Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Fix and perfect a portrait of Mum – Part 2

Image credit: UglyHero at

Once you have captured a great image of mum it’s time to fix it before sharing.

In a recent blog post I talked about how to take great photos of mum for Mother’s Day or any other occasion. Today I am going to explain how to process them.

Once you’ve downloaded and chosen the best shots – it’s time to fix the photos.

Start out with adjusting the white balance if the images need this. You might also want to warm the image if it is too cold so add a slight yellow/orange color cast to it to warm it a bit. This image is a little bit too blue for my taste and it will look better a bit warmer.

You can do this in Photoshop Elements – a good fix there is to adjust the skintones as explained in this blog post Photoshop doesn’t have this fix but whenever I use Photoshop Elements I find it really useful. You can fix skintones and warm the image all in the one step.

I will then fix any skin blemishes – if you’re using Photoshop Elements do that with the Spot Healing Brush Tool. The process is as simple as painting out the problem areas and the uneven skin tones will be smoothed.

To lessen the effect of wrinkles a good fix is to make a duplicate of the image background layer (Layer > Duplicate Layer) and to blur this duplicate layer with a small radius Gaussian blur filter (Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur).

Then selectively erase the top layer to reveal the sharper features underneath leaving the blur over the wrinkles. You will want to erase pretty much all but the area under the eyes. Finally, reduce the Opacity of the top layer to blend the two layers together if desired. If you’re handy with using masks do it with a mask instead of the eraser.

If the fix is not enough, use the Spot Healing Brush Tool on the top layer to blend out the wrinkles and dark areas under the eyes even more.

I like to use the Photoshop Elements Lightening Brush to lighten a person’s teeth slightly and I’ll often use the Saturation Enhancing Brush to brighten their eyes. Err on the side of caution though, the edits you make should be subtle and gently enhance the photo – you’re not applying Halloween makeup!

If your mum gets just one photo that she loves of herself from those you’ve taken – you’ve given her a wonderful gift. Best of all, you can bet she’ll be happy to pose for you again next year.

Helen Bradley

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Photoshop – Quick Portrait Makeover

Touch up your portraits with this quick video tutorial. I’ll show you how to remove blemishes and soften skin tones.


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley. Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how you can do a quick and easy portrait makeover.

Let’s have a look and see before we begin exactly what we’re going to achieve. So this is the starter image that I started off with. And I did some spot fixing on it to make sure that I had removed the skin blemishes and then I brought out the detail from the shadows. And this is the starting point that I then had and this is the effect that we’re going to look at creating. We’re going to soften the skin and brighten the eyes in our model. So let’s have a look and see how we would start off with spot fixing this image.

I would go into this image and then I would start by selecting the spot healing brush tool here because this is a tool that you can simply just paint over problems on the skin and it will fix them. So I went over this image really, really carefully. I zoomed in and I got every single one of the blemishes on this model’s skin and it’s probably a five minute job to just neaten the image up and just to get a really good starting point for it. And then having done that I did a shadows and highlights adjustment to bring some detail out of the shadows. So I’ll choose Image, Adjustments, Shadows/Highlights. And the default setting is 35. Now I used that. It was probably a little bit high. So you could probably bring it down a little bit perhaps to around 23 or 24, but there’s a good starting point for your image. And from there you’re ready to go ahead with the softening effect.

So let’s go back to the image that I’ve spot fixed and now let’s get rid of the two layers that are the fixed layers. And we’re just going to work from the point at which we opened up some of the shadows and highlights. So the first thing that we’re going to do is to create a duplicate of this background layer, just duplicate it and then we’re going to blur it. So I’m going to choose Filter, Blur, and then Gaussian Blur. I’m going to set the blur value to sort of a lowish sort of value. What I want to do is blur the model’s skin and use that in a minute to paint over her skin. So I want something that’s sort of a little bit over what I want my final effect to be but not totally over. So I’m thinking here about 9 or 10 pixels will be a good amount for this image, so I’ll just click Ok.

And having blurred that layer a little bit I want to add a bit of noise into it and I’ll do Filter, Noise and then Add Noise. And we want to bring in monochromatic noise and we want it to be Gaussian. Gaussian noise applies more noise to the lighter areas of the image and less to the darker areas. And we want probably somewhere between 5 and 10 percent noise. And this slider is really hard to adjust at that level so I’m just going to type in 7.5 percent and that’s giving us a nice little bit of noise in her skin tones, so I’ll click Ok.

So we do not want the image to look exactly like this. We just want that to be a starting point. So let’s add a mask to this layer. I’m going to Alt or Option click on the Add Layer Mask icon. And what that does is removes the blur. it will remove the entire effect from the model. And we’re going to paint on this mask to bring back in the softening where we want it to be. So I’m going to select my brush tool and select a nice soft brush, this one’s a good brush to use, and I’m going to paint with white. I’m just going to size the brush up a little bit. Now you’ll be a bit more careful than I am being, but what I’m doing is selecting over all the areas, painting over all the areas that I want the skin to be softened. So that is basically everywhere but her nose and mouth and eyes. Although I want the skin on her nose to be softened, I don’t want to soften this detail around here. And I may want to soften this area, but I don’t want to soften her eyebrows themselves. So very carefully softening by painting on the image with white in the areas that you want it to be softened. And you can see on the mask here the areas that we’ve got and perhaps any areas that we might have missed out on at this stage. Again, I don’t want to soften that jaw line too much. that’s a nice strong line and I want to keep that there.

Now that I’ve done that I can adjust the opacity of this layer a little bit. I’m going to adjust it down to zero which is totally removing the sharpening effect. And now I’m just going to march it up using the scrubby slider until I get the amount of softening that I want. So I really want a subtle softening, not totally obvious but just subtle softening of the skin. And I think probably about 30 percent is a good value for this image.

Now I’m going to make another duplicate of this background layer and drag it to the top because what I want to do now is to fix her eyes. So all I’m going to do is focus on this top layer and I’m going to look for some stronger color and contrast in her eyes. So I’m going to choose Image, Adjustments, Curves. Curves is a good adjustment for this and again I’m going for slightly more than I need. So there is some more whites in her eye. Now I know that the blue color of her eye is in this area, so let’s add a bit more contrast through that area.

So let’s see. That’s the before and that’s the after on her eye. So I’m just going to click Ok to accept that, but of course that’s not the image effect that we what. We want more of this effect, but we’d like to borrow some of the eyes from this effect. So again I’m going to Alt or Option click on the Add Mask icon to add a layer mask. And again with my paintbrush which is already preset and my white paint I’m going to target the mask and paint over her eye. Now again this is probably going to be too much, but we can tone it down a little bit by again adjusting the opacity of the mask. So we’ll just take it up to what we want it to be. I am thinking it’s probably going to be a little too much, maybe about 50 percent.

So let’s have a look at the starting point for the image. This is post having been spot fixed and post having had shadows and highlights applied to it. Then we added the skin softening and finally we added a little bit brighter eyes in our portrait.

I’m Helen Bradley. Thank you for joining me for this video tutorial. If you liked the tutorial please click to like it on YouTube. Consider also subscribing to my YouTube channel. You’ll be advised when new videos are launched and right now that’s about twice a week. You can also visit my website where you’ll find more tips, tricks and tutorials on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements. Lightroom, Illustrator and more.

Helen Bradley