Subtle Beauty Retouching Techniques

Retouching by Lindsay Adler: Overall photo AFTER
Retouching by Lindsay Adler: Overall photo AFTER

This past week I spent my time in Los Angeles and  this Saturday at the American Photo Model Shoot. If you haven't heard of these events, typically there are about 8-10 studio setups, 15-25 models, and around 100 photographers. The models are changing outfits, hair and makeup all the time, and interacting with props. Beginning photographers really seem to enjoy it for their first opportunity to work with models and to try to build their portfolios. My job at this event was to give inspiration, and encourage photographers to push their creativity. I also helped with general lighting, posing ideas, etc. Anyway, there was this beautiful Angelina Jolie look-alike model (in my opinion, right?!) that I managed to snap about 4 or 5 frames of (in between flapping cardboard to help puff up her hair). She is a gorgeous girl and thought she would make for a great example of how to do a subtle beauty retouch. She doesn't need major changes, but there are a few retouching techniques that I could do to improve the photo overall. Below is a description of some of the changes I made to help give subtle improvements to the model's face and to draw the eye to the photo. If you'd like to see a more in-depth over-view of some of the skin enhancement and retouching techniques, I have a chapter in my new book "Fashion Flair for Portrait and Wedding Photography".  

Retouching by Lindsay Adler: Overall photo BEFORE (numbered retouch)
Retouching by Lindsay Adler: Overall photo BEFORE (numbered retouch)

1. The first thing I did was to retouch her skin. I began by using the patch tool and spot healing brush to remove larger blemishes like pimples, larger freckles and any other undesirable textures.  After I removed the larger problem areas, I used a Photoshop plugin to help manage the skin softening (smooth it out, make it softer). In this case I used Imagenomics Portraiture (email me if you'd like a 20% off coupon code). Notice how in the two images below, the second image the skin is much improved and much smoother, yet retains skin texture. This is KEY. If your retouching technique eliminates skin texture, then your image looks fake and unconvincing. Your retouching actually becomes distracting (and I have already seen this on some of the images posted of this very same girl from this event).

Retouching Skin by Lindsay Adler: Before
Retouching Skin by Lindsay Adler: Before
Retouching Skin by Lindsay Adler: After
Retouching Skin by Lindsay Adler: After

  If you don't want to remove skin texture, you need to be sure to leave fine detail. In Portraiture you have control over which parts of the image are smooth... you select the color range as well as the smooth of details. In won't go into every aspect of Portraiture, but below you can see that I left the FINE DETAILS UNTOUCHED. By not smooth fine details, the skin will retain texture (therefore more believable). By adding a high amount of smooth to the medium and large details, the skin becomes smoother and less blotchy.

Imagenomics Portraiture skin smoothing controls
Imagenomics Portraiture skin smoothing controls

2. This number two refers to the side of her face. Her cheek (near her jaw) juts out just a bit. I use liquify to help even this out and eliminate this. I do this because it helps make her face/jawline seem more angular and smooth. Also, this extra skin tends to add age and heaviness to the face. When doing beauty photography I frequently reduce this 'extra skin'. Take a look at the before-after picture to see the differences. 3. I utilized the liquify tool to slightly adjust both of her eyes. Although she has beautiful eyes, they were slightly uneven and the lids a bit drooping in different areas. I used liquify to reshape them, and make her expression brighter. It makes her look younger and more energetic. 4. I utilized the 'Shadows Highlights" tool in Photoshop to bring more detail and color to her iris's. I use this technique frequently when I want the eyes to really pop in a photo. 5. I used liquify a bit on the forehead to bring down the hairline. This was not totally necessary, but being OCD as I am, I felt that too much attention was drawn to the forehead. For this reason, I reduce its size a bit by altering hairline. 6. As I looked over the image for its final adjustments, this random bump of hair distracted me and therefore I removed it using the clone tool. Its funny because I consider this a very subtle, mild retouch. I suppose your definition of subtle/mild all depends on the type of work you do. I hope this was helpful, and if you were at the American Photo Model Shoot, I hope these techniques really help you improve the shots you took. Retouching (for me) as an ESSENTIAL part of my techniques and style as a photographer, and its something that takes a lot of patience and practice. Be sure when you are retouching not to over soften the skin... if you are just using gaussian blur and clone stamp, I really recommending taking the time to refine/improve your techniques! [galleryview id=34]  

American Photo Model Shoot Los Angeles
American Photo Model Shoot Los Angeles