Portrait Retouching : Making Mom Look Good

Of course this goes for ANY sort of portrait retouching, but in the world of family photography, lets face it, it’s usually mom who doesn’t like the way she looks (myself included!)  These tips come in handy for family sessions but also maternity and newborn shots with mom and baby. Everyone wants to be presented in the best possible light, so doing a bit of retouching is not only kind but also makes good business sense – mom will be much more likely to purchase prints if she thinks she looks great!

Like many things in post processing, there is an easy way and a hard way.. the easy way usually involves parting with some hard earned cash and this is no exception!  On freckly/sun damaged skin like mine, I could spend hours using the spot healing brush tool… or I can run a photoshop plugin called Portraiture and be done in about 2 seconds!

To demonstrate, I am going to use the images of me modeling my mom’s jewelry for her new etsy shop because it strikes me as a bit unkind to use a female client of mine to demonstrate someone who needs skin retouching!

Ok, so here is the before picture (can you see me cringing and covering my eyes with my hand??)

and here is after using portraiture on a separate layer and reducing the opacity to about 75%

Pretty fantastic no?

What portraiture does is look for skin colored areas and smooths them and then adds that adjustment to a new layer so you can reduce the opacity and erase back areas that you don’t want smoothed.  You can completely tweak to taste and necessity.   Like most things, moderation is key: I see some people totally abusing portraiture to the point where children look like plastic dolls – I don’t recommend going for that look, it’s rather creepy actually!

To further “perfect” this portrait I would use the patch or the spot healing brush tool to get rid of that deep furrow above my brow – (I think botox may be in my future!)  I went over that technique in the second part of my newborn processing tutorial so I’m not going to repeat myself, but if you aren’t familiar with these tools, it’s totally worth the time to play around with them.

Lastly,  close up portraits really require a subtle hand when output sharpening.  I usually sharpen all of my images for web viewing using Unsharp Mask at an amount of 100-400% and a radius of .2 and a threshold of 0 and adjust to taste.  But global sharpening can do nasty things to skin, particularly when you’ve taken so much time and care to smooth the skin out -why introduce harshness in the sharpening step?

That’s where edge sharpening comes in.

Jodi from MCP actions has an EXCELLENT edge sharpening tutorial and FREE action on her blog. I highly, highly recommend it.

So, here’s the final result, portraiture, some “healing brush” and some edge sharpening which mostly applied it to my eyes, lips  and some bits of hair:

One more thing: Imagenomic offers a free 15 day trial of Portraiture so you can try it before you decide if it’s worth the $200. I apologize in advance for adding something more to your photography wishlist, but hey, I also linked you to an awesome free action right?

ETA: After the publishing of this post, the kind folks at imagenomic offered to give becoming-mom readers a coupon for 15% off any of their products! Use the code MOMMYBLOG. hmmm, how appropriate!  I am not receiving any financial incentive for your purchases at imagenomic, just in case you were wondering ;)

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Thank you so much for posting your review of portraiture. I had heard of it before, but had not taken the time to investigage. You saved me tons of time and I’ll be buying it before the end of the week!

Lisa E says:

Ariana- Your beautiful! I didn’t even notice any imperfections! Thanks for the sharpening action! I rented the Canon 24-70L and it is so heavy. My wrist was killing me at the end of taking pictures. I love my Tammy ;)

Maddie says:

I’m a fan of the wrinkles! It shows you’re a real Mum ;-)

ariana says:

Marybeth, I think I was wearing Sephora’s smokey eye palette: http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P222602&categoryId=RPYMAL&shouldPaginate=true I apply the dark black as a liner with a sephora lip brush of all things.. it’s just the right size and shape for this :)

Jbhat, I totally agree – maybe that’s what everyone looks like to people with bad vision… a nice gaussian blur can do wonders for skin!

jbhat says:

Wowza! You are so stunning… before, during and after.

I wish people’s eyes came with that product. Wouldn’t that be nice for the rest of us? Especially in direct sunlight. Or first thing in the morning.


Juliana says:


You are so mean!! Oh, well, one more item for my wish list… :-)

alicia says:

Ari! You look stunning! Def. don’t need portraiture run on you!
I re-watched your blue sky tutorial tonight – I needed that – you have the most excellent tuts! Thanks so much!

Oh, and what kind of eyeliner are you wearing? It looks SO good!

Sara B. says:

Before, during, after – you look gorgeous in all the photos!

ariana says:

Thanks Kari & Marybeth! I was beginning to think the uberlarge images of myself sent everyone running away or something :)

Anne Marie, these shots were taken with the Tammy. I do LOVE my tamron, but you are in luck because I just a few minute ago purchased a used 24-70L – it was a really good deal on ILP and I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve been having this debate with myself because I love the Tammy so much I just don’t know how much of in IQ improvement I would see with the L.. but then again, because this is my #1 go to focal length and lens I figured it makes sense to have the best glass possible. I’ll let you know when I receive it my impressions of the differences, and you never know – you may end up getting a good deal on a used tammy.. :)

I’m not a photographer, so my untrained eye tells me the results are FANTASTIC!

I actually thought your top picture was your “after”. You are so beautiful! You don’t need any retouching (although the results are gorgeous!)

anne marie says:

1) you are so beautiful
2) what lens is used for this shot
3) i was going to flickr mail you but figured since i am already at your blog typing might as well ask you.. do you LOVE your tamron 28-75mm? be honest. i need a zoom and i was going to sell both my lenses (50mm & 85mm) to get the 24-70L. i love my primes. love love love. but they are so limited with a toddler and find myself dreading a lens change to get a different focal length. anyway. i really love the pics you have been taking with your tammy and wondered what you honestly thought about it and my situation. :o)

kari says: