No matter how young or old the person, just about every face could benefit from a little bit of retouching. Whether you’re removing drool or spinach from a baby’s face, smoothing wrinkles on a client portrait, removing temporary blemishes (pimples) or permanent ones (birth marks), the amount of editing you do to someone’s face is a very, very personal choice. I know photographers that will completely change the shape of a client’s face to “optimize” the portrait (because the client asked to, of course), and others that will do nearly no retouching at all. 

The “ideal version of yourself”

Personally, my goal is to make an optimized image of a person, which I will call the “ideal version of yourself”. Showing the client an image of themselves that is they way they see themselves. What I mean by that is that I will eliminate any temporary marks — pimples, shaving cuts, that sort of thing. I will soften wrinkles, but not remove them. Any freckles, moles, ages spots or other even scars will generally be left in place (unless the client wants them gone, of course). Sometimes I’ll de-emphasize a mark by making it a little lighter or desaturating it a bit, but unless specifically requested, I won’t remove it. And I’ll never change the shape of a face.

This is of course my own personal philosophy. At the end of the day, I’ll do whatever the client asks for. But based off of this, let’s look at a portrait and see how I’d work with it.

In DxO PhotoLab, this is pretty straightforward using the Repair tool. All you have to do is…

1. Click the Repair tool

2. Choose a brush size

3. Start clicking on blemishes. You should adjust the brush size as you go, making them slightly larger than the area you intend to remove. You can also click-drag to remove a mark  like a strand of hair.

4. To view the repairs that you’ve made, click the Show Masks button

Next, you may want to do what would traditionally be called “dodging and burning”, or lightening and darkening specific areas of an image. This could be done to correct for bad lighting, or to enhance an image in particular way.

This photo is pretty nicely, softly and evenly lit. I think the only thing it really needs is a little extra light on her hair, like in the screenshot below. To do this, simply click on the Local Adjustments button, click on the area you want to change, then start moving the sliders. Here I brightened up her hair just a little bit.

Just a little lightening of the hair is all that’s needed

But of course, you can do more if you want to. Perhaps what I really want is to make this image more dramatic than it was originally shot! First, I want to make it black and white, and a bit more contrasty. I chose a B&W film rendering of Kodak T-Max 3200, which I know I like and really has dark blacks, and then I darkened the highlights a bit using Tone Curves as well.
Next, I went into Local Adjustments to add more drama. First, I added a few Control Points to darken one side of her face.
Then, I continued darkening the scene. I made her sweater really dark, and with another set of Control Points, I darkened her chest a bit. However that was a bit too much on her chin, so I used a negative Control Point to protect the chin area a bit.
The final step was to brighten the light side of her face with another Control Point. It had gotten a bit too dark here. However by just brining the exposure up, the highlights were getting too hot, so I reduced the contrast. Also with all this changing of the image, her skin was starting to get a little rough… so, I employed a wonderful technique to subtly soften skin, and that’s to add negative micro contrast!
That’s a lot of drama added to the image! Of course there are so many other options… add borders and vignettes… add heavy film grain or textures in DxO FIlmPack… so many things you can do!
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