If you’re shooting with soft lighting and a colorful backdrop, it’s all too common to find a bit of color affecting the subject—green backgrounds make them look sickly, orange makes them glow, stuff like that. In this tutorial, Michael Woloszynowicz shows off a handy little tip that avoids Photoshop’s messy trial-and-error color balance correction:
As he points out, the original image is simply too orange. The subject looks like she just came from a tanning salon:
To offset this, sample the skin color from a highlighted part of the face. Hit alt + command + delete to fill the image with a mask of that color. Then click the layer filter and change it to color, so it looks something like this:
Now the trick: inverse it. Hit command + control + I to inverse the colors, so that you can offset the balance of the predominant color. Lower the opacity to something under 10 percent so it looks subtle.
Lastly, Michael recommends creating two such layers—isolating one for highlights and one for shadows; their color differences are subtle, but the result will be cleaner.
To do this, double click the layer, and where it says Underlying layer at the bottom, grab the shadow slider, click alt to split it in two and clip out the dark mid-points. Then repeat the entire process again, but this time use the eyedropper on a shadowed skin tone and split the Underlying layer slider down from the highlights so it only affects the shadows.
The result will look something like this:
For comparison, the original image:
As you can see, the final product is less overly vibrant but much more realistic given her actual skin color. It’s a subtle change, but it makes the difference between pro and amateur digital editors.
While Photoshop is often used as a tool to enhance reality and create unrealistic beauty standards, pro photographers would do well to keep it in check and do the opposite sometimes—use it to control the unrealism that digital cameras capture on their own.
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