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Ethereal glow while retaining skin texture

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Old 02-28-2009, 04:32 AM
feppe feppe is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Posts: 11
Ethereal glow while retaining skin texture

I'm new to the forum (hi!). I've been doing travel/landscape photography for 10 years or so, and have relatively recently started doing portraits - and have further ambitions in that direction. Over the years I've found advice on this site very useful, and thought it is time to start contributing. So here we go!

I've been trying to find a way to get a dreamy, romantic glow on a portrait, while retaining skin texture for a while now. I know it's a bit of a non-sequitur, but hey, one can try. And I'm getting there!

For the glow effect, I'm using a neat PS action called Dave Beaman's Ethereal Glow which I downloaded somewhere a while back - quick googling shows it's still widely available. For getting back texture I'm using a technique by Des I found on Luminous Landscape forums recently.

Here's the process in PS:

- Save original background layer
- Spotting
- I use Kodak GEM Airbrush to smooth skin - in this step I'm mostly concerned fixing blotches and blemishes and not too worried about texture, so you can use whatever method you prefer to get rid of such imperfections
- Bring back texture - this is Des's technique, and numbers vary widely between images (I switched the order of D and C):
A: Dupe the B/Ground Layer
B: Filter> Other > HiPass set say 15px( 5-20)
D: Invert
C: Gaussian Blur> say 3-8 Px [I use Smart Filter as this is a critical step which can cause wacky results]
F: Change blend Mode to Linear Light and add BLACK layer Mask
G: Brush the the skin where you want smoothness but texture in WHITE
[H: Adjust opacity as needed]
- Dave's Ethereal Glow - make two copies
- Take most texture-filled channel from Bring Back Texture step above (usually blue), and use as mask for Ethereal Glow layers
- Inverse mask for one Glow layer
- Apply an S-curve on the mask histograms to punch through only the hilight/shadow in each mask
- (optional) Apply Gaussian Blur on the masks for the glow filters - try this to see if it helps. The more blur, the more ethereal the glow.

This way you get two glow channels - shadows and highlights. You can tweak their balance and opacity accordingly.

Below an example of a portrait, first without glow, second with, and 100% crops. I have used more glow on the shadows (50% opacity vs. 30% in highlights), as this brings out the cheeks nicely and avoids overly flattening the image. As you can see, the texture is not visible in the screen-res versions, but it is in the full-sized versions. I haven't had time to print this out to see if it works out, or if I need to tone down the glow.

Skin tone corrected by numbers - but I'm curious to hear whether it looks ok.

I know this is not to everyone's liking, but I'm going for a very specific look. I'm keen to hear what you think, and if there's a better or a different way to reach the same result! All other input on the PP work very welcome - I'm quite new to this and would really appreciate tips and hints to make this better!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Glow-crop.jpg (50.4 KB, 82 views)
File Type: jpg No-Glow-crop.jpg (54.4 KB, 80 views)

Last edited by feppe; 03-06-2009 at 12:04 PM.
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