Behind The Retouching - Beauty Breakdown

John Ross, Professional Retoucher

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1 Lessons (38m)
    • 1. Behind The Retouching - Image Review #5


Project Description

Photoshop Workflow from a Professional Retoucher

Apply three of these techniques I use on a portrait photograph you're retouching, and share it in the gallery.

  • There’s a difference if you happen to be starting with an already high-quality camera. This image was taken with a Nikon D800—a 36-megapixel camera that packs quite a punch. The high crisp quality reveals every single pore and stray hair strand makes it quite an interesting challenge for a retoucher.
  • In Camera Raw, you can make subtle changes that can brighten up your image, add clarity, and bring back detail lost in the shadows. All you often have to do is make adjustments to the Exposure, Highlights, Clarity, and Saturation.
  • Finding the right balance between Shadows and Blacks can create a powerful image that has depth and detail. This is because when you hike up the Shadows and decrease the Blacks, you put some contrast punch, while still adding back some detail into an otherwise flat photo.
  • Always work with Smart Objects. By holding down the Shift key while hovering on to the “Open Image” button in Camera Raw, you will notice that it changes into an “Open Object” button. Click on this to open your photo as a Smart Object in Photoshop.
  • A Smart Object will provide you with a non-destructive workflow and the most flexibility in your work. The problem with pixel-based information is that the effects you’ve made on that layer damage the photo forever. With Smart Objects, on the contrary, you can go back to your raw file and make changes if you need to. For instance, double-clicking on your Smart Object layer takes you back to the original raw file in Camera Raw so that you can easily make changes later on.
  • Use Smart Filters when making adjustments. A Smart Filter applied to a Smart Object layer will give you the ability to modify the effects you’ve applied if you later decide that you’ve changed your mind. Instead of damaging your image permanently with every effect you apply, this tool gives you the power of repeatedly reversing your actions by simply double-clicking on the Smart Filter and opening up your adjustment dialog box.
  • Imagenomic Portraiture can make portrait retouching faster and easier for you when pressed for time. Why take two hours to do the same thing in thirty seconds? There is, of course, the debate that this is cheating, or doing it wrong. I suppose it goes back to each industry having it’s own expectations. For my own industry of editorial, speed is more important.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed. Using Portraiture may tempt you into using all the tools just because so many of them are available. If you apply too many effects and use too many adjustment tools, your image might end up completely devoid of any detail. Additionally, it’s important to realize when you are about to overwork an image. If you do too much, it will look fake, and call attention to the poor retouching.
  • You can use Unsharp Mask to sharpen eyes or enhance weak textures. With an amount of 50% and a radius of 5, you can increase the skin detail. Also experiment with Smart Sharpen, which can, in different situations, yield better results.
  • Remember that in a Layer Mask, white reveals while black conceals. When you’re sharpening, you don’t want to affect the hair lest you sharpen up all those stray hair strands. Click on your “Smart Filters” Layer Mask, choose a black brush, and paint over the hair so that you can conceal that part from your sharpening effects. You can do the same for other areas of the image that you don’t want to emphasize or sharpen, such as skin areas and other parts of the model’s body.
  • The most glaring limitation of Smart Objects and Smart Filters is that there is only one Smart Filter mask. This means that if I have two adjustments under the same Smart Filter such as an Unsharp Mask and a Portraiture adjustment, both these effects will be applied on just a single mask. The solution, though a bit inefficient, to this limitation is to create a duplicate of your Smart Object layer, then apply a separate Smart Filter mask. This way, you can sharpen some areas while you can soften others.
  • A good base image is one devoid of many general problems like tonal, color issues in the raw processor, skin corrections, and sharpening. This is a good starting point for further retouching in Photoshop.
  • Whenever you make a copy of your original base Smart Object, remember that changes you make to the raw file are applied to all copied versions. Photoshop does not have separate files for your original raw image, but it simply references the same raw file each time. This is unless you use "Smart Object via Copy", which actually creates two separate veriations of the starting enclosure.
  • Filter – Other – High Pass gives you different Sharpening options that you can play around with. Personally, since I want more control on the back end, I usually raise the value up high here at the front end. Remember, it’s easier to take away than it is to put in afterwards.
  • Changing the Blend Mode of the High Pass Layer to Overlay gives an extra sharpening to the image. Afterwards, you can apply a black mask and simply paint white over the areas that you want to add more sharpening punch to. See what I mean when I say there’s more control here?
  • One way to deal with blemishes is to use dodge and Burn. Holding down the Alt key, click on the New Layer icon to see a dialogue box. Change the Mode to Overlay and keep the tickbox (Fill with Overlay…) checked. On this gray layer, remember that painting with a black brush darkens the skin while painting with a white brush lightens it. This allows you to even out your skin tone and blemishes.
  • Keep in mind that when you’re using a Brush with Opacity at 10%, it will only apply 10% until you let go of your mouse and click on your image area again. On the other hand, using a Brush with Flow will give you 10% with each pass of a brush, no need for extra clicking. Iprefer Opacticy, so that I dont go too heavy by accident.
  • If you want a less tedious method of cleaning up blemishes, you can always use Spotting or Cloning. The healing brush lets you dab on your problem areas until your skin tone evens out. Using a very small brush will reduce the offending areas, without damaging the textures.
  • Custom brushes in Photoshop can be useful when retouching eyelashes or irises of the eyes. Professionally, you can also choose a small brush, check Brush Dynamics on the brush palette, and select a “Fade” control. You can use Fade Brush with a Wacom tablet to literally draw eyelashes and other hairs.
  • You can also use Custom Brushes to enhance a model’s eyes. Remember that the eyes are the windows to the soul, so it’s important to keep them punchy.
  • The Curves method of Dodge and Burn is useful when making big sweeping tonal changes to an image. You can even make two Curves—one Lighter and one Darker. To compensate for this eventual color shift, choose Luminosity for each Curve layer. Then, fill the layers with a black mask. You can now do some Light Sculpting. You can use your brush to choose which area should be Lighter and which area should be Darker. This way, you gain more control in balancing the image.
  • Another thing you can do with Curves is to use it to remove the shine from the model’s forehead. Be careful you don’t make it too grey. Frequency Separation and adjusting the Blurred layer will help this as well.
  • It’s easy to keep retouching your image longer than you should, but don’t let yourself get too lost in the details. Know when to stop, otherwise you’ll never be able to move forward.
  • Warm colors go forward; cool colors go back. Bright Tone comes forward; Dark Tone goes backward. You can use this knowledge to make changes to your image background so that there’s more depth to your work.
  • Google is a useful tool when looking for textured backgrounds. Once you drag this into Photoshop, right-click on the layer and select Convert to Smart Object. It will help you scale the image as many times as you want to without damaging your original file permanently. When combined with a Layer Mask, you can then use different layers and curves to neutralize the opacity of your borrowed background and integrate it into your image.
  • Take note that when you use Free Transform to scale images, you’re basically using an old-school technology. It’s inefficient when resizing. In Photoshop CC, when possible open your image (or layer) in a whole new file, select Image – Image Size, then choose “Preserve Details (enlargement)”. After scaling, you can then grag it back into the image you want to use. Until Photoshop migrates this technology over to the Transform tool, the different results can be quite obvious.

Overall, this video should give you a solid idea on how powerful Smart Objects and Smart Filters can be. All the Curves, Image Adjustments, Sharpening, and Masks will be very limited if you do not use Smart Objects and Smart Filters in your retouching. The bottom line is that you should always use this non-destructive workflow so that no matter what kind of retouching you decide to do, you can always go back to your original raw file without damaging your photo permanently in case you change your mind.

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