Little editing tip to share with you today, and this is a fabulous and easy tutorial to really make your subject’s eyes POP in Photoshop.
Giving those eyes that extra punch can really elevate your portrait post production work and make it stand out.
I use this technique on the majority of my images, and I’m sure when you see how easy and effective it is, you will start to incorporate it into your workflow too.
This is one of the final steps in my own image retouching process. I do this just before I do my final sharpening in Photoshop.
Let’s start with this portrait of Tegan. We’re going to use this as our example image.
Let’s go ahead and zoom in on the eyes.
One more valuable tip here before we go any further.
When you are photographing a subject in a studio with lights/flash there is a pretty good chance that you might have controlled conditions where most of the ambient light has been dimmed. This is of course good practice, but the darker the room is, then the bigger the pupils of your subject’s eyes will become…………and we don’t want that in a portrait. We want to see more of the iris. You will have heard the much used photography mantra ‘The eyes are the window to the soul’……….Well then, lets give them the chance to shine in our photographs and if possible face your subject towards the studio window. I know, it might create a challenge with your lighting setup but it will allow the iris to be much more prominent in the image.
Okay, so on with the retouch.
We’re going to make a duplicate of the background layer Cmd+J or Ctrl+J and then we’re going to enter Quick Mask Mode. There’s an arrow pointing to the Quick Mask Mode icon on he left side of the screenshot.
You will also now see that our duplicate layer is highlighted in red, on the right hand side of the screen. This means we’re in Quick Mask mode and we’re good to go.
Next we’re going to select a black brush with Opacity and Flow both set to 100 percent and we’re going to paint over all the visible areas of the iris. It will look something like this………
If you wish, you can apply a little Gaussian Blur at this stage just to blend the selection, but use a low value, say 0.5-1.0.
When you’ve finished painting, exit Quick mask by clicking the Quick Mask icon again to reveal your selection.
Now we’re going to open a Selective Color layer and set the Colours tab to ‘neutrals’………you can adjust the blacks slider in the ‘neutrals’ tab if you wish to have a play around with the contrast. I don’t always do this, but the choice is there for you.
Notice how our selective colour layer has a black mask with just the eyes (our selection) visible in white.
Things are going to look a little crazy now as we’re going to change the blend mode of our Selective Color layer to Linear Dodge Add.
It looks pretty bad at this stage………unless you’re doing some far out fantasy, superhero edits! So we’re going to lower the opacity of the Selective Color layer. I usually drop it to about 40 percent opacity as a good starting point, but be aware that the value for each individual image will be different.
I have reduced the opacity to 40 in the image above and opened a new blank layer above the Selective Color layer. This is going to be our sharpening layer and to do the sharpening we’re going to use *drumroll*
…………The Sharpen tool
You may or may not be familiar with this tool? I only actually use it as part of this workflow.
So to sharpen, we’re going to use the Sharpen Tool to paint on our blank layer and build up the sharpening effect on the iris. I’ve got it set to 45. Be gentle here and build it up gradually. Pressing on and painting somewhere between 2 and 4 strokes of the entire iris seems to work best in my opinion.
Once that step is complete, I like to group (Cmd+G) the Sharpen and Selective Color layers together. I do this so I can zoom in and out and also toggle the effect on and off, so I can see whether I’ve taken it too far. Lower the opacity of the group to the sweet spot which you are happy with. I’ve settled on 30 percent opacity.
Have a play with this technique and I guarantee you’ll find it second nature after trying it a few times. It works equally well with both colour and black and white images. Have fun and be sure to let me know how you get on with it in the comments below.
Stay safe guys.
I’m a fine art portrait photographer based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Specialising in creative and styled portraiture, fitness photography, headshots, family portraits and personal branding for you, for actors, for athletes and for business professionals alike.
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