Skin Smoothing Techniques

It’s Not Retouching for Dummies but what is?

One of the biggest challenges facing aspiring portrait photographers is retouching. Out here in the real world, few of us are perfect. In fact Cindy Crawford once said, “even I don’t look like Cindy Crawford when I get up in the morning!”

So before you even begin doing any retouching on a digital image file there are a few steps you can take to make sure that your portraits won’t need much retouching to start with. Begin by working with a good make-up artist and here are some tips. Another way to minimize retouching is  overexpose the portrait making it just a little brighter than yourmeter says is “correct.” Using both techniques will minimize any retouching challenges.


Nobody’s perfect but we all want our portraits to look like how we think we should look, at least on our best days. A Google search of “Portrait Retouching” yielded 837,000 hits all of which claim to have the real secrets of the best retouching methodology. Here’s number 837,001 and one of my favorite retouching methods. (I’ll share more in the weeks ahead)

sdanielle.skinOne of the easiest ways to retouch a portrait is to use a dedicated Photoshop-compatible plug-in such as Dynamic Skin Softener filter that’s part of Color Efex Pro. Using the software’s built-in color picker, you can select a specific skin color within a portrait so that the softening effect is only applied to skin areas preserving details such as hair. The dialog box’s Color Reach slider lets you expand the range of colors affected by the filter in addition to the initial color selected by the skin color picker. The higher the value of this slider, the more colors similar to the selected color are affected. A Soften Strength slider controls the amount of overall softening that’s applied to the colors set by your other choices.

Tips: I usually apply any retouching filter to a layer and then magnify the portrait adjust the layer’s opacity until I achieve a realistic but retouched skin tone, one with texture, not looking all plasticy and Stepford Wives. And to kick it up a notch, apply the Glamour Glow filter part of the same family of plug-in, again applying to a separate layer and lowering opacity to taste.

Author: Joe Farace

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