Portrait Retouching – Easy does it!

A little while back, I was approached by Jane Grates for Sleeklens to see if I was interested in reviewing some of their portrait retouching workflows. I’m always up to trying new tricks, so why not? Full disclosure: The deal was I get to keep the free workflow set for publishing my honest appraisal here on my blog.

Headline: I love them.

My business covers a pretty mixed bag: commercial, industrial, creative photography and portraiture. That’s without even mentioning the video side of what I do. I do plenty of retouching on my finished pictures, but I tend to keep it subtle. The largest volume of my portrait work is for business profile shots, so a minimal bit of blemish removal, skin smoothing, eye and tooth whitening and I’m good. All of that usually takes place in Lightroom, unless I have a beauty or fashion job, in which case I might do a little frequency separation work on skin in Photoshop.

The Sleeklens Portrait Perfection workflow came in the form of a bunch of Photoshop actions that actually cover a lot of ground.  There are global actions that cover temperature, toning, exposure, vignettes etc. To this date, I haven’t done a lot of style-heavy global manipulation, but there are some pretty nice effects here that I’m keen to experiment with in future. I just went straight for the portrait tools.  Enough words, time for some pictures!

Retouching-5  Retouching-6

This is my mate’s daughter Aiden from a little run-and-gun on graduation day. She’s the typical reason my portrait retouching is usually very subtle… she’s gorgeous already!  That said, I’d normally attempt the barest touch of Lightroom’s skin smoothing and iris enhancing brushes, possibly a touch of tooth and eye brightening… but staying away from nuclear white eyeballs. You can’t make me go there.

With the Sleeklens actions, I was able to do some lovely subtle stuff, just as easily as with the LR brushes.  Same as LR, a touch of smoothing and iris enhancement, but Portrait Perfection also has a lovely rosy blush action.  Be warned, subtlety is really important with this one.  A 10-15% brush is plenty here. The other feature I really like here is the glossy lips action, which doesn’t so much gloss as moisturise, smoothing the lips to eliminate that chapped look.  Very subtle, very nice.

Retouching-3   Retouching-4

Now here’s Kylie, modelling some hair colour in my studio. This called for a slightly more hands on approach, but again, I’m very happy with the subtlety of the result.

Skin smoothing and lip gloss, naturally, but there are a couple of extra tricks I really like in here: A brush for bright sparkly eyes and another for lashline and details. Again, nice subtle tools to use that really help the eyes pop without reaching for the nuclear option.  I really love being able to emphasise the lashes with such ease.  The workflow also comes with dodge and burn layer actions for contouring, not something I do a lot of, but I was able to get a very pleasing result very quickly here.

Retouching Retouching-2

So next I thought I’d see what the workflow could do for one of my setup shots.  This picture has been rescued already as it was a light test, overexposed by about four stops.  A very quick bit of portrait retouching and a little experiment mixing the vintage vignette action with the Autumn Love tone enhancement action, and I’ve got something I really like out of what was a bit of a dog (nothing to do with Kylie).

So here it is: These tools tick all my boxes:  Easy to use (there’s a great how to video here that covers a lot of nice stuff including basic contouring); Subtle; Lots of room for creative touches with the toning effects. My only regret?  Maybe I should have asked for the Lightroom action pack, it would be just fabulous if I didn’t have to open Photoshop at all.

If you feel like checking ’em out yourself, check out the link to the Sleeklens Portrait Perfection workflow for Photoshop.  If you want more, their whole collection of Photoshop actions is here.

Happy retouching.  And thanks Jane!

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