Photography, Portraits, Technical

The Eyes Have It.

Recently I have been doing some internet courses and learning how to retouch skin. There are so many ways to do it, and I guess eventually what you have to do is work out which one works best for you.  Today I thought I would try a couple of different ways.

LeanneCole-briony-7107-oThis is the image I decided to use.  I took this shoot the other day in the city when we were just sitting around.  She liked it, so I thought I had a winner there.  I have been looking for some images that I could do some skin retouching on, and I thought this one would be good.  So I just processed this in Camera Raw as I do with most images. The other obvious problem was her sisters face in the side, so I thought a square crop would work best.

LeanneCole-briony-7107I tried using Joel Grimes technique for skin retouching.  I think it is a little harsh, and she really didn’t like it.  I like aspects of it, but she thought the eyes were too intense. I did try to explain to her that her eyes are intense in this image.  It is funny when you look at only this one, it looks okay, but then when I compare it with the next one I did, it does look strange.

LeanneCole-briony-7107-2This one is a lot softer and I used a different technique, I did some of what Joel did but left out some of the steps in the beginning.  She still thinks the eyes are too much, but she doesn’t seem to realise her eyes are like that.

It isn’t perfect, but it is interesting.  I am trying to learn frequency separation.  I have just purchased another workshop and am working my way through it. It has lots of tips for skin retouching.

I think if I want to do portraits then I need to learn as much about skin retouching as I can.  I will put the above images in a gallery so you can see them separate from the writing.


  1. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says

    I love those fair-skinned children! The softer photo (2nd) seems more realistic to me. They are both beautiful.

    • Yes, though a nightmare to keep them out of the sun and stop them from being sunburnt, that one is my eldest daughter. thank you Jackie, I agree with you.

      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says

        She is very pretty! Sunburns are no fun for sure so take care. ;)

      • Thanks Jackie, she does know what it feels like to be sunburnt, thankfully it hasn’t happened a lot and she will use sunscreen. :)

  2. Interesting. I’ve been using photoshop’s native tools pretty effectively, though they are slow … but very good on retouching older faces, getting rid of deep lines and liver spots etc. I’ll be following this closely :-)

    • It is so amazing the things you can do with Photoshop, so many different things, Joel Grimes says if there is 10 ways of doing something, there is 100, so true. thanks Marilyn.

  3. Yes.. I think the second one is a lot softer and more complimentary.. I’m practising lots of that at the moment too . :)

    • A good time to practice Livonne, hope you are having fun with it too. Thank you, I think the second is better too.

  4. Such a pretty young lady, Leanne. I like the ‘soft’ photo best, but her eyes are indeed intense, and beautiful.

      • Oh yes, I have seen your girls in other posts. Pretty girls! My daughter still lives in Michigan, she is 22 and attends college, studying for her Registered Nurse license.

  5. Wow! This is fascinating. I thought at first you had retouched the eyes, but you just did skin??? I’m not crazy about the 2nd one even though I see you have one comment above that says she likes it best. Which do you prefer?

    • I like the second one I did, not the first one, the first is a bit too harsh. I did do some stuff to the eyes, but not a lot. It is probably all about taste, thanks Rusha.

  6. I must admit that Adobe Elements 11 has a nice skin correction filter, if that’s the right word. It just has me point the cursor to an area that is supposed to be either white, black or gray, and it generally comes out looking pretty good. Plus, it has a “filter” where you can correct a color cast. It’s got some pretty cool filters, which is in the Guided portion of the program. There is also an Expert section, which I use when the Guided section doesn’t quite do the trick.

    • I have some filters too, but I try not to use them, I just like to have full control myself, and sometimes some of them just go to far, good if you can control it. Thanks Cris.

      • Ctrl+z works wonders for filters that go too far. Ctrl+y if you decide you like the changes after all, after you delete them.

        I don’t overdo it, but sometimes photographs turn out a bit flat, at least some of the ones I take. Where I really have to watch it is when using the sharpening filter. There’s been a time or two I’ve gone a little overboard and didn’t notice it until after I’ve posted them.

