Light in Your Eyes

I was thinking about some of the post production I regularly perform on portrait shots and thought I would share some of what I do. In no way am I an expert on these matters but this is one area I have found to be most useful in livening up some of these shots. A lot of times when photos are taken of people, the teeth and eyes come out dark due to the recessed areas in which they reside. This is a way to bring more light to those areas and have it look very natural as you are not changing any colors in the photo. I am using Photoshop CS4 in the creation of this tutorial, but this should work in any editing program where Layers, Masks, and some basic blending modes exist.

First let’s start with a photo.

Light in Your Eyes - Image 1

This is a picture of my second to youngest. As you can see this is a good example of the eyes being dark given the shadows created by the bush. There are still catch lights, and you can see the iris, and whites of both eyes. I’m not going to go into any levels or curves in this tutorial. This is specifically what I do in regards to the eyes and teeth (when they are visible).

Create a duplicate copy of the image (either by using Ctrl+J, or going to the Layer menu item and choosing duplicate layer from the drop down menu)

Light in Your Eyes - Step One - Duplicate Layer
Step One - Duplicate Layer

After you have your duplicate layer, change the blend mode from normal to screen. The photo should look exceptionally bright at this point.

Light in Your Eyes - Step Two - Blend in Screen
Step Two - Blend in Screen

From there you want to add a black layer mask. This will take away the brightness as you have just covered it up. The easiest way to add this mask is to hold the Alt key while clicking on the mask button in Photoshop.

Light in Your Eyes - Step Three - Add a Layer Mask
Step Three - Add a Layer Mask

The last stage in preparation is to duplicate the layer with the mask two or three more times and label each layer. The labels I use are Iris, Whites, Catch Lights, and Teeth (if the teeth are showing).

Light in Your Eyes - Step Four - Copies and Rename
Step Four - Copies and Rename

Ok, by this point we should have the background and three to four layers with each layer in the “Screen” blending mode and a black layer mask attached to each. From here we’re gonna paint away portions of the mask on each layer as labeled to allow the bright layer underneath the mask to shine through.

Make sure you are painting with white over the black mask

You will want to use a soft-edged brush so it blends better with the surrounding area not being allowed through

Magnify your photo to 300% or more so you have a better control of the area affected

The mask of the layer you are working on will need to be selected. Just click on it and a white border should surround the mask letting you know you have selected it

Paint the areas of the layers as labeled (whites stay with the eye whites, iris stick to the iris, etc…)

Light in Your Eyes - Step Five - Reveal
Step Five - Reveal

Now comes the part where things look weird for a minute. When you’re done with all layers zoom back out to where you can see the entire photo. The person should look a little freaky - as if someone found a way to use a black light in the Sun. From here we will make adjustments to bring things a little more into the realm of reality.

Light in Your Eyes - Image 7

You will need to select each layer and make adjustments as you go

Use the “Fill” rate and lower each layer from 100% to 0%

Now go back and raise each to an acceptable level. With the exception of the catch light layer (which I usually put at 100%) you will most likely never even come close to 50%

Light in Your Eyes - Step 6 - Fill Rates
Step 6 - Fill Rates

When you’re done you can flatten the image if you like or group the layers till you’re done with any other editing you have. Hope you enjoyed the tutorial.

Light in Your Eyes - Initial Image
Initial Image

Light in Your Eyes - Final Image
Final Image