Quick Portrait Retouching

The experts can and do spend hours perfectly retouching the photos in magazines and advertisements. The rest of us are often just interested in basic techniques for fixing up for a friend's wedding photo or something like that. So here are some steps for quick photo retouching. Thanks to stock.xchng user varyamo for the image used in this example.

  1. Open the image in Photoshop and apply Curves if necessary.
  2. Duplicate your original layer and clone out any blemishes and distracting details.
  3. Duplicate the cloning layer and choose Filter > Blur > Surface Blur. I used a radius of 2 px and threshold of 30 here.
  4. On the surface blur layer, create a layer mask and fill it with black. On the layer mask, paint white with a soft paintbrush to reveal the areas of skin. Reduce surface blur layer opacity to 40% or whatever looks good.
  5. Create a merged copy of all of the layers below with the shortcut Cmd-Opt-Shift-E. 
  6. Apply a localized sharpen by choosing Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. I used an amount of 500, radius of .3 and threshold of 6 for this image. Use a layer mask to hide any parts that become too sharp. (Steps 5 and 6 are tricks from Lynda.com instructor Chris Orwig—he's got some great retouching training videos in the Photoshop CS3 Portrait Retouching Techniques series.)

Tada! A quick and beautifully retouched image.