Many years ago I was fooling around with Photoshop when I noticed that a particular combination of filter and blend amounted to a quick and easy photo enhancement technique, which at the time I christened the "Make Pretty" filter. I have never seen a portrait photo which couldn’t be substantially improved using this technique (especially if it was taken using a flash).
The photo below was taken at a dinner a couple of weeks ago, and before processing is typical of the sort of photo that I hate because it makes me look like a pasty git. After processing I think maybe it’s worth keeping, especially because it is almost impossible to find a photo of me smiling.
Three easy steps to making [white] people look better using Photoshop:
Adjust levels and move mid point to lighten the shadow areas (in over-exposed shots you may need to darken rather than lighten).
Apply a Gaussian blur with a radius such that facial features are still discernable but small details (eg a zit or greasy highlight) are smoothed out. Depending on image size this could be anywhere from 3 to 16 pixels.
Use Edit->Fade and set the blend mode to overlay and the opacity to somewhere between 40% and 70%
-> -> ->
The actual numbers will vary from image to image, but the process is fairly straightforward after you’ve experimented a bit. The net result seem to be that the blurred version combines with the original in such a way as to bring out facial structure and color while de-emphasizing surface detail. The above sample was processed with a blur of 3 pixel radius and a 70% overlay blend. I also cheated a little and desaturated my teeth in this case, but that step isn’t essential to achieve an improvement.
Using values 70% or higher for step 3 you will see significant saturation of colors, to the point where you might want to reapply the original colors (keeping the luminosity from the new image).
Hmmm I think I’ll avoid posting any more pictures of myself for a while, since looking back over recent posts I’m starting to seem a little obsessive over my appearance…
BTW I’m not planning to make a habit of OSX’ing my images– I just like experimenting in Photoshop to reproduce various effects.