/The Basics of Photoshopping Portraits
Photoshopping Portraits on a Laptop

The Basics of Photoshopping Portraits

Do you want to start making money from your photography hobby? Or maybe you want to make yourself look better in your selfies? Then you need to know some basics of photoshopping portraits. Since 1987, Adobe Photoshop has been the premier photo editing software for hobbyists and professionals alike. 

Although it has a steep learning curve, one of the joys of working with Photoshop is that you’ll discover that there are multiple ways for you to perform tasks. Once you start learning the basics, this acts as a foundation that makes the rest of your learning easier. 

Read on to learn all the basics you need to know for photoshopping portraits! 

1. Have an End Goal

The one major issue of Photoshop is that you can easily spend five hours working on one photograph–it’s hard to determine when to stop! Photographers are notorious for being overly critical of their work, and it doesn’t help that this tool gives you a near-limitless number of possibilities. 

However, if you have a vision of what your finished photo should look like before you even begin editing, you’ll be happier with the finished product as well as far more efficient with your editing. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself that will help you discover the kind of image you want to create: 

  • Is this for a client? 
  • What image quality does the client expect? 
  • Will the client be happy with the edits you’re making? 
  • What kind of tone do you want your image to have? 
  • Where will this image be used? 

For instance, if this is a portrait of a client’s young daughter, you know that they’re not looking for a high-contrast, black and white photo–unless this is the style that you’re known for. 

2. Global Adjustments First

Now that you know what you want your image to look like, the next step is to work on your basic adjustments first in Camera Raw. This includes tweaks to the: 

  • Exposure
  • Shadows
  • Highlights
  • Color balance
  • Vibrance/saturation

If you’ve never worked with a RAW file before, this is when the magic happens. The photos you’re used to taking with your phone are JPG files that already have some processing done to them automatically. With RAW photos, you’re fully in control. 

For portraits, you want the subject’s face to be well-lit with no bright highlights that are making the face appear shiny or losing detail. You’ll also want to focus on making the skin tone appear as natural as possible, which can be done by adjusting the color temperature, luminosity slider, and even the orange and red slider. 

You also have the option of skipping this step in Photoshop and using Lightroom instead. There are also Lightroom presents such as Greater Than Gatsby that can easily reproduce looks that you love. 

3. Spot Healing

Once you’re happy with your adjustments, it’s time to make smaller adjustments that together make all the difference.

In the tools panel, select the Spot Healing tool in the tools panel to the left of your workspace. You can adjust its size with the bracket keys on your keyboard. 

Use the spot healing tool for things that aren’t permanent on your client’s portrait, such as: 

  • Dust 
  • Stray hair
  • Blemishes
  • Bug bites
  • Dirt
  • Smudged makeup

You don’t want to edit away scars, birthmarks, or any permanent aspects of your client’s body unless your client has brought it up to you before.

4. Curves Tool

Next, you’ll want to adjust your subject’s skin tone and bags under their eyes with the curves tool. However, remember that this isn’t the only way to do this–as you become more proficient with Photoshop, you’ll be able to develop ways that fit with your particular workflow.

Create a new Curves layer and click on the symbol and not the layer mask itself. Click the top Eyedropper tool that opens with the Curves panel and sample a lighter skin tone that’s near your subject’s eye bags. 

Then, click on the tones you want to replace, which are the dark eye bags. Invert your Curves mask with CTRL + I while you have it selected, and with the Brush selected on a 10 to 20 percent opacity, paint over the eye bags.

5. High Pass Filter

Lastly, portraits all about having striking, sharp eyes. You can do this easily by utilizing the High Pass filter on Photoshop. As always, duplicate the layer you working with previously and then navigate to Filter, Other, and finally High Pass. From there, you’ll want to set it to 30 and set the layer blend mode to Soft Light.

Mask your layer with a black mask. With the Brush tool at an opacity of about 50 percent, brush over the eyes with your layer mask selected. You’ll see that they’ll appear far sharper and detailed than before. 

If you want an easier way, you can also use Photoshop’s Sharpen tool that’s located in the toolbar. However, no matter what way you choose, Photoshop allows you to save presets and actions to speed up your workflow.

Photoshopping Portraits the Professional Way

Although photoshopping portraits may seem complicated at first, you’ll find that it’s worth the learning curve. Photoshop allows users a degree of control that no other software or application can fully replicate.

Even better, Photoshop has multiple ways to perform common actions so that you can find the method that works for you best. You can then save your actions so that over time, your workflow speeds up. 

Want to read more ways on how to increase your Photoshop knowledge and produce higher quality photos? Keep reading our blog for more tips and tricks on how to get started!