Fix skin brightness in Photoshop

Peter Fenech

Flash is never an easy one to get right, and even the most experienced photographers get it wrong some of the time


Flash is never an easy one to get right, and even the most experienced photographers get it wrong some of the time. Much like everything else in photography, it’s trial and error, but fortunately for us Photoshop is at hand to give us the freedom to correct problems such as blown-out skin post-shoot. Using a combination of brushes and layers, shiny foreheads and noses can be brushed back to a normal exposure. However, we’re not directly editing exposure. By applying a similar skin colour over these areas and blending them in, it’s more as if we’re applying make-up in the form of digital paint. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll learn the skills required to use Photoshop to save your images from a bright flash exposure, saving you the time it would have taken to arrange a reshoot.


1  Add a layer First we need to set up the Layers palette. Add a new layer above the Background by clicking on the Create New Layer button that can be found at the bottom of the palette.


2  Set blend mode We’ll be applying all the edits to this layer so we can work non-destructively. Change the blend mode of the new layer from Normal to Darken using the drop-down list.


3  Change layer’s opacity Lower the opacity of the new layer to 20% using the controls in the Layers palette. Changing the layer’s opacity instead of the Brush tool’s opacity lets us boost the strength of the effect later on.


4 Set Brush’s opacity Now press B for the Brush tool. Set the tool’s opacity from the Options bar to 80% to help reduce the strength. Make sure the Brush’s Hardness is set at 0% so the edges are soft.


5  Sample from skin Before applying the Brush tool to the skin, press and hold Opt/Alt. A small eyedropper will appear. Use this to sample an existing skin tone colour. Sample a colour that’s neither too dark nor too light.


6  Bid highlights farewell Brush over the highlights on the portrait to reduce the shininess. Because we’re using a colour similar to the skin tones, the results will look as natural as possible.


7   Increase effect If you don’t see any reduction in the highlights, you may need to increase the opacity setting of the Brush tool up to 100%. If still no changes appear, you might need to select a darker skin tone.


8 Boost visibility To see a significant change, boost up the layer’s opacity setting to 40-50%. This should get rid of all highlights. Use the Eraser tool (E) to remove any brush marks, over eyebrows for example.

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    • Terry Waggoner

      A big thanks!!!!!!