Portrait retouch in 9 min

Retouch is a very individual process which may require hours of pixel to pixel work. Unfortunately most of photographers just do not have opportunity to spent so much effort on each photo. But this does not mean that you should live your photo untouched.
I would like to show what you can do in 9 minutes. Actually i planned 10 but it took a bit less. If you have more time you can definitely do it even better.

Our model is Tatiana. Image is from my archive.

We start with RAW file.
This is how original file looks like. A bit dull but we are going to fix that.


We start with crop and color temperature and increase exposure and contrast slightly.


Tone curve allows to work on contrast more detailed. Using parametric curve we add more contrast.


This is winter photo and it requires winter pale skin. This means we need to make it lighter and less saturated. So lets move to HSL tab. Reds, oranges and yellows are responsible for skin tone. For this edit oranges work the best. We reduce saturation and increase luminance.

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Eyes are very important for this image. To emphasise them we need Local adjustment brush.
For more contrast look add more clarity, it works perfect for eyes and gives us maximum detail.
If you want to stress color of blue, grey or green eyes reduce color temperature a bit. For green eyes i also reduced magenta tint. As the skin stays warm eyes attract even more attention.
In 90% eyes also need a bit more exposure.
Screen shot looks a little bit creepy but i just wanted to show you local adjustment mask.


Spot removal tool is even more flexible then Healing tool in Photoshop and blends even better, so don’t miss opportunity to remove major blemishes with it. Pins show retouched areas.


To lighten under eyes area reduce the opacity of Spot removal brush to 50% for more natural look.


This was actually the final stage in Camera RAW, lets move to Photoshop.

We start with Liquify.  Making nose a but more symmetrical, chin a bit more narrow with Forward Wrap Tool. Don’t try make make all features ideal, perfect symmetry looks odd.


Now let’s work on imperfections which we didn’t touch up in Camera Raw.
For eyeliner I create new empty layer in Multiply mode, and just paint over the areas I prefer to be darker.
I create layer called stamp for some minor imperfections. To edit hair I use Stamp tool and for skin - Healing brush. For both of them use Current and below mode because we work on empty layer.
On the left picture selection shows edited areas and on the right how the actual stamp layer looks like.

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For next step we create high pass layer with radius 24, invert it with Ctrl + I or cmd + I for Mac, blur to 8 px and change blending mode to Linear Light. Add black mask to the layer and paint with a soft white brush on areas which need to be smoothed. This saves a lot of time on dodging and burning. To help myself i create  Adjustment curves layer with overall darkening. This is just service layer which helps to see some spots on the skin better.




The next step is dodge and burn. I create one more Adjustment curves layer with black mask for lightening and name it “dodge” and for “burn” layer i just invert the mask of my help layer. Now again paint with soft white brush at low opacity on the areas we need to lighten or darken. This process for portrait is very similar with contouring in make up, it has the same rules: hide imperfections and give more volume to the face.
For this image i added some highlights on the cheekbones, middle line of the nose, chin and added shine to fur of the coat.
In “burn” layer darkened sides of the nose to make it look more narrow, shadowed hair and contour of the face.
On the left is "burn" layer mask and on the right is "dodge" layer mask after this stage is finished.

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And here comes the last step! Add more contrast with Curve layer and desaturate all image except the eyes to -17 with Hue/Saturation layer.

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Check the before/after!


Here is a video stream of the retouch, it is in actual time and a bit more chaotic than text.

Feel free to ask questions and comment.