Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday Tutorial: Retouching Photos of People in Photoshop

A few days ago I discovered this great blog called Kirsten Learns.  It's all about this girl named Kirsten and how she's learning to do things.  One of the things she's learning to do is edit photos with Photoshop.  She wrote a post with some photos she's edited and the tutorials she used to edit them.  She wasn't pleased with how the final photo of herself turned out, so since I like editing photos and haven't tried making a Photoshop tutorial yet, I decided to see if I could come up with a good edit of her photo and write a tutorial for how to do it.  I asked her for permission to edit her photo and post it and the tutorial on my blog and she said that I  definitely could, so here we go.

Here is the original photo.

It's not bad, a bit underexposed, but nothing too hard to fix.

So here's what I did, step by step.  (If you would like me to clarify any of the steps let me know in the comments and I'll add a screenshot of that step.)

1.  Adjust the exposure.  In Adjustments, click Exposure and adjust it so the photo looks like it's the right exposure.  (The exposure is the amount that the light lets in when the photo is taken.  If it's underexposed, that means there was not enough light let in and the photo will look dark, like this one.)  I adjusted the exposure of this photo to +1.7.

2. Add a photo filter.  In Adjustments, click Photo Filter.  I used Warming Filter (81) at 10% density.

3. Adjust brightness and contrast.  In Adjustments, click Brightness/Contrast.  I adjusted the brightness to 5 and the contrast to 10.

4.  Adjust vibrancy.  In Adjustments, click Vibrance.  I adjusted it to +10.

5.  Copy the background layer.

6.  Use the Dodge tool on the eyes to make them more lively.  I used the Dodge tool with Range: Midtones and Exposure: 20%.  Get the eyes nice and bright, then lower the layer fill (in the Layers panel) until the eyes look natural.

7.  Create a new layer.  Zoom in on the eyes.  You are going to add something called catch lights, which are just the reflection by a light source in a person's eye.  Adding them helps to make the eyes more lively.  Choose a brush with 50% hardness and make it the size that the catch lights would be.  (On this photo there were already very light catch lights, so I just used them to determine the brush size and then made them a bit more intense.)  I used a 56 pixel brush size.  Click the brush once on each catch light (if you're using a photo that already has them) or click once on each eye in roughly the same position (if you're using a photo that doesn't already have catch lights).

8.  Set the blend mode of the layer to Overlay.  Turn the layer opacity down until it looks natural.  (I used 25%)

9.  Create a new layer filled with 50% gray.  (Do this by clicking Create a new layer in the Layers panel, then clicking Edit, then Fill.  Set it to Use: 50% Gray, Blending Mode: Normal, Opacity 100%.)

10.  Set the blend mode of the 50% gray layer to Overlay.

11.  While on the 50% gray layer use the Dodge tool on the parts you want to brighten (such as the shine on the hair and the lips) and the Burn tool on the parts you want to darken.  (There might not be any but if parts of the face are looking flat and not 3D like they would be in real life, you can darken the edges to make it look more 3D.  For example, on this photo I used the burn tool just a little bit where the shadows around the nose were.)  This is the Photoshop equivalent of using highlighter and bronzer with makeup to contour your face.  Doing it on a 50% gray layer set to Overlay lets you add depth to the photo with a lot of control.

And that's it.  With this photo you really only need to adjust the exposure, if you're a Photoshop beginner, to make it look way better.  The other steps are all optional and more advanced.  I hope something from this tutorial is helpful for you.  And definitely let me know if there are any parts of this tutorial that you would like me to explain further or expand upon.  Like I said, this is my first Photoshop tutorial, so it's not perfect and I would love to improve it for you in any way possible.

Without further ado, here is the finished product.


  1. I think it was a very good tutorial and a very nice outcome! I've been using Photoshop for years and I still like to see how other people use it differently. Instead of exposure I use levels or curves. I might have to switch it up next time!

  2. Thanks so much. I'm self-taught in Photoshop, mostly through just playing around with it, so I tend to do things differently than most people. I use levels for my product photos and sometimes for photos of people but I think it's easier to explain exposure, especially for semi-beginners.

  3. You are amazing and clever and REALLY COOL. I never would have thought to use Exposure! Thank you for writing this, I give you one million cool points. :)

    Kirsten | kirstenlearns.com

  4. These are quite useful tips for editing images using photoshop. I have just started using Photoshop so these are very helpful photoshop tricks for me. I am also taking help from LearnPhotoEditing.net . This is also a good website to learn digital art tutorials and to get photoshop training to develop skills in this niche.


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