Touching Beautiful Women… Retouching, That Is

Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques Using Photoshop by Scott Kelby | Book Cover As a portrait photographer, I spend a lot of time shooting with models of all shapes and sizes. I also invest a lot of time into not only making great images of these men and women, but retouching those images so my subjects (clients included) look their very best.

Just to stay up to date on new techniques and methods of retouching, I spend a lot of time following different photography blogs, as you can see from my blogroll on the right, and reading a lot of actual books… you know… those things you can buy at Barnes & Noble.

One of my favorite authors is Mr. Photoshop himself, Scott Kelby. When I started diving into photography, he made my list of the top 3 photographers I wanted to meet (Annie Liebovitz and Joe McNally were the others), and, last year, I actually got to attend one of his seminars where the master was teaching himself and we got to meet, chat, and even talk guitars!

Well, I recently picked up his latest retouching book, “Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques Using Photoshop,” and once again, I was blown away. Every time I read or watch Kelby retouch, I completely redesign my workflow.

Since I’ve read that book and changed my retouching workflow over the past few months with other techniques, I thought I would share my first Kelby-fied retouch with all of you, plus a small breakdown of what I did to the image.

The Analysis

Kara (6/30/11) - Original

Kara (6/30/11) – Original

One of the first things that I do when I start a retouch is to take a minute or two to really look at the image, both zoomed out and close up. I mentally “outline” what I feel needs adjusted, whether it is removing blemishes, whitening teeth, removing strands of hair, boosting colors, or anything else. After looking at the Before image here, this is what I felt needed fixin’.

  1. The refrigerator in the background was distracting.
  2. There are spaces/gaps in her bangs.
  3. Eyes could be tweaked and there were very small lines under them to remove
  4. Whiten teeth, make mouth larger, darken her lips
  5. Colors on the shirt and her underwear could “pop” more
  6. Hair looks a little bland… maybe boost color and contrast
  7. Weird shadow “pocket” on her left armpit
  8. Veins on her right arm need removed
  9. Remove engagement ring
  10. Some funky lines on the skin of her legs

Now, let me just say this. Kara is a beautiful girl and a wonderful model. There is honestly very little to retouch on her, but no matter what the model may look like, a little bit of retouching can go a long way toward making a better image. You never know… even the Mona Lisa could have had a massive pimple, but Leonardo left it out!

The Retouch

Kara (6/30/11) - Retouched

Kara (6/30/11) – Retouched

Well, this list may not seem like much, but it took me about 15 to 20 minutes total to get through this one image. What did I do to address these problems? I’ll tell ya!

  1. Background – Using the Burn tool set to “Shadows,” I just “burnt” out the distracting elements in the background.
  2. Bangs – Used a technique I learned in Kelby’s book mentioned above. Made a selection of “good” hair, feathered the selection, then threw it on its own layer and adjusted shape, rotation, etc.
  3. Eyes – Healing Brush and Clone Stamp set to 40% Lighten to remove the dark circles. Merged Layer set to Screen to brighten the eyes and the catchlights.
  4. Teeth/Mouth/Lips – Hue/Saturation layer to whiten the teeth and a Curves Layer set to Medium Contrast at 50% opacity to darken the lips a bit. To make the mouth larger, I used Kelby’s technique of putting a Lasso around the whole area, applying a Feather to the selection, then using the Free Transform to increase the size by 10%.
  5. Clothes Colors – Merged Layer set to Multiply and masked over just the tank top and the underwear. Then I brought the opacity down to where it was bright, but didn’t look unrealistic.
  6. Hair – Curves Layer set to Medium Contrast and masked over the hair plus a Hue/Saturation layer to boost the color slightly.
  7. Armpit – Patch tool
  8. Veins on Arm – Patch tool with a little Healing Brush for backup
  9. Engagement Ring – Lasso around the ring to “lock down” my selection, then used the Clone Stamp tool
  10. Leg Lines – Patch tool and Healing Brush
  11. Miscellaneous – I applied some general skin smoothing and, of course, some of my personal “trade secrets” to the overall look of the image

As you can see, a good understanding of how layers and layer masks work as well as knowing when to use the Patch, Clone Stamp, and Healing Brush tools can really go a long way in any retouch.

Stay tuned for more retouches in the future!

P.S. Feel free to comment and critique the image, but please be kind to the model.

P.P.S. A special thanks to the awesome to Mr. Photoshop, Scott Kelby, for not only allowing me to “borrow” the image of his book above, but also tweeting his response back to me directly! You gotta love social media.


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