Portrait postprocess

in Tutorials
By filipson/Filip (4,015) Send mail to this user on January 4, 2009 12:27:13 PM CST

Here is final version.

Here is raw file.

Hello everyone. I have been here quite a while and recieved tons of valuable advice and input from you. This month assigment made me think that I should give something back. Since portraiture is currently my main interest and the category that I am trying to learn and hopefully master one day, I decided to give you some advice about how I do post process work in my images. But here is the tricky part: I honestly hope that thanks to that guide someone will find flaws in my technique and points them out. The thing is - you can't treat my advice as benchmark because I figured it out by myself and since I am self-thaught mostly I am not sure how good in fact my treatment is. It allowed me to produce some quite high rated images here on psig that for sure :)

I know that there are diffrent opinion about digital manipulation in photography. I think that it's impossible to produce high quality image without using a computer however the results are perfect only if photo from the camera is perfect

Okay down to buisness. We are going to work on a portrait of my lovely girlfriend Monica.I have a lot of her images, she's best model I had so far and I really love working with her. Please do not use it for any purpose different than this tutorial without asking me first.

The image was taken using a beauty dish attached to studio flash as main light source. There was also a lamp from the top for her lighting and a small background kicker.

Open photoshop (I have CS3) and let's take a look on the photo (0). It has some gold tint into it but since my recent project is portraiting Monica in four diffrent CMYK roles (as Cyan, Magenta, Black and Yellow - and this is supposed to be yellow) this gold tint will be valuable and we will even try to enchance it even more. However I can name several things to do right away: some nasty hot spots on cheeks and forehead and tip of the nose that require toning down. There is difference in brightnes in upper part of her face (brighter) and lower (darker) that might be quite a big problem. There is small shadow on the right side of her neck that we will brighten. Some sharpening and skin smoothing could work as well. Okay so here it is!

1. General face cleaning

Duplicate the layer (ctrl+j). Take the spot healing brush tool. Zoom in to 100% and using "[" and "]" keys to adjust size of your brush just click on some spots you want to get rid of. For example in her eyes there are some bids of her make up. There are also few areas on skin that require this retouch (1). After you are done merge layers (ctrl+shift+e) or go to layer->merge visible.

2. Removing the highlits

Duplicate layer. Take the stamp tool. We will start from the forehead. Alt+click the area near the highlight (but not the highlited area I have marked the spot in which i have started with x) and start to clone it on hotspots. The idea is to cover burn outs with preferably even coloured spot (like it shows in 2). Be sure to change the source point quite often. The key is having quite an even color covering each hotspot (you always take source for cloning from the area near the hotspot you are currently working on). I hope the image illustrates it better than I am describing it :). Of course it now has look of artificial cloning but notice that you are working on a copy of the layer. See what happens is you go down with the opacity of that layer to 50% - the effect isn't that obvious now is it? (3) But the hotspots are toned down noticable. Now take ereaser tool with opacity and flow set to 50 - 60% and try to fade places in which border between your cloned portion and skin is still visible. Look at the diffrence by turning the duplicated layer on and off. After you are done merge layers

The whole point nr 2 should be avoided at all times. I mean you shuld avoid blown out areas when taking a picture. This is kind of emergency route for you but its always best not to have blown outs in you raw photo.

3. Some more retouching

That point isn't nessesary. It only shows a method you can use to do some retouching in your own photos. We will try to reduce some marks on her skin on cheeks. Duplicate layer and select stamp tool. Using the same method as in point 2 simply cover the area with marks with skin texture from around. Then again go with the opacity to around 50% which will make marks visible but more subtle. Using eraser fade the borders. Merge layers when you're done (4).

At that point you might consider using skin smoothing software like for example Kodak AirBrush Professional plug in. If you do, do it exactly the same - duplicate layer, apply the skin softening (important: only on skin!) and then go down with opacity (50% is always a good start) - you will avoid making plastic like skin, the skin of your model will look still like skin and what is most important HER skin, but the 50% of softened skin will add some improved apperance. There is a lot of skin smoothing plug ins for PS and I would suggest getting one. You don't have to use it always but it is good to have something like it just in case.

4. Shadow brightening

Using exactly the same method you can brighten the shadows. Shadow under her nose on her left side and on her neck on the left are good material for brightening. So again duplicate layer. Using stamp tool cover the shadows with brighter color from around the shadow. Opacity down to 50-60% and fading using eraser. You might find it better to go down with the opacity to lower values like 30% and then repeating the process after merging. It's more accurate that way but I rather show you the method and you may use it in many diffrent ways. Merge layers (4).

