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Improving a portrait with curves and masks

From: Photoshop for Photographers: Lighting Effects

Video: Improving a portrait with curves and masks

In this movie, we'll continue our onversaion about how we can improve

Improving a portrait with curves and masks

In this movie, we'll continue our onversaion about how we can improve the lighting in our photographs by working with adjustment layers and masks. And with this particular photograph, we're going to create two different adjustment layers in order to improve the drama or the intensity of this image. You know, when it comes to using these techniques or integrating these techniques into your work flow, it's really about your vision. What do you want to say with you photographs and how do you want to use light in order to say it? Well this portrait, at least in my opinion, is kind of a psychological image.

There's some intensity and strength and maybe even a bit of anger in her gaze. Well, what I want to do is I really want to draw that out. So here, I'm going to zoom out a little bit, so we can see the whole photograph. I want the viewer really to be drawn into her strength and to the presence that she has here in this portrait, so therefore I want to darken down some of the background elements. A quick way to do that is to create a curves adjustment layer and then to click on the curve line and drag down in order to add a darkening effect.

Now in doing that, the background and the jacket, those elements look fine. But the skin tone in the face, it looks a little ruddy. It looks a little bit too dark. I don't really like that. No big deal. All that we need to do is to hand paint on our mask. To do that, we'll press the b key to select the Brush tool. We'll then choose black as our foreground color, because we're going to limit the adjustment in this area. The next thing that we're going to do is choose a brush size. Here we can choose a pretty big brush.

I'm going to go all the way out maybe to 700 or 800, right around there. So go ahead and choose a brush size right in that area. That looks a little too big, I'll just type out the number 800. You can always do that. Just highlight that field and then type a number on your keypad in order to change the brush size. I think that looks pretty good. Then for the brush opacity, we'll take it down. But we don't need to take this down very far, because what we're going to do is just paint over the face, maybe a little bit of the neck there in order to protect this area so that we have this adjustment so that it's affecting most of the image except for the face.

If I'm to zoom out now, you'll be able to see what we've done so far. We created a darkening effect, where we darkened down the edges all the way around this photograph and, in a sense, created a bit more drama. And we did this by adding a curves adjustment, darkening the overall image, and then hand painting on the mask in a certain area. In this case, it happened to be the face, so that we limited or we hid or concealed the adjustment from that area.

And this is a great way to draw someone's attention to a certain part of your photograph. Sometimes it's about adding light. In other situations it's about taking it away. Yet most importantly it's about your vision. How can you accomplish or execute your vision for your photographs? All right, well, with this picture I want to create one more slight adjustment. Here we'll click on the curves adjustment layer. I want this to be a little bit brighter. So were just going to click and drag this up a bit here to add a bit more brightness and then keep those darker tones nice and dark, so drag this down just a touch.

This is a subtle adjustment, but sometimes it's those subtle yet significant adjustments which really help you to improve your photographs. And with this particular file, my hope is that this starts to get you to begin to think about how you can integrate these techniques into your own workflow. And remember it really is about what you want to say. How do you want to write with light? How do you want to use light in order to express different ideas? And, you know, sometimes it's about making just a few simple adjustments as we've done here.

At least, for my own taste, this really helps to improve the portrait. It takes what's there, natural and available light, a strong person here, and then we add to that by changing the overall lighting just a little bit, in order to really draw the viewer in to the subject. So here it is, our before. And then now, our after.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop for Photographers: Lighting Effects
Photoshop for Photographers: Lighting Effects

45 video lessons · 7373 viewers

Chris Orwig

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  1. 1m 35s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 33m 54s
    1. Using the Basic panel to change the lighting
      5m 28s
    2. Creating a more expressive photograph with Camera Raw
      4m 24s
    3. Correcting under- and overexposure
      5m 21s
    4. Improving the color of light on a group of photos
      5m 6s
    5. Enhancing the quality and color of light
      4m 31s
    6. Using the Radial filter to improve light in certain areas
      4m 4s
    7. Improving larger areas with the Gradient tool
      5m 0s
  3. 21m 59s
    1. Changing the quantity and quality of light with adjustments
      7m 2s
    2. Using multiple adjustment to improve light and color
      4m 7s
    3. Using the Targeted Adjustment tool in Curves
      1m 58s
    4. Improving the color of light
      3m 19s
    5. Using the Shadows and Highlights controls
      5m 33s
  4. 40m 57s
    1. Painting in brightness with curves and masking
      5m 36s
    2. Fine-tuning the mask with the Density and Feather controls
      7m 39s
    3. Adding light with an elliptical selection, a mask, and an adjustment layer
      3m 56s
    4. Darkening the sky with Quick Select and Curves
      6m 33s
    5. Using gradient masks to improve large areas of your photo
      5m 40s
    6. Correcting exposure with a gradient mask
      2m 37s
    7. Improving a portrait with curves and masks
      4m 12s
    8. Speeding up your workflow by using a mask on two layers
      4m 44s
  5. 31m 28s
    1. Increasing visual interest with Soft Light blending
      3m 6s
    2. Soft Light blending: Recovering detail
      4m 0s
    3. Fine-tuning Soft Light blending with advanced Curves adjustments
      4m 55s
    4. Using Screen blending to fix underexposure
      3m 0s
    5. Brightening with blending modes and masking
      3m 49s
    6. Using Multiply blending to fix overexposure
      5m 32s
    7. Combining techniques to achieve the best results
      3m 37s
    8. Changing brightness with Luminosity blending
      3m 29s
  6. 42m 54s
    1. Working with the Burn and Dodge tools
      7m 54s
    2. Brightening by painting on a new layer
      4m 52s
    3. Darkening by painting on a new layer
      5m 8s
    4. Using a Solid Color adjustment layer to burn and dodge
      6m 46s
    5. Improving a portrait by brightening shadows
      5m 5s
    6. Burning and dodging by painting with color
      7m 19s
    7. Darkening the background and fine-tuning the color in Photoshop
      5m 50s
  7. 41m 48s
    1. Introducing Lighting Effects
      8m 7s
    2. Working with Smart Objects
      5m 7s
    3. Adding light and color
      3m 40s
    4. Using multiple lights with one photograph
      5m 52s
    5. Adding light and multiple colors for a creative effect
      5m 42s
    6. Creating an edgy, illuminated look
      5m 32s
    7. Using Lighting Effects to create a surreal effect
      7m 48s
  8. 36s
    1. Next steps

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