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How I Retouched this Self-Portrait in Adobe Photoshop Using 3 Adjustment Layers

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I took this shot in my home studio in front of a white seamless paper. I used a Nikon SB-910 Speedlight through an overhead Wescott Rapid Box Octa. Right outside the frame, I used an Interfit Portrait Reflector Kit to create a kind of beauty look with light being reflected from all sides. The reflector kit is a bit of a pain to install, but it does its job nonetheless. For the scarf movement, I used a floor fan that I got from Home Depot.

Before / After:


1- Removing skin blemishes:

  • First, create a copy of your background layer: Cmd + J Ctrl + J. This just ensures that you have a backup of the place you started at.
  • Use the Spot Healing Brush Tool J to remove major skin blemishes. I could have left most of them in there for a more natural look, but I wanted the final picture to look very smooth.

2- Reducing dark circles around the eyes:

With this kind of lighting, the amount of dark circles is already reduced by a lot, but I gave it a little extra touch with the Clone Stamp Tool S.

  • Set the Mode of the Clone Stamp Tool to Lighten to ensure that it only affects darker pixels. This makes things much easier and you don’t have to be as precise.
  • Reduce the Opacity of the tool so that the effect is subtler.
  • Sample Alt + Click a light area under the eyes, then go over the dark areas.
  • Go over multiple times until you’re happy with the result.

3- Hue/Saturation Adjustment:

Now we’ll make the skin a tad paler and the blues of the jacket pop.

  • Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
  • Instead of Master, select Reds. Reduce the saturation to something that looks good for the skin color. -20 in this case.
  • Now select Blues. Increase the saturation to something that looks good for the blue jacket. +44 in this case.
  • Create a layer mark on your adjustment layer and paint in black over the red scarf, so that the decreased red saturation doesn’t affect the scarf.

4- Levels Adjustment:

Next we’ll adjust the levels to brighten up the image and increase the contrast just a tad. You could use Curves to do that just as well.

  • Create a Levels adjustment layer.
  • Bring the dark point just a little bit to the right, to slightly increase the contrast. In this case I brought it to a value of 10.
  • Bring the white point just a little bit to the left, to slightly increase the brightness. In this case I brought it to a value of 248.

5- Selective Color Adjustment:

Finally, we’ll reduce the yellows from the shadows a little bit, which will help make the blue of the jacket pop even more.

  • Create a Selective Color adjustment layer.
  • Select the Blacks.
  • Reduce the Yellows to something that looks good. -10% in this case.

🌄 Image info:

  • Camera: Nikon D800
  • Focal length: 48mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s
  • Aperture: f/10
  • ISO: 320

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