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Older photos can look flat over time because the light areas, such as the highlights on the face, can be among the first to fade away. You can bring some dimension back into facial features, though, with some subtle highlight and shadow effects. Light naturally hits the face in areas like the forehead, the nose, the chin, areas that protrude a little more than others; and the shadows hit in the areas that recede. So we are going to bring those back, and we're going to began by adding a new transparent layer above our background layer.
Then we're going to go over and select our Brush tool and come back to the Layer Blend modes and use Soft Light. Our foreground color is black, so we will begin doing some shadows. You can adjust your brush size using your open and close bracket keys. Just come and paint in the areas that are naturally shadowed. You can adjust your brush size as you're going. It's going to hit the same areas that are on the image. We are just going to bring out, again, some of the darks and lights.
We are not going to dwell so much on the dark areas; the lighter ones are a little more important. But you do want to get just a little bit of the darks, so we will get that done first. And you can always go back later and add if it looks like you need to. Go up to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blue. We are going to soften this up. We want this to be up rather high, let's say a midpoint around 15 pixels. 14.8 is what we have.
Click OK. Now just lower your Opacity to a point where it looks nice and natural. Let's try 30. Maybe go as low as 25. Let's see what that looks like. So all you're doing is checking before and after, see what's good. And we'll leave it there at 25, and now we're going to add a new blank layer. Change your Layer Blend mode to Soft Light again and make white your foreground color, and again adjust your brush and keep painting in the areas, this time the highlights, the bridge of the nose, cheekbones, where the chin comes out, a little bit on you forehead here.
You can see where the light hit when the portrait was taken, and I am sure the light was much more dramatic at that point before it faded. And light is the first thing that fades in an image. You can probably notice in a lot of old outdoor pictures the sky is completely white. It's because it's the lightest point of the picture and it's just faded over time. I am going to hit these lights in the hair and just bring them out just, giving this more of a '40s portrait look, a Hurrell look, a famous portrait artist in the '40s, very dramatic lighting.
Okay, now we will go up to Filter. We could use our last setting, but let's go back to Gaussian Blur and play with this and see if we even want it a little more than we had it. And I think about 15 is good for this also, around thereabouts, 14.8--what we had last time anyway. Now let's lower the Opacity.
Sometimes you can't really tell, if you are just looking like this, until you look at your before and go "whoa, a little much." Let's go to 50%. It's getting more of a glow instead of a rude, startling effect. Down to 40. Okay, I think I'm going to try at 30, and that's good for the overall glow.
Now one more transparent layer and again, Soft Light. Keep it on the white as your foreground color, and now just if you want something you want to emphasize even more, go over it one more time. And go up to Filter. Let's use the last setting we used. Bring the Opacity down around 50% this time.
Now let's zoom out and look at our before and our after, and you can see how that just really brought out the highlight points and it gives us a little more drama. Bringing dimension back to a photograph is easy with just a few adjustments of lights and darks. Just remember to keep it subtle and follow the natural play of light as it appears in the original, and you will be bringing life back into the image in no time.
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