Originally Posted by Phaeton
Ey! A fun 20 min challenge! I'll give it a go!
Like others have said, the healing/cloning/DB way would be the easier route to take. And probably the quickest.
It's nowhere near what I'd call "bad skin".
Don't overcomplicate it; though when cloning or healing areas around the eyes, one should be mindful to follow the patterns of the skin quite carefully.
And unlike kav, I do DB at much smaller magnifications rather than 100%.
I do a lot of the detail work at 100% as it's fully uninterpolated that way. It is important to be careful when viewing things large, as it's possible to lose context. I don't typically zoom in past 100%. Some of the lighting work can be done out further. It's just that when I've tested the smoothness of my strokes when working zoomed out, I'm not always happy enough with the accuracy and if I have to redo things because of it, it just kills any time saved. I just thought I'd explain. I usually suggest turning off any sharpening and avoiding too much contrast in the skin before doing anything weird like the OP suggested (something about noise). I agree that this isn't actually bad skin.
Originally Posted by edgework
I think everyone could agree that the original image was aclear example of "bad skin." What it takes to make it good is mostly dependent on what the client wants. Creative direction is everything in this work, and, unfortunately, it usually moves in reverse: they don't know what they want, but they'll know what they don't want, after they see it. Eventually the options get whittled away until what's left is the desired goal.
Kav's result is certainly valid, for certain applications. My sample was more in the way of showing what could be done: whether it should be done is a whole different question, one that I wait for the client to answer.
I never liked things to look too smooth. I'm also considering the context. This appears to be a crop, and the final may contain a lot of the face. Even makeup ads will often show some of the larger levels of skin texture, but they'll be in context. Typically pores on the cheek are some of the larger ones. When you see this along with the rest of the face, they no longer look so gigantic. It's more of a psycho optic trick than anything here. I only spent maybe 5-7 minutes at most on it, and I tried to preserve the curvature in a couple areas. Anyway it's just an explanation.
By the way, regarding creative direction, you have to be careful. If you take it in a direction they don't like, some art directors won't know what to say. If they aren't being very clear, it's easy to start with obvious things. If the skin is too red, or the subject has acne, unless there's a clear reason for this to be part of the shot, you are safe in removing such distractions. I would not double the length of someone's lashes if it wasn't on a list of requests. I would straighten a belt or hide hair extensions without being asked.