How to quickly touch up a portrait photograph in Photoshop

Now we want to refine the edge of the selection.

You will see this option appear immediately above the image. Depending on the size of your photo you will need to alter the smoothness and the feathering of the selection. In this circumstance I have used these settings.

Invert the selection (Selection>Invert, or by pressing Shift, Ctrl and I). Press Ctrl button and C, to copy the content of the selection. Press Ctrl button and V. This will copy the contents of your selection into a new layer. Call this Layer ‘2’.

Hide layer 1 by clicking the eye icon. You will notice that the image still looks fairly flat and uninteresting. We now need to alter the brightness and contrast in this layer. This will add depth. For a magazine style increase the brightness and contrast. For a more subtle and real feel alter the contrast so that more of the facial features are visible. You will find the Brightness contrast tool in Image>adjustments>brightness contrast.

For professional colour balancing select Image>adjustment>colour balance. Each photo is different and therefor there are no hard and fast rules for this tool. Just play around until you have the balance you like. A word of advice, normally only small adjustments are required for the maximum effect. A simple concept though is that blues generally send colours back and reds bring colours forward.

Other tricks include creating additional layers and slightly gausian bluring them for a truly photoshop’d look. But this is really a topic for another more advanced tutorial.
Ok, we have now balanced the lights and darks in the photo, and the colour. There are still a lot of rough edges where we cut the image out. We want to take these out. Select your ‘eraser’ and a brush size with a soft edge.

Start erasing the edge of layer 2 in a series of small clicks. You will need to alter the diameter of your brush as you go along. You do not have to be accurate. This shape is really to give us a bit of depth to the image, but we need the edges to be smoothed off.

We now have to make the image sing by giving it depth.

Grab the layer ‘2’ and pull it below layer ‘1’.

Select layer ‘1’ and turn on the visibility by clicking the eye icon. This time we want to use this layer as an overlay. We change the type of layer by clicking ‘normal’. This will bring up a list of potential layers. These are incredibly useful for more complex graphics and a lot of fun to play around with, but for now just select overlay or soft overlay.

You will see an immediate difference in the quality of the image.

To check out the picture with a white background, simply turn off the visibility of layer ‘Black’ and turn on the visibility of layer ‘Background’.

If you compare all three photos you will see a dramatic difference in tone and luminosity, turning a washed out photo, into something with more flavour.

There you have it! A quick and easy way to touch up a portrait photo!

About Romano Carneletto

Web designer based in Edinburgh, specializing in web development.
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