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Monday, January 20, 2014

Photography Tips // How To Edit Portraits Like A Pro (Photoshop)

Something about kids makes me want to snap a million pics and share them with the world. Maybe its how fast they grow up or how freaking adorable they are. Either way, I can't put the camera down. And lots of camera time usually means lots of time behind the computer editing the images. So, I thought I'd share a few of my post-editing tips with you that help make the process quick and painless.

If you're lucky you'll have the perfect lighting conditions matched with the perfect settings on your camera to produce a professional-quality image where no editing is needed.  Other times a little post processing can help a not-so-great photo look a whole lot better.  I use Photoshop and by no means am I even close to being an expert but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to make my photos look their best better (I'm still learning.)

Not too keen on forking over the big bucks for post-editing software?  Try these free photo editing programs.

Take this SOOC (straight out of the camera) photo of Cal for instance - it's pretty dang adorable but could use a few tweaks to make it really stand out.  I used my Nikon D5100 and Nikkor kit lens (18-55mm) to shoot this portrait and here's how I took it from the before to the after.

Import // Import or upload the image into the editing program.

Crop Tool // Crop the image - keeping in mind "The Rule of Thirds"

Spot Healing Brush Tool or Clone Stamp // Before you proceed you'll want to remove any blemishes.  You can do this with the Spot Healing Brush Tool or the Clone Stamp.  Both tools will only work on the unedited photo so make sure you use them before you make any other changes.  I don't know how many times I've adjusted the contrast/white balance and then went to clean up the image with the spot healing brush only to have to revert the image back to SOOC and start from scratch.  For this photo I didn't use either tool but I have used it to remove wayward strands of hair or blemishes on the skin....nothing too crazy like cinching in my waist. 

For the next few steps you'll want to download the following Photoshop Actions:

Pioneer Woman Photoshop Action Package 1
CoffeeShop Baby PowderRoom 2

What are Actions?  Actions are  a series of recorded steps by the designer to help a photographer achieve a look without having to manually apply each process. A set of shortcuts, so to speak.

Pioneer Woman's Slight Lighten/Slight Sharpen // Select Slight Lighten and Slight Sharpen from the Actions Panel.

Here you can select the layer and adjust the curves to make it lighter/darker by moving the curve in the adjustment window.

CoffeeShop Baby PowderRoom 2 // Select the CoffeeShop Baby PowderRoom Action and select Continue.

It will take a few minutes to run through the set of commands.  During the "Smooth Skin" command you will be required to manually select a color - here you will use the dropper tool to take a sample of the skin color.  This will ensure that the skin is the only area that will be affected by this Action.

The next adjustment to the "Smooth the Skin" command will require a manual adjustment for the blur.  I have my Radius set to 5 and Threshold to 15.  You can move the bars to adjust and see the change in the screen.

Once the PowderRoom Action has finished I go to my layers panel and adjust the opacity of the Smooth The Skin layer so the skin looks a little more realistic and less doll-like.  Here it is at 65%.

Next I select the Paint Brush tool with black selected and paint across the lips and eyes and nose holes (nostrils?) to make sure that those parts of the face are not smooth.  You may not see any "paint" being applied but you can see those areas of the face darken on the small thumbnail in the Layer panel.

Then, under the "Eyes Define" layer I use the brush tool with white selected on the eyes so  the effect is only applied to the eyes.

Warming Filter // I like to warm up the skin tone so I select the Lasso tool and trace around the entire neck & head. (If hands or arms were visible, I'd select those as well.)

Once the skin is selected, choose "Photo Filter" from the Adjustment Layer and select Warming Filter (85).  It automatically selects an orange tone.  I change that to a more pinkish tone (R=255 G=204 B=204)

Remove the warming filter from the eyes by choosing the warming layer (Photo Filter 1) and selecting the paint brush with black in the selection box.  Paint around and inside the eyes.

Brightness/Contrast // Next I boost the Brightness/Contrast.

Vibrance/Saturation // I make a slight increase to the Vibrance & Saturation.

And that's where I call it good - this is one aspect where I tend to think less is more.  Books, on the other hand...

And that's how I end up with this beautiful image.

So that's how I do it.  How do you edit your photos?  Share your tips below.


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