In this tutorial I will show how to dramatize any portrait. This is not a beginners workshop. I do not explain every step in detail.

I want to start by saying that I am an advocate of small changes, but doing many of them. This means that I work in many steps and some of these changes are often difficult to see for outsiders. Nevertheless, I have tried to present it.

Finales Bild

I’m working very filigree and try to avoid a loss of quality as possible. Therefore I prefer the „adjustment layers“. Work carefully and always remember: less is more :).

If there are any questions or procedures may be unclear to you, I look forward to your comments!

Well here we go:

1. Here is the original image:

It makes perfect sense to make a standard image optimization before, ie exposure, levels and curves adjustment, color correction, retouching and sharpening. The original picture here everything has already passed.

1. Ausgangsbild

2. The next thing I have done is to reduce noise. These you can find in the filter gallery. Noise reduction may be necessary if the noise is visible in the image at large areas. However, it always means a qualitative intervention in the photo. The resulting of slight blur I have accepted, because at that time I already knew that the manipulation in this photo will be more extensive.

2. Rauschreduzierung

3. A portrait thrives of the eyes. Therefore, this always get my special attention. Because the eyes lay deeper in the eye-sockets, they unfortunately always get a little less light. So they have to be lightened. For doing this, duplicate the layer with the noise reduction (from step 2). Now choose the blending mode „screen“ from the layers palette. Adds a layer mask to this layer and set it to black (Ctrl + I). Then use a white, soft brush. Set the opacity to 15% and brightens the area of ​​both eyes on one by one.

3. Augen aufhellen

4. It makes sense to desaturate the whites of the eyes. Usually you can find there reflective colors from the surroundings of the model, small red veins, etc. This used to look tired or sick. To make the look more bright, it is sufficient to reduce the color a little. It’s the best to create an adjustment layer and convert it by right click into a clipping mask. Because we have masked everything at step 3 except the eyes, we can handle this as described.

4. Augenweiss entsättigen

5. From pretty much the same reasons as mentioned in step 4, and that some cameras tend to too much red and yellow, we now correct the color of the iris. Add a new adjustment layer „Selective Color“. In the dropdown „color“ select the gray. There I entered the following settings: Cyan: +18 / Magenta: +16 / Yellow: -15 / Black: -25. Now select the white from the dropdown and put the black at +100. Now go to the blacks and set the black there to +15. That’s it.

5. Farbkorrektur der Iris

6. As we just are on the color correction, create another adjustment layer „Selective Color“.  This time not as a clipping mask! At photographs of portraits the skintone often has too much red and/ or yellow and looks stained. Thatswhy the skintone should always be corrected. So select the reds at the „Selective Color“ and set black to -50. In shades of yellow, set the black to -30.

6. Selektive Farbkorrektur der Haut

7. Going back to the eye. We have already did a color correction of the iris, now we will increase the intensity of the color: Create an adjustment layer „dynamics“, put the regulator in dynamics t0 +60 and at saturation to +10. Invert adjustment layer mask into black with CTRG+I and start painting in the iris with a white brush with an opacity of 20%. Repeat until the desired color result is set. Again, less is more. My changes are barely perceptible.

7. Dynamik der Iris erhöhen

8. To give some more drama and meaning into the eyes , increase the contrast in the dark areas of the eyes. Add another adjustment layer „Brightness / Contrast“ and set the controls for contrast to +31. Brightness remains at zero. Again invert the adjustment layer mask to black and  paint with a white brush these parts which should be darker. Work with less opacity. You can also copy the mask of the underlying mask by simply clicking on the lower one, then hold down Alt and drag the mask in the mask above.

8. Kontrast der Augen erhöhen

9. Now strengthen or add lights into iris. For this create another adjustment layer „curve“ and increase the brightness by drawing the center of the curve slightly upward. Again invert the layer mask to black and paint with a white brush with low opacity the lights inside the iris.

9. Lichter im Auge verstärken

10. Now the highlights should be placed in the eyes, to bring some momentum into view. So create a new empty layer and paint with a white brush with low opacity partially in the eye area. Few small lines or dots in the right places suffice. It is important that they are sitting in the right places. The best way is to strengthen existing ones or take it based on other photos.

10. Spitzlichter setzen

11. Now create an intermediate layer, in which the current work is summarized : Click on the top visible layer at your layer palette and presses Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E or via the menu: Selection-> Select All -> Edit-> Copy Merged -> Edit -> Paste

Set the blending mode of the new layer to „Soft Light“ and the opacity to 25%. In this way we increase the contrast of the image a bit and let it shine.

11. Zwischenebene

12. And now, the comparison of the original image and the current stage:

12. Vergleich Ausgangsbild und aktueller Stand

13. Now intensify the shadows and highlights. First, do the shadows and create a new adjustment layer „curve“ and draw the curve in the left third down a bit. This is to darken the areas in the image. Invert the layer mask to black. Now paint with a white brush and following settings: 0% hardness, 15% opacity and 65% flow. The bigger the brush the softer the adjustments. Make sure that you work on the layer mask for sure. Here you can see, how my layer mask looks like (Step 13 & 14):

13. Schattenflächen verstärken

14. And once again the whole procedure. Please repeat step 13, but now not darken the areas, but the lines (wrinkles, hair, eye rims, etc.)

14. Schattenlinien verstärken

15. Now its up to the lights. Create another adjustment layer „curve“. This time, you draw the right part of the curve slightly upward. This is to brighten the areas in the image. Invert the layer mask to black. Now paint with a white brush and following settings: 0% hardness, 15% opacity and 65% flow. The bigger the brush the softer the adjustments. Make sure that you work on the layer mask for sure. Here you can see, how my layer mask looks like (Step 15 & 16):

15. Lichterflächen verstärken

16. And repeat again, but now lighten the lines. Here are the results:

16. Lichterlinien verstärken

17. Create a new adjustment layer „Hue & Saturation“ with the following settings​​: -100 saturation, brightness +40. Then turn the blending mode to „soft light“.

18. And repeat again. The comparison of the original image and the current stage (Step 16 & 18):

18. Aufhellen der Haut-Lichter

19. Now create an intermediate layer again (see Step 11). Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue & Saturation and pull the saturation of this layer to -100. Then set the blending mode to „soft light“ and the opacity of the layer to 55%. Give this layer a layer mask and invert it to black. Now paint with a white, soft brush into the picture partially.

Here is my result with layer mask:

19. Sättigung partiell verringern

20. Strengthen some lights even more, create a new layer and draw with a soft, white brush certain lines into the image. Then set the blending mode to „Overlay“. If the effect is too strong, you can mitigate the effect of the layer opacity.

20. Lichter partiell verstärken

21. Create a new adjustment layer „Hue & Saturation“ and set the saturation to -68.

21. Sättigung reduzieren

22. The image is too bright, so darken it. Add a new adjustment layer „curve“. Draw down the left side of the curve and the middle too. The image looks darker now.

22. Abdunkeln

23. Now adjust the shadows and highlights in the image some more. Create a new blank layer and fill it with 60% black. Put the blending mode to „Overlay“ and to 60% opacity. Now work with Dodge and Burn tool from the toolbox and reinforces or mitigates lights and shadows.

23. Schatten und Lichter optimieren

24. At last give some little more sharpeness into the image. Do this quite conventionally via high-pass sharpening with radius 2 and the blending mode „Overlay“.

24. Finales Schärfen

25. And thats the dramatic portrait. Here again compared with the original image:

25. Vergleich Vorher und Nachher

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