EDIT SKILLS: REMOVE REDNESS
CAROLINE SCHMIDT SHOWS YOU A SIMPLE TECHNIQUE WHEN YOU NEED A FAST FIX TO EVEN OUT SKIN TONES
We’re not talking about your skin routine – here’s how to calm a subject’s red and blotchy skin tones when editing
WHEN IT COMES to editing portraits, levelling skin tones and removing blemishes is at the top of the list. Most Caucasian people have red pigment in their skin, which shows up to varying degrees based on your exposure; underexposed skin typically emphasises these red patches, for most showing up on the cheeks, forehead and nose. For babies, especially newborns, their skin can be very red in areas, often paired with baby acne, red marks and peeling skin – a far cry from the creamy skin tones we see in professional photographs. There are dozens of ways to retouch skin, with the best being the more advanced and time- intensive Frequency Separation, but there are quick fixes that retain skin texture and reduce redness that can dramatically improve your portraits. This technique helps you to neutralise overly red pigment as well as isolate types of reds to bring them in line with a more flattering, even skin tone.
1 EDIT YOUR IMAGE Before you address the skin tones, correct any exposure errors and get the image to a stage where only the skin needs retouching. You won’t want to make many, if any, global adjustments once you’ve retouched the skin, as this will alter any selective edit you’ve made. Here, I’ve added a Curves adjustment layer ( Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Curves) to brighten the image.
3 REFINE YOUR SELECTION Move the outer and inner sliders to isolate the areas you want to target. Then reduce the Saturation slider to 0 and adjust the Lightness ( this is set to + 27) and move Hue to the right to add a touch of yellow, which is more akin to normal skin tones. As this layer targets the baby’s overall redness, my adjustments are subtle so as not to make him look unnaturally pale.
2 HUE/ SATURATION Add a Hue/ Saturation adjustment layer and set the drop- down menu to Red to isolate this colour. Move the Saturation slider to 100 so you can see where the image is reddest. At the bottom of the adjustment layer you’ll see two colour charts connected with a slider in- between. The inner arrows determine the types of red you want to isolate and the outer sliders feather the selection.
4 TARGET THE DETAILS For this baby, there are different types of redness that need to be addressed and patches of yellow. While Step 3 reduced his overly rosy complexion, I now repeat Step 3 to isolate the red patches on his hands and birthmarks across his eyes. Next, instead of selecting Red from the drop- down menu, I pick Yellow and isolate the small areas on the nose, brows and background.
5 BE PURPOSEFUL IN THE EDIT As the patches of red/ yellow are quite vibrant, I heavily reduce the Lightness and then the Saturation slightly, to bring these patches in line with the now creamier skin tones. The settings you use are a judgement call for what works for your subject; you may find adjusting the Magenta helps, or if you've colour casts from bounced light, like green grass, you can isolate this too.
6 FINISHING TOUCH While most blemishes may have been erased through this process, you can now zoom into the image and use the Clone Stamp tool, set to 100% Opacity and 10% Flow to blend remaining blemishes. Also go back to the Layer Masks attached to the Adjustment Layer and use the Brush tool and black paint to hide the adjustments from the lips as you want these to remain rosy.
SMOOTH AS A BABY’S BOT TOM The results may look subtle but compared to the original, the skin tones are greatly improved.