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Reader Photo Friday – 11th June {skin retouching}

Peggy sent this photo she edited and asked me some very good thoughts:

Q. “I am never sure when doing photos for others if I am over editing. when do you cross the over processed line? I would love some feedback. I am only about a year into editing with PSE8.

As you can see she is a beautiful girl and I just don’t want to feel like I am changing her.  Or for her to feel like I don’t think she is already pretty enough.  I don’t know it just seems like a touchy area sometime.”

A. Thanks Peggy! And your edit is really beautiful you sure do know your way around PSE (that’s what I like to see!) My initial reaction was that her face looked way too powdery soft and unreal. I think you went a little overboard on the skin retouching. Her eyes could use a pop as well.

But before I talk about what I did in my own edit of this photo, I’ll talk about the question of overdoing it with editing. It can be so easy to overdo it and not even realise what you’re doing. I do it all the time. I find it really helpful to duplicate the image before I get going so that I can click back and forth between the before and after now and then. In PS4, I take snapshots in the history panel and I click through them to watch the evolution of the photo to see where I went wrong if it happens that I’ve crossed the line. Or in LR, you can click the key to toggle back and forth between before and after (LOVE that button!)

{How I did it}

Retouching and editing in PS4, PSE from ehphotograph on Vimeo.

I edited this solely in PS4:

1. I applied a brightness/contrast adjustment layer (available in PSE)

2. I applied another brightness/contrast layer and adjusted it solely for the effect it had on her hair. I masked everything else away. In PSE, you can either erase the part of the layer you don’t want or you can use Coffeeshop’s free PSE layer masking action.

3. I used MCP Actions’ free Hide & Seek action to ‘dodge’ (lighten) her face a little – only about 10% and darken the background to bring more attention to the subject.

4. I used MCP Actions’ binoculars action from the All in the Details set to sharpen the edges. You could also use your basic sharpening tools.

5. The next thing I did was the most important. I used the Totally Rad Pro Retouch action from the original Totally Rad Action Mix (TRA1). This isn’t available in PSE unfortunately. It’s the best retouching action I’ve ever used. On the Totally Rad site, click ‘tutorials’ for a detailed video to watch how it works. With skin retouching, it’s so important to make sure that you don’t overdo it and take away all skin texture. I tried to leave her skin looking fresh and smooth but also real.

6. Part of the above action is ‘Eye Bump’ which I used to brighten under eyes just about 15%. I could have done more, but this is one of the things that leads to the otherworldly look that can result from too much retouching on the face.

7. Next is – you guessed it! – MCP Actions’ Eye Doctor to pop those chocolate brown eyes. This is available in PSE.

8. Lastly, I used the Dentist action (which comes with Eye Doctor) to whiten and polish her teeth just a tad.

Whatchya all think?


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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsusanne/ Susanne

    Hi Elizabath, This is a great video. I don’t use PS or PSE- I use LR, but i love how you go into great detail! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsusanne/ Susanne

    Great Video. I myself dont use PS or PSE, i use lightroom. However i enjoyed it, i love how you go into great detail. Thanks for posting:)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsusanne/ Susanne

    Hi There, great video. I myself dont use PS or PSE, i use lightroom. I love how you do into great detail! Thanks for posting

  • http://peggyklinephotography.weebly.com Peggy


    thank you for working with my photo. your edit does have a more natural look then mine. i only have PSE8 so will not be able to do a couple of your actions.

    actually i have yet to figure out actions at all. i have attempt to download and run a couple of times, but have not yet been successful. one of these days and a little time i will put some more effort into it.

    again, thank you so much. i learn something new with each session that i do.


  • elizabethhalford

    @Peggy: what is it about actions that isn’t working for you so far? Can I (we) help?

  • Michaela

    Great video! I have mostly used Lightroom and love the soften skin on the adjustment brush and now have gotten into PSE and really love the healing brush for the more blemishy skin. I agree — I really hate the plastic look and also the overdone eyes…people need to still look like themselves!