Mastering Portrait Retouching: Photoshop Tips and Tricks

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Portrait photography is a rather complex genre. The main difficulty lies not even in the shooting (although there are many secrets in that as well!) but in the editing of such photos. Very often photographers do not edit the image, which makes it look dull and faded. Others, on the contrary, often apply too drastic changes, which makes the picture look unnatural.

We have prepared some important tips for you on how to improve portraits in Photoshop. You can use free plugins for Photoshop to make your work easier. You can read about them on Skylum’s blog. Moreover, there are many other articles on this developer’s website that will help you improve your photographic and post-processing skills.

Tools You Will Definitely Need

Here’s a short list of tools you’ll definitely need for working on portraits.


Get ready to give your portraits a curvaceous makeover with the infamous “S-curve” technique! It’s like a corset for your photos – instant punch, instant curves. And the best part? You get to play around with it to see what works best for your image, like a fun game of photo editing roulette. Will you go for bold and colorful or soft and matte? The possibilities are endless, just like the points on the curve. But beware, too much of a good thing can lead to strange discolorations, like a bad dye job. So keep it subtle and stick to small adjustments for clean and stunning portrait edits. Free plugins for Photoshop can make the downtime effect incredible.

Clone (Stamp) Tool

Got a pesky pimple or unsightly blemish ruining your portrait? Fear not, my friend! With the magical powers of the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop, you can easily swap out those nasty imperfections for a smoother, more perfect look. Just hover your cursor over the spot you want to clone, hold down the Option key (or Alt key for you Windows users), and click away. Then, simply click over the problem area, and voila! Like magic, your portrait is now looking flawless.

It’s like trying to cover up Mount Everest with a single shovel. Not only will it take forever, but the end result will be a mess. Don’t make the same mistake with your skin smoothing in Photoshop. The clone tool is great for small touch-ups, but trying to use it for everything will leave you with a photo that looks like it’s been attacked by a pixelated swarm of bees. So, save yourself the headache. It is better to use free portrait plugins for Photoshop, which are designed specifically for this.

Dodge and Burn

Alrighty then, let us tell you about the dynamic duo that’s taking the photo editing world by storm – Dodge and Burn. These two may have different names, but they’re like Batman and Robin, always working together to save the day. We use them when we want to give eyes that va-va-voom factor.

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Portrait Editing Tricks in Photoshop

So, you already know what tools you can use to improve your pictures. You’ve even installed the best free plugins for Photoshop. But that’s not all! We’ll tell you a few tricks that will make your pictures shine!

  • Make the teeth white. When it comes to portrait retouching, no detail is too small to be overlooked. And that includes teeth of course! If your subject’s teeth are looking a bit yellowish due to crappy lighting, fear not. A photo editor can come to the rescue. Don’t go crazy with the whitening brush. To get a perfect balance, try setting the Opacity to 50%. This will give you a more natural look.
  • Focus on the eyes. There are a lot of Photoshop tricks you can use to make the eyes pop. Whether you want to brighten ’em up, change the color, or make the whites sparkle – it will be good. If you’re lightening up the eyes, don’t forget to brighten up the area opposite the catch light. Neglecting this crucial step will result in a downright freaky, “alien” look.
  • Experiment with hair color. If you want to take your portrait editing game to the next level, you gotta know how to work that hair color. Hanging it from light to dark is much easier than the other way around. So, if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into the dark side, start with a subtle shift to a richer hue. The transition from dark to light shades can be a tricky one. It’s easy to go overboard and end up with a portrait that looks like it belongs in a cartoon. So, tread lightly.
  • Remove blemishes. As a photographer, you’re gonna get requests to make your subjects look perfect. And that means saying goodbye to those pesky freckles, birthmarks, and zits. Luckily, with the magic of Photoshop, you can make those imperfections disappear. Just use Spot Healing Tool. Don’t go overboard with the editing. No one wants to look like a plastic doll. So, use that power wisely, and remember that a little bit of imperfection can be a beautiful thing.
  • If you’re looking to add some serious mood and character to your photos, it’s time to go black and white. This classic look is perfect for highlighting your subject and bringing out the emotion in a photo. Don’t rely on those automatic black-and-white filters. If you really want to do it right, go manual.
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Final Words

We hope that our advice was useful to you. We know very well that making perfect portraits is difficult. In our experience, we have seen that it is quite possible. The only condition is practice. Keep practicing and you will get a real masterpiece. We wish you success and inspiration!

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