5. Special taste

This image is supposed to be Yellow on my CMYK serie. It already has some golden tint but we will try to have it even more. Duplicate the layer. Go to filter -> other -> maximum. Select radius of 15 pixels and click OK. What this filter do is basicly effect of applying a choke--spreading out white areas and choking in black areas. The more radius you choose the effect is more visible. Okay I know it look horrible right now but change the blending mode of that layer to overlay. Then go to filter->blur->gaussian blur. Set radius to 70 pixels. Set opacity of that layer to 60-70% (5)\ Now the effect achieved might not be into your taste but again it's only a way to achieve such look. Experiment with it, maybe you will find different settings that will be more into your taste. There also is filter at other filters called minimum - it works the opposite way and also can produce some nice results when eperimenting with blending mode and blur. Merge layers after you're done.

6. Gimme the light

Last step has exposed the trouble I mentioned at the begining. The lower parts of her face are darker then upper parts. We will try to fix this. Duplicate the layer. Change blending mode to screen. Create mask for that layer. Fill it with black colour. Now bring out only the dark area of her lower parts around the lips. (6) shows what effect you should have and also what shape the mask should have. Operate with black and white as well as grey tones to have smooth borders. Again the effect is obvious and bad looking but see what happens when you go with the opacity down. I set mine to 35% This was the point in which the tones were even on the whole face.

7. Final adjustments

I did two adjustments layers for the final touch. One is color balance (+15 red +15 yellow) with the opacity set to 65% and the other one is hue/saturation (-25 saturation). The trick is that I mask those layers so that they don't adjust eyes. Simply draw black spots on these layers masks in the areas in which there are eyes. This makes the eyes really zing out of photo

I have noticed some red color cast in the shadows on the left side of her face. To get rid of them select image and layer go to channels. Select red channel but keep the view of all channels on (click the eye near RGB). Select burn tool with exposure of 4% and simply paint on that red areas. We are burning only in red channel so the result is removing that red cast and not darkening the whole part.

8.Ultimate finale adjustements

Like brightening the side of her left eye, brightening the hair (using the same method as in point 6 except you mask hair only), darkening the image - create curves adjustment layers and set the black point in the iris of her eye (using black eyedropper from the curves window), then set the opacty of that layer to 70% and mask the hair with black brush (so that hair isn not darkened). Final touch is sharpening. Sharpen everything but the skin and background. So duplicate layer, sharpen the copy and then mask out skin and background. I have used unsharp mask with amoun 160% radius 1 and treshold 0. I did also some background brightening and eyes brightening both using the technique with screen layer set to low opacity. At the end removed the tilt to keep eyes straight which tightend the crop perhaps too much. Last touch was adding the frame

Well and that basicly it! I know "Yellow" isn't anything spectacular because the photo itself had some flaws. I have chosen it because of that to show you how we can improve the results in postprocess. The more perfect your raw photo is the less work you will have. Nevertheless I hope you will like the effect achieved. I tried to make something special of kinda casual photo.

Regards, Fil

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From gambo1/Glenn (0) Send mail to this user on January 4, 2009 7:14:58 PM CST

Filip, You have a tough subject to work with. that sparkle makeup would be a challenge and you managed it quite well. with that said, and your request for feedback, here goes. The skin on her forehead and cheeks have lost texture leaving her looking like a manikin. try using a lower %Opacity(20-25%) and ease into it. Her nose looks too broad now since the light line down the center is gone. some 'shine' is OK and natural as it helps the separation. She has beautiful eyes, but they were a bit overdone, both in the whites as well as the iris. because they are so prominent, they overpower the rest of her face. One thing I do is to enchance with red, the inide corners of their eyes-not much, just makes it a bit more pink. My mentors and instructors drilled one thing into me the past couple of years-less is more. Small light strokes and changes so you can back them out if it's too much. thanks for taking the time to document the whole process. we appreciate it. Gambo1

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From filipson/Filip (4,015) Send mail to this user on January 5, 2009 7:19:01 AM CST

It is not high opacity of cloning layer which leaves skin without texture but point 5 - maximun filter. That was the effect I was after. You can skip that point to leave normal apperance. Thanks for input.

