Thursday, December 8, 2011

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part XIII - Using Presence Controls To Enhance The Eyes

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part XIV - Using Presence Controls to Smooth the Skin

In the previous parts of this Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial we've described how presence controls work in order for you to have a deeper understanding of what's going on during the development of your image. In this part of the tutorial we'll use some of these controls to slightly "enhance" the eyes of a model and make them "pop".

The Original Image

The original image was taken with a bounced flash: we decide to bounce the flash from the ceiling to achieve a softer and more diffused lightning but, sometimes, parts of your subject won't be sufficiently lightened. It's not generally a problem, since soft shadows are part of the effect we want to achieve with bounced flash, but sometimes we want eyes to be brighter. Because of their natural position and depending upon the lightning conditions (we usually avoid light to bounce directly on them), eyes are often poorly lit with a resulting loss of color saturation and natural look.

Original Image - Poorly Lit Eyes

In this example photo the effect is subtle: as an absolute value, you can consider eyes to be properly exposed. However, this is an effect of the slight overexposure I gave to the entire shot. If you have a look at the skin tone of the model, you'll realize that the key of this image if fairly high.

Tweaking the Iris

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom version 3 already comes with a brush that's suitable to enhance the iris. You can choose a Lightroom brush, or even create one of your own, selecting the brush icon just below the histogram (in the Develop module), and then choosing a brush from the drop-down menu.

Lightroom Irish Enhance Brush

Let's have a look at how this brush is defined and try to understand what's going on. Take into account that every image is different and that there's no silver bullet:
  • It raises the exposure of about 2/3 of an f-stop.
  • It raises the saturation.
  • It raises the local contrast (clarity).
Pretty intuitive, isn't it? The exposure compensation will make the iris brighter and the increased saturation will make its color pop. The local contrast enhancement is a subtler effect that might not be very visible depending on the iris. Remember from a previous post that local contrast is a technique used to add depth to an image raising the contrast only locally, without affecting the overall dynamic range. Depending on the dynamic range found in the iris, this adjustment will have a bigger or smaller effect. You'll probably notice it more in clear irises, such as blue eyes ones, where you often find radial "stripes" of different tones: clarity is going to make them really pop.

Tweaking the Sclera (the White of the Eye)

The sclera (the white of the eye) may be affected by the same problem: a slight underexposure. Other times it may be affected by problems that are even worse and it may appear not at all white. To quickly fix such a problem we can use a different brush with the following settings:

Custom Brush - Tweaking the White of the Eyes

What does this brush do? The following:

  • It raises the brightness.
  • It decreases the saturation.

As we recall from the previous post, raising the brightness is a way to brighten an image without affecting its white point. That's why this is one of the (few) cases in which I prefer to use brightness instead of exposure: the sclera, as well as teeth, may be already bright in your image. Raising the exposure of such a zone may clip some channels: for this reason, we choose to be conservative and raise the brightness instead. Decreasing the saturation is going to remove any color cast that your eyes may have, such as small rashes.

The Final Image

Here you can see the final image. You can notice how the irises are deeper and more saturated and the sclera, especially the one of the model's right eye, is brighter. The glance has more depth. The effect is subtle and it had better be: eyes are going to attract people's attention and you don't want to give them an unnatural look.

Final Image (Cropped)


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