In one of the forums I moderate on Photoshop we got into a discussion on if any Photoshop should be done to images before showing them to clients. I feel that before showing clients images, some work should be done so that you work is presented in it’s best light. Others felt that there is not enough time to do touch up work on each image and if they tell them work can be down later then everyone is happy. While I understand time constraints there should still be even just a small amount done just so your work will stand out from the photographers who don’t do anything. Plus in today’s world of digital photography some Photoshop is almost required by clients.
I came up with a very quick touch-up that takes just a few seconds and improves the look of what we old time photographers called proofs. Proofs were those images from a session, about 4x5 inches that clients would pick from for their orders. Since they were small, details were very hard to see so minor imperfections were not noticed and since we delivered larger images with all the touch up done these were forgotten quickly. Many photographers now either project digital images or show them on tack sharp large monitors where every pore and zit can stand out. My thought is that the first impression is the strongest one and if they see problems with their skin they are going to remember them even after your hard work touching them out. So I feel that it should look really good for both you and the client the first time. That way when they have their photo taken by someone who doesn’t go to the trouble of touch ups then they are going to think that you are just a better photographer in the first place.
So here is my tip for a 30 second touch up in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Keep in mind that with Photoshop you can create an action to do this and you are literally just taking seconds while in Elements it may take a few more seconds and you will have to do each one. But then that is why Photoshop is used by the pros that have to process hundreds of images daily and spent about $700 on this software and Photoshop Elements cost only about $90 and is meant to be used by normal people on just a few images at a time.
In Photoshop first, open image (and then start the recording and Action if you want to make really easy) and change the Background layer to an Smart Object with a right click and menu click on Convert to Smart Object. This will make the filter used a Smart Filter and allow for any changes if needed. Go to Filters>Blur>Surface Blur and use a moderate Radius of 10 to 12. Threshold can be 10 then click OK. Since the background image is now a Smart Object you will see the filter used under the image and a Layer Mask where painting with the brush tool and black you can quickly paint over the eyes, lips, hair and any jewelry for a bit more snap in the image. The reason I use the Surface Blur and not any of the other blurs is it will retain some the contrast and smooth just the smoother areas like normal skin. Be sure to stop the Action after you click OK on the filter and before you work on the layer mask. That way when you run it on a folder of images it will move quickly through them and you will just need to go back and do the masking on the images that need it. Also this action is not needed for the long shots since there is not enough detail to be seen.
For Elements users you too have a Surface Blur in your Filters but will have to do a little bit more since you do not have Actions or Smart Filters. First duplicate the background layer by either click and drag the layer to the new layer icon (square with the corner turned up) at the bottom of the layer pallet or right click and click on Duplicate Layer. You can also use the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl + J(or Command in Mac). One the new layer run the Filter>Blur>Surface Blur filter with the same settings as above. Then if you have Photoshop Elements 9 you can place a Layer Mask on it (Click on that square with the circle in it) and with the brush tool and black paint in the details. Or if you have an earlier version you can use the eraser tool to knock out parts of the blur layer.
This tip is not to replace all retouching but will improve the mass of images you show. You will still have to go back after the sale order and do a better job of touch up but then you just working a few images and not 30 to 40. And you have saved a ton of time and made more in your sales and reputation.