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From digiteye/Peter (1,056) Send mail to this user on January 26, 2009 3:50:43 AM CST

One of most useful postprocess descriptions I've seen so far. Simply it works - I've just tried it. Thanks for sharing it. Regards Peter A.

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From mahuya/Mahuya (0) Send mail to this user on January 28, 2009 6:08:29 AM CST

This is a great post where visitor may find some important tips on photography. Hey now you can make money by uploading this type of great photos in www.uploaded.tv You may check it. Its amazing and cool!

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From lesjohnstone/Les (15,036) Send mail to this user on February 8, 2009 6:01:03 PM CST

Hi Filip, I think its great that you took the time to write this out for fellow photographers benefit. From comments here, and in critiques i have seen with similar proccesing, there are lots of members who regard this as being "fantastic". Hovever I would simply describe your picture as horrible. Its just so bad looking its not even like a photograph. I actually prefer the original picture, really, the original picture just looks like a very pretty girl, but your processing has made that into a badly drawn cartoon. The main problem with the origial picture is oversharpening, giving the tiny specular highlights on the skin. I think you could improve your PS work by doing the same thing you describe, but just to a much lesser extent. Think about it this way. No one has skin that looks like this, nor eyes that are like that. If you want to practice this I'd recomend doing three vertions, one were you think the PS work is just right and one too much and one too little and see what you prefer after a few days. I hope this hasn't sounded too negative I just want to express how i think your technique needs fine tuned.

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From filipson/Filip (4,015) Send mail to this user on February 16, 2009 4:50:27 PM CST

Hi Les. Thanks for the time to take some notes. Generally this is rather to show what I usually do when processing pictures. It's really really hard to describe the whole processing in my case because I do a lot and undo a lot as well. Please don't judge my technique by this particular picture but rather look in my folio here on psig - this tutorial isn't about creating flawless picture but rather show basics of what I do when working with pictures. It takes a lot lot more than these 8 steps but rarely I do something more than that in the terms of ps tools that I use.

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From lute/Roelof (273) Send mail to this user on February 9, 2009 4:45:24 PM CST

He Filip,

Great post, I like your postprocessing. I use step 1 t/m 4 myself, but will try too use 5 t/m 8 also :-)

I use for some techniques the Niksoftware also verry good!!

greetz Roelof

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From filipson/Filip (4,015) Send mail to this user on February 16, 2009 4:51:03 PM CST

:)

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From photomarco/Freddy (9,213) Send mail to this user on February 19, 2009 2:28:54 PM CST

What is important here is the technique in itself, which I find to be very detailed. Once aquired, it can be used at own taste of course. It's good you found the time to write this tutorial because it's hard to find something like this in books. Thanks very much!

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From ethanwaber/Ethan (0) Send mail to this user on August 2, 2010 6:23:37 AM CDT

Thanks for the informations thansk regards ethan

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From bjh/Bryan (1,810) Send mail to this user on March 18, 2009 1:36:53 AM CDT

Fil, Very informative. Thanks for taking the time. ~Bryan

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From tutmos/Ali (2,647) Send mail to this user on March 20, 2009 5:25:20 PM CDT

do you know any photoshop face plugins ?

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From terrysreed/Terry (2,142) Send mail to this user on March 16, 2010 8:33:11 AM CDT

Ali, I just picked up a nice plug-in at www.portraitprofessionalstudio.com. They have a free trial, too. Just now, (March of 2010) they have it on sale at a very attractive price (at least it seems so to me...) Also, if you are a reader of Rangefinder magazine, enter the code ZN0470 when buying, and get another 10%. (It didn't work for me, but I sent them an email and they promptly refunded it. Actually, seems worth it to me even without the 10%. Btw, it will run as a standalone too, for those who don't use Photoshop. It supports most RAW files, but you can double check that as you begin the program. (My Fuji S-3 Pro wasn't listed as supported, but it is, for example.)

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From tutmos/Ali (2,647) Send mail to this user on April 10, 2009 7:31:01 PM CDT

do you know any photoshop plug in for this ?

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From filipson/Filip (4,015) Send mail to this user on April 15, 2009 3:58:15 AM CDT

Yes there is a lot of them here :)

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From juliewhitakerphotogr/Julie (115) Send mail to this user on May 12, 2009 9:43:30 PM CDT

Thank you so much for posting help like this for photographers. I am recently starting to take some portrait shots and have been practicing in photoshop. Your information has helped me a lot. Thanks again for the info and for wanting to help beginners like me. The only critique I would give is that her forehead looks a little too processed. But other than that the picture is beautiful. The colors look great and her eyes pop perfectly in the photo.

