I thought I would start off by showing a clean edit for this tutorial. Nothing too schnazy or contrasty, just simple, clean processing. Here are the steps I follow for this type of an edit…
The image looks a little washed out, so I will address that now.
I bring the image into Photoshop. I add a curves adjustment layer, and using the little pointed finger (it will make your cursor look like an eyedropper), I select an area of her skin. I chose an area on her forehead. This puts an anchor point on the curve. I want to make sure that the skin tone stays the same and does not get altered when I move the curve.
This darkened the midtones in the photo and added back in some of the contrast.
I merged the layers together. Next I added ‘sparkle’ to the eyes. There are many, many different ways to go about this which I will talk about in another tutorial. The goal (at least for light eyes), is to brighten a bit and sharpen. Here is what the eyes look like after some sparkle!
Again I merged the layers together. Next, I smooth the skin. Again, there are many different skin-smoothing methods, but my favorite is Portraiture. I always run it on its own layer, apply a black mask (so initially none of the effect is visible), and ‘paint in’ or reveal the smoothness with a soft white brush.
Merge the layers again! I was looking to add just a bit more contrast to this image, so I did the same steps outlined above with the curves layer. I added the curves layer, selected a point on her skin, and dragged the midtones down a bit again to darken things up a bit. However, some of the edges around her face darkened as well, and it was not flattering! So I applied a black mask to my curves layer so I could ‘paint in’ the darkening effect. I darkened the background and also her hair, eyelashes, and lips. You can see in the curves mask below exactly where I applied the darkening effect (the areas painted with the white brush).
Merge the layers. The next step is sharpening. Again, there are so many different sharpening methods. For final sharpening, I usually prefer to use the High Pass Filter. I didn’t, however, want to sharpen anything in the background or create any noise there. So again, I used a mask on the sharpen layer and just sharpened my subject.
And that’s all! Again, the before and after…
This usually takes me about 1 minute from start to finish, and I like the subtle ‘polish’ this type of processing gives an image!