How to edit/retouch Portraits – my own workflow unveiled live

In this episode, I am answering a question that I have been asked so many times in the past two years: How do I edit my Portrait photography. Here I show you live how I proceed.

My workflow always starts in Adobe Lightroom where I have all the photos from the shoot. With the great help from my wife, I then filter to pick which photos will be kept and edited.

I use a colour coding where all chosen photos will be tagged in green and after I finished editing one photo, the original goes from green to none, and the new one becomes red. This way enables me to filter and track the remaining work.

Colour tag the photos in Lightroom

Colour tag the photos in Lightroom


Phase I: Clean the portrait:

Original non-edited photo

Original non-edited photo

I open each photo from Lightroom into Photoshop where I use a combination of the Clone tool and healing brush tool to remove the undesirable hairs that wander about, remove blemishes and spots on the faces.

I do not remove anything that is meant to last such as beauty spot, wrinkles (which I may brighten to make them more flattering) scars (unless my customer asks me to).

Photo after initial cleaning in Photoshop

Photo after initial cleaning in Photoshop


Phase II: even the skin tone:

Each of us will have a few different skin tones on our face (i.e. redness on the chicks and nose). I rely on the great Photoshop plugin Imagenomic Portraiture which enables me to leverage the skin while retaining the quality and natural aspect of the skin.

Use the Imagenomic plugin to further treat the skin in Photoshop

Use the Imagenomic Plugin to further treat the skin in Photoshop

As you can see the result is very natural and has a more even skin tone than the one above.

Resulting photo after using the Imagenomic plugin in Photoshop

Resulting photo after using the Imagenomic plugin in Photoshop


Phase III: finalise the skin tone and shadows:

I usually use the cloning tool to brighten or darken some zone in my Portraits. One could use the Dodge and Burn tool, but that is just my preference as it enables me to get a more accurate result based on the brightness of the skin next to the spot to be treated.

set a low opacity for the clone tool in Photoshop

Set a low opacity for the clone tool in Photoshop

Resulting photo after the clone tool treatment in Photoshop

Resulting photo after the clone tool treatment in Photoshop


Phase IV: Sharpening the eyes and eyelashes

For me, a Portrait has to have at least one sharp eye as this is what I want to draw the viewer into. While I always focus on the closest eye of my subject and use professional quality glass which gives the tack sharp result, I always like to enhance it a wee bit sung the Unsharp filter.

Use of the Unsharpen filter to increase the sharpness on the eyelashes

Use of the Unsharpen filter to increase the sharpness on the eyelashes

Resulting photo once sharpened in Photoshop

Resulting photo once sharpened in Photoshop

Phase V: Flatten the image and save

The last action in Photoshop is to flatten the image (merging all layers and masks) and do a “save as” to not only save but also zip my TIFF losslessly.

Phase VI: Back to Lightroom, Crop & reveal the iris

Once saved the resulting photo appears seamlessly in Lightroom, and I can now go to the develop module and crop to have the eyes aligned close to the top tier line and using a junction point if need be.

I then use the adjustment brush to help to reveal the irises more without creating an alien look, so I only touch the iris and not the white of the eyeball.

Phase VII: Enhance the mood with the colourisation in Lightroom

This is my real active last action where I am going to browse my preset as a base to enhance the mood of the photo by applying some colourisation treatment.

Phase VIII: Compare

Here I compare the resulting photograph with the original and I may create virtual copies to attempt different moods with the same clean, cropped version.

compare before and after treatment

Compare before and after treatment

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