Thursday, May 23, 2013

Portrait Retouching Tutorial #1: The Skin

Here's a simple truth; perfect skin is a myth. If not an outright myth, than rare enough that it could be classified as one. The proof is in the millions of dollars spent every year on makeup products, surgical procedures and airbrushed photos in magazines.

Sometimes the perfecting of skin is taken to the extreme and creates false notions of what real beauty is. Real beauty is strength, honesty, integrity of character, virtue, humor, and so many other noble characteristics. My intention in retouching a portrait is never to create an unattainable ideal, but to remove distractions. Let me explain.

When I meet a client in person, the first thing I notice is their expression. I watch their eyes and smile, and as we converse I try to get a sense of who they are so I can capture that on camera. Once the lights are in position and I'm pressing the shutter, though, I know that something is about to happen. The direction of the light and design of the  lens, meant to capture detail, is going to expose every little pore, blackhead, scar, imperfection in makeup application and uneven spot of skin tone.
While these are the furthest thing from my mind in person, when I'm viewing a portrait I can't help but notice those details.

Here is a before and after of the image I will be using in the tutorial, with only the skin edited. I hope it illustrates the point I'm trying to make.

                           Before                                                                   After

The purpose of a portrait is to capture the aspect of a person, parts of their personality, their expression and uniqueness. I want the viewer to notice those things and not be distracted by a pimple, or the fact that the light happens to cause certain wrinkles to look much more prominent on the screen and in print than it does in real life.

That and, let's face it, not everyone is confident in front of the camera. Sometimes the knowledge that certain aspects of their face or figure that they are uncomfortable with can be downplayed gives them enough confidence to have their portrait taken.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you how I edit portraits. Every now and then I will try to post a tutorial that gives you the run down on the techniques I use to retouch portraits. Kind of a fun, behind the scenes look that will hopefully be instructive in case retouching is something you're interested in.

And...away we go!

Frequency Separation

Keep in mind that the image I am editing is a 16 bit image. If you're working on an 8 bit image, these are the steps while setting up the high frequency or texture layer:

Select the high frequency/texture layer in the layers palette

select Image> Apply Image> layer: low frequency/color> 
blending mode subtract> Scale 2> offset 128


If you've got any questions, feel free to ask!

Here is the link to the same video on  youtube: Portrait Retouching: The Skin

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