Photo Manipulation and Editing

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By Tina Vaziri of The Adventures of Tina and Mr. Bee

Editing photos is one of my favorite things to do. Photo manipulation can, if done well, correct a myriad of sins that you could not control during the photo shoot. My tool of choice is Photoshop, upgraded to the latest release, but previous versions (too be safe, I’ll say 7.0 and up) will work as well.

As an example I will use an unedited photograph of myself.

Not a horrendous photo, but my face has very unflattering shadows in this light among other things. Our main to do list: remove all blemishes and unsightly lines, lighten the under eye shadows, enlarge the eyes a little because mine were a bit squinty, brighten teeth, add rosy skin tones, and nudge the nose to have more symmetry. All this can be done fairly easily, using only a few layers, and only a handful of tools.

I have labeled them in order of most often used, and simplest to hardest.

The healing brush (number 1) is the most amazing (and easiest) tool for cleaning up skin, minor blemishes, and slight lines. Select this tool, in the brush properties I suggest going with 50% hardness or experimenting. Setting the hardness too low will create an unnaturally smooth look if overused.

On that note, do not go overboard with any of these tools and methods. Keep it natural, do not lose the original texture of the skin, and remember that less is more.

Okay, back to the healing brush. ALT+Click on a clear area of skin that is a similar color and tone to the area you want to clean up. Patiently brush away one blemish at a time, don’t be afraid to undo and redo until you have it perfect.

The healing brush has some limitations, it does not work well when you are trying to clear up an area that is butted up right next to a very dark or very light area. For this kind of problem you will use the clone stamp (number 2) in conjunction with the healing brush. Select the clone stamp, set the hardness to about 50% and set the opacity to around 50% as well. Feel free to zoom in if you need to. ALT+Click on a clean area very close to the problem area and gently brush over the problem area. Go back to the healing brush and blend in what the clone stamp left behind.

The smudge tool (number 3) is a very powerful tool that can be very hard to control. I suggest you practice with this tool often before getting too frustrated and expecting it to work for you right away. I use the smudge tool to move muscles and to reshape whole areas. Use this sparingly because it will destroy all natural underlying textures. Use it for small areas only. Select the tool, with 30% hardness, and 75% strength. Resize the brush to fit over the area you need to move or reshape, softly nudge the area to the shape you desire. Usually many CTRL+Zs are necessary.

Number 4 on our tool bar is the Burn tool which can also be switched over to the Dodge tool. Another very strong tool that you must use very lightly. The burn tool darkens and the dodge tool lightens. To use either of them, set the hardness to 50% and the exposure to 5%. Brush in areas you need to darken or lighten but do not linger too long as it gets darker or lighter the longer you hold the brush down. This tool also messes with the underlying colors in your shadows or highlights. So you usually have to go back and add adjustment layers with masks to correct them. If you are only going to use two adjustment layers I suggest you use Levels and Hue/Saturation. Adjustment layers are very easy to use, and so useful and necessary.

And the final transformation:

Tina Vaziri is an award winning illustrator and designer based out of Austin, Texas, working with clients all over the world. Her expertise include custom and commissioned illustration work in a colorful style that incorporates beauty, elegance, magic, and storytelling. A style perfect for products aimed at children, tweens, young adults, 20-somethings, and parents. (Thanks, Tina!)

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