Digital Focus: Touch Up Portraits, Part 1
Feature: Touch Up Your Portraits
During the Renaissance, the nobles of Europe commissioned famous artists to paint their portraits. These were pictures not as the subjects really were, but as they imagined themselves: beautiful, refined, and noble of spirit. Knowing those unspoken rules, the great painters of the age always improved on reality with strategic strokes of the brush.
These days, digital cameras aren't quite so generous, so our portraits can sometimes benefit from a few improvements. This week and next, let's look at how you can tweak your family portraits to put--if you'll excuse the expression--everyone's best face forward.
Make a Checklist of Improvements
Let's start with a picture that could use some improvement. Take a recent photo of my daughter and her grandmother, save it, and load it into your image editor. It's a wonderful shot that spans generations, but we can do a lot to make it more pleasing to the eye.
For starters, I see some wrinkles on Grandma's face. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing wrong with wrinkles. But let's smooth them over a little anyway. While we're at it, she has a few blemishes--dark spots on her face--that we can clear away as well. Both faces have "hot spots" from the camera flash. I hate that, so let's see if we can eliminate them as well. Likewise, there are some reflections in my daughter's eyeglasses. We may not be able to completely erase that, but we can try. Both faces have a little red-eye effect from the camera flash. And--what the heck--let's see if we can whiten the teeth a little, too.
Once all that's taken care of, we can isolate our subjects from the background with a little well-placed blur.
That's a lot to do, so let's get started using Jasc Paint Shop Pro--though these techniques are very similar no matter what image editing program you use.
Smooth Away Wrinkles
One of the easiest ways to make a portrait of someone a bit more flattering is to smooth any wrinkles--especially in the forehead and under the eyes.
To do that, start by selecting the region of interest. I suggest using the Freehand Selection tool, which lives in the fifth cubby from the top of the toolbar on the left side of the screen. In the Tool Options palette at the top of the screen, set the Selection type to Freehand (you can turn on the Tool Options palette if necessary by choosing View, Palettes, Tool Options). Left-click and hold while "drawing" the parameters of just Grandma?s forehead; lift your finger once you've closed the loop of your selection. Then choose Adjust, Blur, Gaussian Blur and set it to about 0.8. Click OK and you'll get something like what I have.
Now repeat the process around the rest of Grandma's face to smooth things out a bit. I applied a little Gaussian blur to the forehead, both cheeks, including the crow's feet around her eyes, and the chin.
You might be wondering why I picked a blur value of 0.8. The answer: I experimented, knowing that low values for Gaussian blur yield the most subtle effects. For this picture, I thought anything over 0.8 was simply too much; but, as in any image editing, you need to season things to your own taste.
Remove Red Eye
Before we go much further, let's get rid of the red-eye effect. Thankfully, it's not terribly pronounced in this image, but we should get rid of it nonetheless.
Choose Adjust, Red-Eye Removal and drag the preview on the right side of the Red-Eye Removal dialog around until one of the eyes is front and center. Zoom in until you can see the eye well, and pick an appropriate eye color from the Hue and Color controls. Finally, click and drag the diameter of an eye in the left side of the dialog box. Repeat the process for each eye that needs some work and click OK to close the dialog. By this time, your image probably looks something like mine.
We're off to a great start, but we still have a lot of work to do. If you've been playing along at home, you might want to save your picture now so you can finish the project next week, when we'll eliminate blemishes, zap reflections, and more. We'll even whiten the teeth a bit and hopefully end up with a picture that's good enough to frame.