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From seekers/Azuan (0) Send mail to this user on May 19, 2009 1:58:19 AM CDT

wow.. first time looking this.. great potrait..

Cheers,
Melayu Boleh

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From stormslegacy/Michelle (156) Send mail to this user on July 29, 2009 6:23:07 PM CDT

I really like that you took the time to explain this, and there was a lot of helpful information here!
I am a very new amateur, and have never done portraits, so take this with a grain of salt: I really don't like the complete loss of texture in the skin. It makes it feel too over-processed. That said, I like the result better than the beginning, as the lighting is really brought out to play.

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From siwiaktom/Tom (175) Send mail to this user on December 12, 2009 6:40:56 PM CST

Very good guide "How to from real woman make a plastic doll" . Sorry, I understand repairing natural skin faults but this is surgical face lifting. Where is foto skill in it? 80% of foto surface was changed.

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From ssquared/Scott (589) Send mail to this user on January 12, 2011 2:45:34 AM CST

He's trying to be helpful and the technique he is using has been very helpful to me and many others... This is a good example of when you should have taken the opportunity to just be silent!

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From ricardobaezduarte/Ricardo (1,428) Send mail to this user on June 20, 2010 12:27:48 PM CDT

Hello I think you have done a great job but I think I might suggest some improvements. First the reflection of the annular ring flash in the eyes diminish the beauty of the model, I would suggest to modify them to round (full) shape instead. I guess the final result is a bit over exposed which looks a bit unnatural, too much "studio like".I would like to send you a version I did with your photo to see if you like it. How could I attach my version? Regards Ricardo

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From ricardobaezduarte/Ricardo (1,428) Send mail to this user on June 20, 2010 12:28:56 PM CDT

Hello I think you have done a great job but I think I might suggest some improvements. First the reflection of the annular ring flash in the eyes diminish the beauty of the model, I would suggest to modify them to round (full) shape instead. I guess the final result is a bit over exposed which looks a bit unnatural, too much "studio like".I would like to send you a version I did with your photo to see if you like it. How could I attach my version? Regards Ricardo

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From nostrildamus/Jordi (157) Send mail to this user on August 1, 2010 7:59:56 AM CDT

Thanks for pulling this together. You have clearly invested a lot of energy into learning how to process photos and have been very kind in pulling this guide together for those who need this kind of knowledge. For me personally though, this approach to images doesn't do it. The original image is far prettier than the processed one. While this technique may have its place in convincing insecure women and men to buy cosmetics that don't work, I don't think it has a place the process of creating pretty images. I personally hope this sort of thing goes out of fashion as, at least for me, my brain immediately realizes it has been cheated when it sees heavily processed images and is put off.

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From shlomow/Shlomo (0) Send mail to this user on August 7, 2010 12:41:12 PM CDT

Thank you for the information provided. The best content I have seen in this niche.

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From khadi/Kuntjoro (169) Send mail to this user on August 24, 2010 3:15:50 PM CDT

Brilliant. Thank's

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From madisonbrock/Madison (0) Send mail to this user on April 28, 2012 4:52:37 AM CDT

This is a wonderful photography and the all images are so clear.Photography is my passion and hobby. custom paintings

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From madisonbrock/Madison (0) Send mail to this user on April 28, 2012 4:53:15 AM CDT

This is a wonderful photography and the all images are so clear.Photography is my passion and hobby. custom paintings

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From madisonbrock/Madison (0) Send mail to this user on April 28, 2012 4:54:51 AM CDT

This is a wonderful photography and the all images are so clear.Photography is my passion and hobby. custom paintings

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From nacho25/Nacho (0) Send mail to this user on December 10, 2013 4:37:39 PM CST

Fantastic! Best regards from Spain Tutoriales Photoshop

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From nacho25/Nacho (0) Send mail to this user on December 10, 2013 4:40:17 PM CST

Fantastic! Best regards from Spain Tutoriales Photoshop

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From creativestream/spammer (0) Send mail to this user on June 23, 2014 4:41:53 AM CDT

Do you think this will work with RAW only or JPEGs would also work?

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