Photoshop Before and After: A Clean Edit

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…

I start off by opening my image in Lightroom.  The beginning image was a little underexposed, so I increased the exposure in Lightroom.

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.

With the point anchored to keep the tone of the skin intact, I drag down the midtones of 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!

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5 Responses to Photoshop Before and After: A Clean Edit

  1. kari says:

    Why do you use High Pass Filter? (I always us Unsharpen Mask & am just curious what the difference is…) I was under the impression UM just sharpened the edges, avoiding skin..

    • Angie says:

      Kari, it’s just the opposite – high pass is better at just sharpening edges and leaving the rest alone. There is a good post about it here. Obviously use what’s working for you, though! I don’t think there is a right or wrong. I still do use USM, I just have to make sure there is zero noise in the photo first – otherwise it can get very exaggerated. Hope that helps!

  2. Kate says:

    Your tutorials are very easy to follow. I’m so glad I found you on Pinterest. I think the little girl in this picture looks like a miniature Jennifer Aniston. She’s so cute.

  3. SWAPNIL MORE says:


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