Jan 15, 2015

How to Retouch a Dramatic Male Headshot in Photoshop

If you’d like to follow along, click HERE to download the image from this episode!

To see this episode’s prequel which includes our DIY lighting kit and on-set instruction, click HERE!

In today’s episode, learn How to Retouch a Dramatic Male Headshot in Photoshop! Fix blemishes and redness, and add classic color styling to your photographs!

Blemishes & Imperfections

To begin, use the healing brush tool to clean up small imperfections on the skin. Sample points that have a desirable texture and then paint over the unwanted spots. We recommend keeping permanent aspects of the face in the image, such as moles and scars in some cases.


Color variation is very common is people’s skin, and it’s usually just a slight red tone that needs to be fixed. To target that skin tone, create a new hue/saturation layer and change the menu from Master to Reds. Crank the hue and saturation up to a crazy bright color (we go for green). You should see the red blotchiness of the skin showing through as a different color. Now, slide the bottom slider so that it fills in those areas with green. Then, change the hue and saturation to zero and slowly drag the hue slider to counteract the red.


Time to add some subtle glow! Create a new Levels Layer. For a nice stylized look, select different channels and slide the black levels slider to the left. It will brighten and color the blacks in the image.

Next, put an inverse mask over the layer so that it’s invisible. Select the gradient tool and paint white from the center of the image. A glow will show up from your levels layer. You can mask out the glow over the subject as well.

As you can see, the final result is refined compared to the first image. The skin has been cleaned up a bit and there is no redness to be found. The slightly blue shadows and yellow highlights compliment each other well. The subject no longer blends into the background so much. He’s ready for his close up!


user image You
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    Dave MacKenzie

    I think you should keep a lint roller on-hand, or else retouch out those specks on his clothes. They’re the first thing my eye goes to in this picture.

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    Sergio piñeros martinez

    Sr. Aaron, gracias por sus tutoriales, mi pregunta es Porque en general las chaquetas o camisas de los modelos son negras.
    Eso ayuda en la edicion?

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    Alexander - Fotograf aus Freising

    This is an awesome tutorial. Thank you, you are the greatest.

    Take care


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    Bob Major

    Really enjoyed following along as you edited this portrait. Hope available downloads are going to be a regular occurrence this year. Super idea!

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    First – thanks for including the practice file. That is really helpful!

    I followed your Quick Start guide and based on your recommendations, changed my color space to ProPhotoRGB. However, if I try to open the sample file for this tutorial in that, the image is a hot mess and the color corrections you applied make the skin tones much worse. The original image looks “correct” (or better) at sRGB when doing this tutorial. Help!

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    Excellent tutorial, Aaron, as is usual in you. I especially liked the same technique used with the central gradient. I’ll get to work.

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    Hi,If your model has a lot of freckles on his face, which is how to remove it? I hope you can out of a related tutorial, thank you

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    Another informative tutorial. I actually shot a portrait after viewing your lesson, and applied the look to the it. Obviously, I went with a different lighting setup. Very happy with it. Thanks again.

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    Paul Lasky

    Truthfully Aaron, I can see no or minuscule difference in this HL adj. layer treatment from the posted shots. The purported “Glow” effect is also too small to show up as an improvement. Why not just use the time-tested dual frequency technique on male head shots ?

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    Robert Collins

    Idea for a Phlearn tutorial. I have a lot of problem with hair (especially black hair as I live in Asia). Essentially black hair tends to be very black without much shine or detail (and pushing the shadows just tends to bring out grey). Also the edge of the hair tends to come out jagged especially when you get rid of the flyaways. Solutions (image attached)

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    i like your tutorials Aaron and i learnt a lot of things from you.
    it’s simple idea, i hope u like it .

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    Red Green Colorblind 🙁 I’m have a little trouble seeing what you are doing with the facial reds. any help?

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    I recently did head shots for the local sheriff’s department. They wanted the deputies photographed from about mid-chest so you could see their badges and name tags. The problem is that their brown shits are not all the same color brown. Some are faded and they’re not all from the same manufacturer. I’m afraid the difference is going to be really noticeable when the photos are hanging on the wall next to each other. Is their a simple way to match the shirt colors without changing the skin tones in the photos?

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    This tutorial was great! Was able to apply it to one of my own images.