DPP Home Technique Software Technique Basic Portrait Polishing

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Basic Portrait Polishing

Simple retouching steps help the client concentrate on the concept of the shot instead of the odd insignificant blemish


I like to make the eyes pop. Eyes help the viewer connect with your subject, as well as your product or message. Copying the skin layer, I rename it Eyes. I use the Dodging tool on midtones or highlights to lighten them. I'm careful not to overdo it as they can start to look artificial. Again, I can lower the opacity of this layer to blend with the one below it.

I often put an extra sparkle or a catchlight in eyes if a prominent one is missing. By creating another layer (I name it Catchlight), I grab a hard, but very small brush using the Paint tool and dot the eye with white. I try to be consistent with the actual shape and direction of the light in the picture. Otherwise, the eyes look “funky and googily.”

After dotting the eye or creating a shape that's consistent with the type of light used, like a softbox or umbrella, I use the Blur tool to blend it with the original eyes. I create a copy of that layer (to return to in case I need it), link the Catchlight layer with the one below it and merge the two together. I try sharpening the eyes a little to blend the original eye with the newly created catchlight. I sometimes go back and forth with the Blur and Sharpen tools to get it to a point where it looks natural.


Valuable plug-ins are available that let you sharpen parts of your image easily without having to create layer masks. With nik Sharpener Pro 2.0, you can select your output printer and viewing distance, and choose specific colors and areas in your image that you want to sharpen and specifically paint it in. I usually sharpen the eyes to make them stand out and then go to select areas of my image, like the clothing, shoes and hair. This selective sharpening adds a subtle dimensionality to my images and makes them pop.

Finishing Touches

To put the final touches on an image, I slightly dodge and burn selective areas. This can be done in two different ways. I sometimes dodge and burn by hand with a soft brush and paint in the effects. If I want a more even effect, I use a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer with a layer mask, drag the Brightness slider to the left to darken the image and then fill the layer mask with black (to turn off the effect). With my foreground set to white, I use a soft Brush tool to paint in the burning effects. I usually paint around the edges of the image; if I make a mistake, I change the foreground color to black and brush over what I want to lighten.

To further control the darkening effect, I drag the opacity slider of that layer down until I like the results. If the effect isn't strong enough, I return to the brightness/contrast slider and readjust it. Burning this way can be quick and consistent, but painting in the effects by hand, although it takes a bit longer, can give a more unique look to each image.

After these steps, I send the photographs to the client, and when final selections are made, I make further refinements. The idea is to deliver preliminary images that allow the client to focus on content rather than nit-picking over an insignificant flaw or blemish that can be quickly removed. The small time invested in basic polishing saves me headaches and keeps the client happy throughout the process of delivering the job—and I get more repeat business.



Check out our other sites:
Digital Photo Outdoor Photographer HDVideoPro Golf Tips Plane & Pilot