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Enhancing portraits with Photoshop’s selective color tool

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Taya Ivanova
February 3, 2017 By Taya Ivanova
Enhancing portraits with Photoshop’s selective color tool www.sleeklens.com

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Oftentimes, simple portraits can look dull, forcing you to ignore them during the editing process. Equally often, such images, if edited properly, add a brilliant spark to your portfolio. The selective color tool in Photoshop is exceedingly valuable when it comes to portraits that don’t instantly stand out. This tool enables the photographer to alter specific colors in an image; this is especially helpful when the lighting or the hues in a photograph create an unflattering composition. If this feature is used carefully, the finished product will look naturally and beautifully enhanced. Eventually, you’ll find potential in almost any image, allowing you to add more diversity to your portfolio.

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The selective color tool can be found in 2 places:Image > Adjustments > Selective Color, or;
Adjustment layer icon > Selective Color
The second option will make the editing process much easier for you as it’ll provide a layer mask for removing unwanted corrections. If you want to focus on altering very specific areas of a subject’s face, this is the recommended option for you.
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Before you begin altering the colors, add a curve layer (Adjustment layer icon > Curves). This will give you more colors to work with, as unedited images can often look dull, especially ones that have been taken using artificial light. You can skip this part if your image has already been color corrected. For this portrait, I used the gradient map tool, which is a great way to increase a photograph’s contrast. This added more shades for me to alter and fix.

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I’d like the tones in the image to be cooler. As you can see, yellow is taking over the entire photograph.
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Now go to the adjustment layer icon, click Selective Color, and choose any colors whose shades you’d like to alter. In this image, I’d like to fix the yellow tones.

 

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These adjustments slightly changed the shadows, since the darker, yellow shades were lightened. To change this flat look, add a little more contrast using either curves or the gradient map tool.
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To make your portrait truly stand out, redden the subject’s lip color. Select the lips with the lasso tool (don’t worry about being accurate; in fact, leave some extra space around the mouth). Go to selective color (adjustment layer). The selection will vanish, allowing you to color correct without worrying about anything getting in the way.

 

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Once you’re happy with the colors, select the layer mask thumbnail and remove any unnecessary corrections using the paintbrush tool.
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If you feel the image could use an extra spark, add another selective color adjustment layer and alter the colors carefully. My image still looked too yellow, so I altered the neutral colors a little more.If you want to lessen the impact of a layer, lower the opacity (as pictured) for a milder effect.
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I also desaturated the image a little. Minor adjustments of the sort further enhance your photograph and let you feel more flexible as an artist.
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If you want to compare the finished results, create a folder by selecting all of your layers (click the first layer, hold Shift, and then click the last layer; drag the layers to the folder icon at the bottom). Now click the visibility icon to the left of your image (the eye) to compare your results.

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Finally, flatten your image. You can now retouch your photograph even more or leave it as it is if you’re happy with the results.

The Selective Color option is a valuable tool for color correctors and photographers alike. It gives portraits an attractive glow, gracefully fixes odd colors, and it naturally enhances a subject’s facial features. Using it will give you more creative freedom and more possibilities.

Good luck!

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Taya Ivanova
I'm an admirer of nature, a photographer, and a curious reader. Writing about photography and helping others improve is a growing passion of mine. My constant wish is to inspire others to be creatively fearless and endlessly curious.
"Always dream bigger is my advice to you, because you can have whatever your heart desires"
- Ashley Graham

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