How Do You Retouch Portraits?

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For photographers who photograph people, retouching faces can be a big part of their workflow. However, the amount or style of retouching and the tools and techniques used vary. Like any creative adjustment, the amount or style of retouching changes from artist to artist and can even change over time based on the trending look. Haven’t you noticed the style of retouching has shifted to be a more natural, subtle adjustment over the past five years or so? Just a few years ago everyone had porcelain smooth skin and snow-white teeth. This also reminds me of the parallels with HDR. A few years ago HDR was over-the-top with crazy contrast and color. Today it’s a more refined style.

In ON1 Photo RAW, we are taking a look at how we manage portrait retouching. We want to make sure we have the right tools, in the right places so portrait photographers can quickly and easily do their retouching. In ON1 Photo 10 we have a dedicated portrait retouching module. It detects faces automatically and guides you through creating selections for eyes and mouth. Then you simply adjust sliders for the amount of retouching and enhancement you want for each area. Often times, it’s either too slow or too restrictive when setting up a face. Everyone loves the results Portrait delivers, but they don’t want to go through the process. This is especially true when you have a ton retouching to do.

The other option for portrait retouching in Photo 10, is the Portrait Enhancer filter in Effects. It simply creates a color range selection based on skin color and then allows you to reduce blemishes and smooth out the skin. This is very close to our popular Auto Skin Smoother effect we created back in the days of PhotoTools. That handles the skin, then you use the Adjustment Brush to paint in enhancements on the eyes and mouth.

So… Now I want to know what you want. Which approach do you like, guided or manual? If you take portraits and do face retouching (or any skin retouching) let us know how you do it. What’s your style? What tools & techniques work best for you? What would you want in ON1 Photo RAW for this?  Leave me a comment below.

– Dan Harlacher

10 comments on “How Do You Retouch Portraits?”

  1. On September 12, 2016 at 6:29 pm Jan Nichols wrote:

    I would like a smart brush that could recognize that I am painting over the whites of the eyes or teeth and it would make them whiter including the veins but with a slider so I could dial in the amount I want. I don’t want to have to drag a crazy per-determined eye shape into the true shape of the eyes I am working on. Just let me zoom in and start painting and the OnOne smart brush realizes I am painting over the whites of the eyes or teeth.I don’t want to have to pick a paintbrush then pick a white paint and please do not make me put my brush back (by clicking on it again like in Lightroom as if to say, hey Miss Kindergarten teacher I have put my brush away can I play with something else now, pretty please), If I click on another tool it is smart enough to realizes I am DONE with the last tool and is OK that I did not put that last tool up.

  2. On September 12, 2016 at 6:52 pm wrote:

    I like manual. Everyone loves doing things faster which is the obvious benefit from guided. But, I feel like it almost takes your creativity away from you a bit. I would much prefer an adjustment brush with presets to smooth out skin, whiten teeth, etc… Hope it helps. Chris

  3. On September 12, 2016 at 11:04 pm Guido Scheffler wrote:

    I prefer the manual approach. I tried ON1 Photo 10’s portrait retouching module a few times, and it just doesn’t cut it for me. At all. The results are ok, I suppose – but the process is just tedious and too restrictive.
    In the past few months, I have made the first retouching steps for every single portrait with Lightroom’s adjustment brushes (mainly Iris Enhancement, Dodge, and Teeth Whitening) and did not once look back to Photo 10 (for portrait retouching, mind you).
    After that, I usually use a combination of piccure+, Pro Contrast in Color Efex Pro and Alien Skin Exposure X.
    I hope ON1 Photo RAW gets this right – I did preorder it already, after all ;)

  4. On September 13, 2016 at 6:15 am Alex Reusch wrote:

    I think that ON1 10 Portraits does a pretty good job on general editing and allowing also to remain a still natural look. There are two things, I don’t like so much:
    1.) The control points for the eyes and mouth are not not flexible enough to use. Many times, the sharpness and color enhancements for the pupil are effecting the white area as well and it is not so easy to control. Also, the Thooth whitener is effecting the lips or the flesh, because you can not 100% control it.
    2.) Spot removal does leave visible smearing. I find that this functions works much better in Lightroom. So I usually only do the basic settings in Portrait and do spot removal in Lightroom. It would be great, if you could improve here.

  5. On September 13, 2016 at 11:16 am Patty Hosmer wrote:

    I use Lightroom primarily for initial editing so when I get into On1 for retouching, I find I spend too much time adjusting the guides around eyes and mouth. I truly wish I could set the tools up as a preset and then quickly paint in the things I want to fix such as eye detail and whites, etc. This applies mostly to eyes and teeth/mouths. I am happy to either paint in skin or let the program adjust skin automatically (per settings) but I’d love to be able to brush details in without setting up the guides for every single face. JMHO

  6. On September 13, 2016 at 11:41 am Michal Plachý wrote:

    Agree with Gretchen.
    I am Aperture based and I really like retouch tool there. Quiet easy to use. Sometimes I need clone tool as well. I like a manual approach to get the best results. I’m not a big fan of “professional deformation” of the face – I mean smaller nose, bigger eyes etc. But definitely will try if you offer that.
    Hope you’re already close to finish :-). Cheers.

  7. On September 13, 2016 at 2:32 pm Timothy Kroskie wrote:

    Any chance you could in corporate frequency separation? That seems to be the latest trend in skin retouching. It maintains skin texture while evening out the skin tone.

  8. On September 14, 2016 at 1:18 am Jay Steele wrote:

    For advanced portrait retouching my primary tools are dodge and burn, and frequency separation. I prefer a manual approach to maintain a natural look. I very rarely smooth, as it’s usually not needed. I blend lighting, smooth out skin color, and reduce the visibility of wrinkles. I’m not trying to make people look like mannequins. These processes come after basic clean up of blemishes, stay hairs, and any basic cloning that’s needed. Frequency separation would be the best tool, not yet available, for my retouching process.

  9. On September 26, 2016 at 9:45 pm Tim Kennedy wrote:

    I do a lot of volume work every fall and I use Portrait on pretty much every face. I really like Capture One’s new skin tone uniformity controls for starters but Portrait is still my go to tool for eyes and teeth. I do a lot of repetitive steps so I get to know the bugs pretty well. It has improved year after year. It has a softer touch than other tools that I really appreciate. It doesn’t try to rebuild the face or make corrections too over the top. I do wish it had a better masking set up. I always seem to find the view and the controls a little wonky after setting up the face. I always want it to be faster and would be thrilled if I could go from C1 and back without feeling the need to bounce through Photoshop for a smoother round trip. I wish it could handle glasses (or sometimes eyebrows) which seems to be miserable at. I’d love a serious batch option that would actually work. But I’m excited and hoping RAW will be even faster and show nice improvements.

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