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Old portraits can be gorgeous, and with a little bit of something as simple as bringing out the eyes, you can make them even more so. I am going to show you a really quick easy way to do that. Looking at this image, you can see there isn't a thing in the world wrong with this. I just want to pop the eyes a little bit and bring them out and make them the real focus of the image. We will begin by making an adjustment layer. Go down to the bottom of your Layers panel--half-black, half-white circle to create a new fill or adjustment layer.
Click that and choose Curves. Going to bring our histogram, grab it in the center, and move it up toward your upper left-hand corner, just a bit. Now we are going to invert our mask using Ctrl+I or Command+I. Let's grab our Zoom tool in our toolbar and just zoom in on the eyes here and go back to the toolbar and grab our brush. You can adjust the size of your brush using your open and close bracket keys, and I am going to make mine a little smaller with the open bracket key and begin drawing in the area I want to make a little lighter, this half-moon shaped this big and beauty retouching and the lights of the eyes. Maybe just a little here outside the pupil to bring a little emphasis there.
Now let's go up to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. We just want a bit of a blur on here, enough to blend it in, blend in the edges, but not blow things out. Have a look at both sides. That looks pretty good, so click OK. Now you can bring your Opacity down. The main focus is to blend these areas on the outside of the pupil with the rest of the whites of the eye, because you don't want those to stand out a whole lot.
You just want a nice subtle lightening there. Bring it way down to about 15%, and now we are going to add another Curves Adjustment. Go down to your Create a new fill or adjustment layer. Select Curves again. This time we're going to bring the Histogram down towards the lower right-hand corner. Invert the mask using Ctrl+I or Command+I, and this time we are going to paint in the dark areas: the pupils and around the edges of the eye, around the pupil, and maybe along the lash line, a little emphasis there. Follow the shadows of the eye, have a nice shadow here, perhaps right here.
Let's get this pupil in here. Don't want to forget the other eye. You can take your time with this. It doesn't have to be overly precise, because we are going to blur, but you can catch everything. Now we are going go up to Filter, and I believe we'll just use our last setting on our Gaussian Blur. You can also use Ctrl+F to get that last setting of the last filter you used, and let's bring the Opacity down--maybe keep it a little darker than the whites.
Okay, that looks pretty good, but the only way we are really going to be able to tell is if we zoom back out, and then we can look at it this way. That might be a little harsh, so let's try at about 20. I just want it subtle. Subtlety is the key. You don't want a big in-your-face beauty retouching on an old portrait. Let's look at our before and our after and just a nice subtle pick-me-up at the eyes to really bring the focus in.
Just as in beauty retouching, giving the eyes a little lift in old portraits can bring the whole picture back to life.
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