        I call them filters, but I don’t know if that’s what they’re called or not. Most come with an automatic fix, as well as manual control. Sometimes I use both.

        And, anyway, I’m not a purist. I just want my photos to come out looking good, and they don’t always come out looking good right out of the camera.

        As many books as I’ve read on photography, I tend to forget most everything I read, as I’ve always had memory problems, thanks to a couple of bouts of brain damage in my youth. So I tend to take advantage of everything I can. :)

      • You gotta love Ctrl Z, one of my favourite commands. I see some photos that other people do, and they are a bit strange and I can’t work out what they are doing, but have finally figured out that they oversharpen, and it isn’t a nice look. Well, that is just my opinion.

        They sound like plugins, but I don’t know. I think as long as you are careful, then it can’t hurt, right.

        I find I am the same with books, but then I will read something, a technique or an idea and I can’t forget it.

      • I think plugins are something that doesn’t come with the program, kind of like add-ons, but that’s just my unprofessional opinion.

        What I’m talking about are all; these options that come with the Guided section, just click on an option, like lighten and darken, and there is an auto option, as well as sliders to work manually.

        There is also an Expert section that is more like Photoshop and other photo editing programs, with all the standard editing icons.

        I agree that over sharpening most of the time isn’t a very good look, but way over sharpening can sometimes give you an artistic look that is pretty cool, depending on the subject matter.

      • I always use the expert level when I am using elements, though I don’t use it very often as I have photoshop and much prefer that. I think photoshop has a lot more options. So I haven’t checked out elements to see what it can and can’t do really.

      • Photoshop is out of my price range. For my needs, Guided works well enough, which is basically to put stuff out to my various blogs.

        I used Photoshop when I worked for a newspaper for four years, so I got pretty familiar with that.

        I could do the Expert mode, if I needed to. I just don’t find much use for it at this point. I guess there’s a lot of plug-ins for Photoshop, which gives it a pretty good kick. :) Not sure what’s available for Elements. One of these days, I’ll have to check it out.

      • I think everything that Elements has, Photoshop does as well, except maybe the filters you are talking about, then again, I haven’t looked at the filters a lot. I use some but not a lot. I love Photoshop, and find Elements a little limiting, but I have recommended Elements to most people I know who want to learn some editing. It is good software.

  7. I am a bit torn..both have elements that I like..i like the soft one as it’s very natural but the intensity in the eyes in the other shot ..well to me sums up intense teen..must be a mum thing;) …

    • Yes, the intensity in the first one is amazing, though she really didn’t like them. I like that, intense teen, I think she is so beautiful, but she won’t have a bar of it. Thanks FM

      • Hahaah they never do…always such a turbulent time for their self image ..she is beautiful and she one day will see what you see..and when she does …well..just say when your babies finally see that in themselves they seem to bloom in every way! Most Welcome :) FM

      • I hope so FM, she has been through a tough couple of years, and it would be great if she could believe she was beautiful. The other thinks she is and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Haha.

      • She daughter had the same issues for years and she is beautiful..finally I think she gets it! she’s 28 now…kids always a worry! and yes there is one in every family hahaha :)

      • That is good to hear, she is moving on and things are looking up for her, so it will be nice if that happens. Yes, always a worry, and always one. haha. :)

      • It is one thing to tell them another for them to all of us I suppose..we have to believe for ourselves before we believe others…hardest job in the world being a mum…. ;)

      • I hear you! been at this mum thing for nearly 31 years and still I am learning :) looking forward to catching up…swap mums trade secrets!! hahhaah :)

      • I’ve only been at it for 19 years, they are really entering a new stage now, it is going to be an interesting time. I’m looking forward to catching up with you too. Yes, we can do that. sounds good. :)

      • Always a stage …even when they are as old as mine little sister keeps talking about her young one..i mean toddlers and wishing they would get out of certain stages…I tell her they never do..the stages just change..look forward to it :)

      • Yes, always a stage and always something new to look forward to. I couldn’t wait for the next stage when they were little, and was never a mother who wanted her children to stay little, I was waiting for the next part. It is quite an extraordinary thing to watch your children growing up.

