I have been getting a lot of questions about post processing lately so I decided to show a step by step example of how I edit a photo. Of course, the basics are pretty much always the same, but the numbers change a bit from photo to photo. I like my newborns smooth but not plastic looking with creamy, warm skin and a light touch of haze. Again, this is how *I* do it, I’m sure there are other ways to achieve this and if you have some suggestions for me feel free to comment because I love learning new things.
I started with this image. It’s a solid photo, good exposure, a little too yellow due to jaundice and color cast from the blanket.
First things first, I fixed the edge of the background by using the Content Aware Fill feature in CS5. If you aren’t using CS5 you can use the clone tool. I started by duplicating the background layer, then went to Edit > Fill and selected Content Aware and hit OK.
Then, using the Patch Tool, I removed the blemishes from baby’s skin. To use the Patch Tool simply draw a circle around the area you want to remove and then drag the selected area onto a clean area of the skin. It will sample the clean area to fill the blemish. Make sure to do small areas at a time. This is awesome for acne and flaky skin.
This little one’s hands were super flaky and the Patch Tool did awesome!
Flatten the image and now it’s time to move on to color correction. I like to use the Selective Color Adjustment Layer for my color corrections. You can create a Selective Color Adjustment Layer by clicking on the little half black and half white circle at the bottom of your layer pallet and click on Selective Color.
With Red selected in the drop down I move the sliders to get the overall skin tone I want. For this image I removed some yellow, added some cyan and removed some black. Now since I want to leave my blanket color alone and only change the skin I used the layer mask to remove the adjustment from the background. I selected the layer mask (which is white by default) and inverted it (command+i on Mac). Then using a large, soft, white brush I painted over the skin, revealing the color adjustments I made.
So I’m happy with the overall skin, however, baby’s hand is way off color. To fix that I grab the Lasso tool and loosely select around the hand. With the hand selected I create another Selective Color Adjustment Layer and add yellow, remove magenta and remove black). You should notice that the changes are only happening to the selected area. Once I’m happy with the color of the hand I just go in with a small, black brush and refine the edges of the layer mask. For this image I also used the same adjustment layer to fix some spots on her face by using a soft, white brush at a low opacity to paint. Make sure the layer mask is selected at all times.
Once everything looks good, I flatten the layers. Next I duplicate the background image and run Portraiture. I prefer my babies to be smooth, but still natural looking so I run my normal settings on the duplicate layer, then reduce the opacity of the layer to 80%. I also want to remove the softened layer from her facial details, hair and the background so I add a layer mask, invert and paint back over the skin only.
At this point I like to darken the lash line a bit by using the burn tool. I set it to a very small brush, just big enough to cover the lash line, select midtones at about 10%. I only brush over the lashes once, apply it too heavily and it looks obvious and not good.
Now the basic edit is done. We now have a nice, clean edit. Next is the little extra I like to add to get the look I want.
First I create a color fill layer (using the adjustment layer button at the botton of the layer pallet) of a nice coral color. The hex code for the color I used is d18e74 and it is set to 8% opacity.
Then a little Levels Adjustment Layer for some pop and contrast. My settings for this were 3, .90, 236.
A Gradient Map Adjustment Layer with colors going from lavender (hex d095c7) to light pink (hex f1cbc2) to light yellow (hex fceecb) set to 10% opacity gives a pretty springy haze that I really love.
Then I warm it up a little with another Gradient map adjustment layer going from black to light brown (hex b6a374) set to soft light at 30%.
Now for the fun, soft, hazy adjustment. With a Levels Adjustment Layer I set the default RGB channel to input: 11, 1.1, 255; output: 10, 255. Then selecting the Red channel set to input: 12, 1, 255; output: 25, 255. Finally the Blue channel to input: 0, .80, 255; output: 38, 255. Then I set the layer to 50%. If your eyes glazed over from all those numbers here is a picture
For this image I wanted to tone down the reds just a bit so I created a Color Balance Adjustment Layer and , with midtones selected, moved the cyan/red slider to -12.
Flatten everything, sharpened and Voila!