Smoother Skin In Minutes

If you want to be a portrait photographer—whether pro or weekend warrior—you need to know how to light a person for soft and flattering lighting. You also need to know how to create the soft-focus look in the digital darkroom. The opening picture for this column started out as a sharp shot and then was softened in Photoshop. In the digital darkroom, there are many techniques for creating the soft-skin look. Let’s look at my favorites.


First, duplicate the layer: Layer > Duplicate Layer. With the top layer activated (click on it in the Layers palette), change the Blending Mode to Overlay.


Go to Filter > Other > High Pass. In the High Pass window, note that the higher the resolution of your image, the greater you need to increase the Radius.


Next, press Cmd+I (or Ctrl+I), which inverts what you just did. If your image is too soft, you can reduce the soft effect by decreasing the Opacity of the top layer.

Use the Eraser tool over the eyes, eyebrows, lips and hair to reveal the sharper image be-low. For more control with your Eraser tool, set the Opacity in the Menu bar at the top of the screen to 50%. Doing so allows you to erase at a slower speed. That’s it!

Or, use a plug-in. The aforementioned technique gives you individual control over what’s soft and what’s sharp in your picture, but it does take some time to master. Following are two plug-ins that offer a skin-softening technique with a single click of a mouse (or tap of a stylus). Have fun, as always, using these techniques!

Nik Software Color Efex Pro > Dynamic Skin Softener (

Topaz Adjust > Portrait Smooth Effect (

Rick Sammon’s specialty is not specializing. Lately, however, he has been focusing on portraiture. His latest app, Light It!, is all about how to get the best in-camera portrait without spending a small fortune on accessories. Go to

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