      • Same here..and it is amazing watching them change and morph into their personalities…I always treated my kids even when little as tiny adults in little bodies..seems to have worked :)

      • I don’t know that I treated mine as little adults, but I always pushed independence in them, and always encouraged them to do things for themselves, I hope that helps them in life.

      • It adults I mean I never spoke to them like they were stupid :) hahhaha read it back it sounded awful!! and yes being independent is a great thing to teach them :)

      • Oh I did that too, I hated that baby stupid talk that adults do to kids, like, as you said, they are totally stupid. I loved my kids being independent, My girls were making their own lunch for school from about grade 2. I haven’t done their washing for years. great. :)

      • You did, my husband was the same when I met him, knew how to cook and clean. Not that he does much of it. :)

  8. What a beautiful girl, her eyes are intense, they draw you in. I’m with her on the first edit though and prefer the second by far.

    • I totally agree Gypsy, her eyes really bore through you in this image. I think the last one worked much better. Thank you.

  9. I actually really like the first untouched one, but I agree that if you are wanting to do portraits clients will want skin retouching. Of these two I think the second softer one appeals to me more, maybe the eye retouching could be toned down just a tad to make it even better. Although I am not really one for retouching at all (like I said I actually like the first one a lot) lol.

    • In some ways I think she does, except for the acne, which is why I was playing with it. Teenage girls like you to remove that. I love retouching and seeing what I can do to the images. That is where the fun starts for me. Thank you Emilia.

  10. Nice shot of your daughter – the funny thing with portraiture is that people don’t always see themselves as others see them. In looking closely at these, I think I may have tried to clone out sis on the left – pulling back lessens the intensity of the subject, but this is about skin retouching, not cloning – so of the cropped ones the one with less contrast if a more appealing shot for me, but you better clear this with the “client” :-)

    • Haha, I like that, clearing it with her. I think you are right too, about how people see themselves. There is a lot I could’ve done, but as you so it was about skin retouching, and seriously, I wasn’t looking at too much else. I just wanted to see if I fix the skin. Cropping the photo was an easy option. Thanks Robert.

  11. I think your final image would be an excellen t finish for portraits. It maintains the original feel of the portrait while improving a few bits without it being obvious. The first edited image is interesting as it changes the mood. It made me go from innocent young lady with intense gaze to slightly sinister fairytale drawing you in. Those edits might be useful for telling a story or conveying a feeling through images in the same way you often edit your other images. I actually like all three shots. My personal preference would be to remove the sisters head in photoshop and maintain the original dimensions. Just my preference though. Great photo!

    • You’re not the first to say that about removing the head, but to be honest, I just cropped it because it was easier at the time. I was really only interested in what I could do to the skin. I also cropped square because she said she might use it for her profile photo on facebook, and they are square. I like what you have said about the different moods, interesting idea, and one I might have to think about it. Very interesting. Thank you Midsommereve, lots to mull over.

  12. I really like the one with intense eyes :D although comparing it with the original photo it does look a bit harsh :)

    • I sort of felt the same Klaudia, I liked the intensity of the eyes, but it does look harsh when you compare it with the other one. I have another tutorial to do on frequency separation, so it will be interesting to see what that one does to it. Thank you.

  13. Oh, do I understand. I agree that the softer look is preferable, especially for the young and glowing skin of the girl. You did a really good job. I just did a photo shoot for a friend to document a family celebration. It took hours to remove certain issues with skin (regardless of age) in a way that still was true to the individual’s character and looks.

    • It is so time consuming isn’t it. It is a great skill to have though I think. Though I was listening to Lindsay Adler talking about it, and she was saying it is good to be honest with your clients and find out if they want things removed, which I hadn’t thought about, but it is a great idea. Thanks Sally.

