- Shoot in soft light. The shot above was made with flash bouncing off of a white ceiling. This will create a nice soft light that wraps around your whole subject. Hard, direct light brings out skin defects much more. Know your subject and what kind of lighting treatment will flatter them. If you’re shooting a 19 year old fashion model, their face can likely stand a little hard light without a problem.
- Choose your angle carefully. An up angle will make the neck and chin more visible, but the body will appear larger. The reverse is true of a down angle. If you subject has, err, multiple chins, it may be best to shoot from the top down.
- Set your color balance. Nothing makes skin creepier than when it comes out looking green. Shoot a grey card and use a custom white balance for best results, or, if you don’t have a grey card, at least choose the appropriate preset white balance on your camera.
Oh, the ravages of time. Crow’s feet, laugh lines, “character marks” and just straight up wrinkles. We all get them eventually and most of us photogs get asked quite frequently to remove them from pictures. Most of us are not shooting for the cover of Maxim, so today I am breaking down my real world approach for de-aging an everyday portrait. The photo I am using is of a middle-aged model who does not need miracles. Her natural complexion is just fine, but we can take off a few years with some simple 5 minute tweaks. Learning to apply these 5 minute retouches will make your portrait clients happy and keep them coming back for more.
Start De-aging with the Camera
Before going into all manner of digital plastic surgery, its always best to get as much right in the camera as possible. Here are some shooting techniques that can help not-so-perfect skin look smoother before the photo ever reaches the computer:
Go heavy, than light.
The first step is to overdo it a bit with the healing brush tool. Make a copy of the background layer by going to Layer>Duplicate Layer. Choose the tool that looks like a Band Aid, or simply press “j”. This will bring up the healing brush tool. Heal any obvious blemishes or wrinkles by alt-clicking good areas of skin, then brushing over the lines or blemishes. Do this liberally until you have something like the image below.
This looks a bit fake because there are virtually no lines around the eyes and the neck has been healed considerably. To bring her back closer to reality, click on the top layer and set the opacity to somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent.
In most cases, a few passes with the healing brush can remove most of the lines and other skin defects. Next step is to smooth the skin a bit with a blur. When you’re happy with your healing brush work, go to Layer>Flatten Image. Duplicate the background layer again and go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian blur. Choose a radius that makes the skin look very smooth and soft, but don’t overdo it. The radius you choose will vary based on the size and framing of your image.
Next, click on your blurred layer and add a layer mask. Click the rectangle with a small white circle inside on the layers palette to do this.
You should have a top layer that is too blurry, with a layer mask icon next to it. Click on the layer mask and go to Edit>Fill and choose a color of black. This will hide your blurred layer. Next, choose the brush tool and set the foreground color to white. Brush all of the skin areas with a white brush making it smooth and blurry.
Now you should have an image with overly blurred skin like the one above. Choose a forground color of black, set the brush opacity to 50% or so using the opacity slider at the top of your screen, and brush some sharpness back in to bring her closer to reality once again. Be sure to thoroughly brush black on the eyes and teeth to get back all their sharpness. You can see below that I have brushed quite a bit of the detail back, but if you wanted a smoother look, you could simply adjust your brush opacity to taste.
Next step is to add a levels adjustment layer to brighten the eyes and teeth just a bit. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. Move the sliders on the right and middle, concentrating your effort on just the eyes and teeth areas until you see a gain in brightness. Next, fill the layer mask with black, as before. Select a white brush and brush only the eyes and teeth to the desired whiteness. In some cases, it is useful to make a seprate adjustment layer for the eyes and teeth.
Below is the final image! Scroll back up to the original to see the difference. Again, these steps can be dialed up or down to your own tatse, but I prefer images that weigh in on the realistic side of things rather than smoothing the skin beyond all recognition. With practice, you should be able to complete these steps in 10 minutes or less. Be sure to look in the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop to learn the hotkeys for any repetitive processes.
Now go knock some years off of that picky portrait client! They may just order a 30×40 canvas from you when they see how youthful their skin looks.
Images and Article © 2010 – Author Rob Szajkowski