creating the perfect light is fun! How would you like to learn the secrets from one of the world's top studio photographers?

 

4. How to use Adobe Photoshop to change someone's hair colour

 

It's possible to Photoshop portrait pictures and make some pretty big changes if you feel like it. Here's a Photoshop trick to realistically change someone's hair colour.

  1. Open your image and create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Tick the 'colorize' check-box. Move the hue and saturation sliders around until you find a colour that works for the hair. Ignore the fact that this will effect the whole picture for now.

  2. Make black your foreground colour, select the paint bucket tool and fill the colorized layer with black. The changes will disappear when you do this.

  3. Select the brush tool and make white your foreground colour. Paint the colorized hair back in, being careful not to go over the edges.

  4. To finish, change the blend mode of the adjustment layer to 'color' and reduce its opacity a little, so that the effect is realistic and appears natural.
how to use adobe photoshop for portraits

(Changing hair colour is a bit extreme and often not an improvement! But you can be quite subtle with the same technique and sometimes it's really helpful.)

 


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5. How to use Adobe Photoshop to get rid of burnt out patches and bags under eyes

 

No matter how many photography portrait tips you've read, the problem of burnt out areas, or 'hotspots', is incredibly persistent.

Particularly when shooting people outdoors it's really tricky to avoid patches of light reflecting strongly off someone's forehead or cheek.

Another problem, which can be remedied in the same way, is exaggerated shadows and bags under people's eyes.

Here's a quick Photoshop trick to deal with these issues.

  1. Open your image and duplicate the background layer. Select the Clone Stamp Tool and reduce its opacity to 50%. When removing hot spots alter the blending mode to 'darken'. For bags under eyes select ‘lighten’ from the blending modes.

  2. Holt the 'Alt' key and move the cursor over a nearby area of the subject's face that isn't affected by the problem. Left click to sample those pixels. Then click over the area you want to remove. Repeat this until the dark shadow or burnt out patches have disappeared.

  3. I usually decrease the opacity of the corrected layer a fraction to bring through a hint of the original picture, giving a more realistic finish. Done!
how to use adobe photoshop for portraits

Let's have a look at the start image again:

how to use adobe photoshop for portraits


That's a big improvement in just 5 simple steps! Now you know how to use Adobe Photoshop to give your portraits a real lift!

 

Photoshop Video Lessons Reviewed

My opinions on these online Photoshop videos. It's surprising how quickly you can pick up all the basics.


Now you know how to use Adobe Photoshop to improve portraits - try it out on some old snaps and see how much better you can make them!

When you combine these simple Photoshop techniques with some good portrait photography tips you'll be on the road to professional standard images.

Here are 2 related tutorials on how to use Adobe Photoshop for sharpening and how to use Adobe Photoshop for deleting unwanted objects.

 

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