  14. I find it tricky to edit and alter/perfect photos of other people. It feels like such a big responsibility. My own face I will mess with all day long, but when it’s someone else, it can get dicey. Most people want to look pretty – nothing wrong with that – but if I push a photo over into the ‘interesting’ category they are often dissatisfied. So for the most part I stick with ‘pretty’ and leave the more interesting shots to my own face! I agree that the first edit is fantastic and striking, but I like a lot of clarity and contrast whereas for portraits, soft and even is more often what people want – balanced with nothing standing out more than anything else it seems. This is why I only shoot myself or what I want to shoot, so that no one can demand I do things differently, LOL. This is also why I make no money off my photographs though!

    • The girl in this image is my daughter, so it is like shooting myself, haha. I have two daughters, both teenagers, so they have lots of issue with their skin and I can try things. They both let me take some photos of them the other day so I could try some stuff, which was great. I need to practice getting rid of acne, and some small scars. Though, I was just saying that Lindsay Adler says to ask people first, see what they want you to remove, which I thought was a great idea. Haha, I don’t make money from portraits, but I would like too, one day. Thank you.

  15. It is ironic that she can’t “see” the reality of her eyes with her eyes. Neat to see the changes.

  16. This is fascinating, esp in light of the controversy surrounding “retouched” fashion shots, everything from the Aerie campaign to Jezebel’s $10K bounty for unretouched shots of Lena Dunham’s Vogue cover. It’s so good to be reminded that these tools can be helpful, professional, artistic techniques as well. Great post!

    • Thank you, I think you can go too far, but it is nice to bring it back some. I was going for natural where I could.

  17. Wow it’s so interesting what all Is involved when touching up! I agree with you, her eyes are already intense and very pretty :) that last shot looked more natural and showed her beauty better in my opinion.

    • Your opinion is pretty much the same as everyone else’s Amanda, I think the first one I did was too harsh. The skin doesn’t look as good as it does in the second. It is much softer in the second. Thanks.

  18. Wow, as a very amateur photographer who doesn’t retouch, this post was a fascinating read! Its incredible what you can achieve with editing software – I did know this but having it explained and illustrated like this was a real education. Thanks!

    • That is great to hear, I hope it wasn’t too complicated. It is good to talk about what I do, and I hope that people learn from it, but I am not always sure they do. So thank you for letting me know that.

  19. Your daughter has very piercing, very beautiful eyes. I like the softer version also.

  20. Nicely done, Leanne. I do think the second one is better—it’s softer, warmer, more ‘human’. The first one is not bad, but…I do like the second one better!

    With a new nephew of course everyone wants me to take photos—plus my dad asked me to ‘spiff up’ and have a large print done of a photo he took of my sister & brother-in-law at their wedding. Thanksgiving through post-Christmas have been a real crash course in people photography and retouching for me! The real trick seems to be doing the job so people don’t really know you’ve done anything (even after they have asked you to, ha!). I look forward to seeing more of what you do. :)

    • I think you first line is exactly how I feel.
      That is the real trick, you don’t want people to know that you have done it. It is all about making the photo look natural.
      Thanks Jen, good luck with all the retouching. :)

  21. I’d go with the softer #2 version. I enjoy your experimenting and sharing with the rest of us. Nice. Thanks for stopping by and clicking the like button today. :-)

    • Thank you Ruth, that is great. That is great to know, I really want to do a lot more of that this year. You are welcome and thank you.

  22. kuujinbo says

    Nice to see the three different photos. Probably just me, but I like the softness of the original.

    • I know she doesn’t like the original, she hates the acne, so retouching the skin was a must. Thank you.

    • I find it quite strange how many people have said that, she hates it because of the acne on her face, and for me, that means it has to be removed.

    • Thank you Chris, I did like that one when I first did it, but after the second one I did, I wasn’t so sure.

  23. Dammit — I do like what you’ve done but don’t dare stay silent lest you misunderstand.

    In the meantime, I can see I have a lot to learn so shall hang around and soak up what I can with a clear conscience …

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