Photoshop Tricks for Portraits

Adobe Photoshop is widely accepted as the industry standard image enhancement tool for photographers and graphic designers. Photoshop's powerful filters and plug-ins offer photographers a wide assortment of image manipulation techniques. The average portrait typically requires some level of enhancement, from smoothing skin imperfections to totally adding or removing image elements. Photoshop's tools combined with certain techniques can enhance any portrait and create a more pleasing image.


Sometimes the eyes in a portrait lack brightness and life. Depending on the angle at which the portrait was shot and the direction of the light, the eyes can become dull and lifeless. To correct this in Photoshop involves creating new layers and performing some touch-up magic. Determine where the light comes from (look at the shadows to see the direction of the light). Add a new layer, change the Blending mode to "Hard Light" and change the opacity settings to 10 percent. Use the brush to tap in a few highlights around the eyes. Create a new layer, set the Blending mode to "Overlay" and then enhance the reflections already present in the eye. The reflection's shape should look like a partial moon. Select the color based on the eye color of the subject---yellow works well with green eyes, red works well with brown eyes and cyan works well with blue eyes.


A beautiful portrait looks less beautiful when the subject has stained or yellow teeth. Photoshop provides a couple of techniques to enhance a discolored smile. Using the Photoshop Dodge tool can effectively brighten a dull set of teeth. Dodging refers to the darkroom technique of holding back light from an image during exposure. Dodging in Photoshop does the same thing, only digitally. The tool brightens any area that it's used on. Select the Dodge tool, set the exposure setting to 50 percent and run the tool over the teeth until they appear brighter. Don't use it too much, or it will take away detail. For the second method, copy the existing layer to a new layer and change the Blending mode to "Screen." Select the teeth using the Magic Wand and then reduce the new layer's opacity until the result looks more pleasant.

Bright Spots

The human face is not perfectly flat terrain. It consists of various textures, and each of these textures reflects light differently. Typically, prominent features such as the forehead, cheeks and nose reflect more light because of the abundance of oil in those regions of the face. This creates specular highlights that have greater brightness than the remaining areas of the face. Photoshop can reduce these specular highlights and create a better-looking portrait. Add a new layer and set the Blending mode to "Darken." Select the Healing Brush tool (not the Spot Healing Brush tool) and set the tool for all layers. Sample the area of bright skin and then paint over the bright area. Pull down the opacity of the new layer until the bright areas have the desired look.

Keywords: Photoshop portrait tips, Photoshop portrait techniques, Photoshop portrait tricks

About this Author

From 2002-2006, Kenneth Hamlett was publisher and head writer for UNSIGNED Music Magazine, an online publication with over 100,000 readers. Prior to establishing UNSIGNED, Kenneth was a business solutions analyst and spent fifteen years formulating and writing proposals for supply chain business solutions. Kenneth is a graduate of the New York Institute of Photography.

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