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Thursday, January 12, 2012

{photography with lei} working in photoshop: brightening eyes

Hello friends... hope everyone had fabulous holidays, and took lots of great photos.  If you've emailed me and I haven't had a chance to respond yet, please forgive me!  I took a few weeks off and am still playing catch-up!

Today we're going to delve a bit into photoshop.  For those of you who don't have photoshop, you might try GIMP.  I haven't ever used it but I hear it is pretty dang good, similar to photoshop and FREE.  Check it out HERE.

We're going to be brightening the eyes today, so find yourself a nice headshot to work with.  Here's mine:

Next you want to open an adjustment layer, like so:

*Click on Layer > Adjustment layer> Curves 

and click Ok.

Next you'll find over on the right side your two layers (labelled Background and Curves) as well as a window opened up with a grid and a diagonal line through it.  Yu can manipulate this line, and I want you to put your cursor right at the middle point and drag it up toward the upper left hand corner, as far as it will go.  That will make your picture look like this:

Don't freak out, it's all good.  Next you are going to find the tool box on the left side of the screen and down at the very bottom of this tools make sure the black square is on TOP of the white square.  This takes you back to your background layer.  Then above the back/white squares, find the paint bucket icon.  Click on it, then on your picture:

See?  Nothin' to worry about.  We are back to normal.  Only now you can reveal the funky curves layer underneath, the one we made crazy bright, ONLY where the eyes are.  Using your brush tool.  It's above the paint bucket you just clicked on.  But first you need to go back to the back/white overlapping squares and bring the white back to the top:

Now. When you click on your brush tool (go ahead and do that now) your tool bar is going to reveal a few different option.  First one, all the way over to the left, is used to select the type of brush you want, which is going to be Airbrush soft round.  Next to that, you can select the size and hardness of your brush.  Size it to fit inside the iris of your subjects eye.  TIP: there are shortcuts to change the size of your brush, on a MAC it is the "[" and "]" keys, which respectively increase and decrease brush size.  After you've got the right brush size, make sure the brush hardness is set to "0%".  Since we are working on such a small area, we want ) hardness - it is very forgiving should we go slightly outside the lines or something.  That's all the settings you need to worry about changing.  Mode: should be set to Normal.  Opacity: 100%.  And Flow: 50%.

Now the fun part.

Move your cursor over to the left eye and paint it using the brush tool:

Yes.  He looks psycho now.  Do the right eye as well.  Do it, trust me - we will fix Mr. Alien Eyes in just a sec.

Now, going back over to the right side in your layers box, you're going to reduce the opacity of what you've done to where you see fit.  As you can see mine is at 14%.

Once you're sure of how bright you want the eyes, by raising and/or lowering that opacity, click on Layer> Flatten Image.

Alright.  So the eyes are a bit brighter now.  But we want to make them shine, too.  So go back to Layer and scroll down and click Duplicate Layer.

Click Ok.  Then click on Filter> Other> High Pass.

Set the radius at 6.9 and click Ok.  Then over in the Layers box on the right again, where you see your background and duplicate background layer, you are going to change "Normal" to "Overlay".  

Then find this little icon at the very bottom of your Layers toolbox there and click on it:

Find your back/white overlapping boxes again over on the left side and bring black to the top again.  Click on the paint bucket, then on your image and we've done just what we did with the curves layer a bit ago when we were brightening the eyes.  We've overlapped our High Pass Filter Overlay layer with our Background Picture and can now reveal from underneath the shine, just as we did before with the brightening.  So we need that white box back on top again!

Stay with me here.  We are almost done!

Fun part, part 2:  select your brush tool again (settings stay the same) and paint over the irises one more time.  Revealing that shine.  Reduce your opacity to where you want it just like you did before:

You can see that mine is at 10%.  When you are sure of where you want yours to be, go back and flatten your image again:

Phew!  We made it.  Save your image with a different extension (add an "a" or something so you can see a side by side comparison in whatever folder you save it in!) so you don't override the original. 

Here's my side-by-side of a SOOC image (SOOC=straight out of camera) and the final product:

Obviously I did a few other things to this image, like take out the bar code on the ball, and generally pop the colors a bit.  I also sharpened the whole image up and added some contrast.  But look how much better the image on the right is.  It's very subtle, but it's there!  I'm all about subtle - and you should be too.  My advice:  don't overdo it on the eyes or any other form of post processing!  It's so easy to go overboard, especially when you really get the hang of it and see how cool of a trick this is.

I sure hope this was a helpful tutorial.  It's a bit of a step in a more advanced direction, for sure, so if you have any questions feel free to email them to me at  And I'll do my best to help you sort things out. :)

P.S. If you want to see more photos from this "Imagination Session", visit HERE!


Blogger Janine said...

Thanks for the tutorial. This was really helpful. I usually just use actions when I use photoshop.

January 12, 2012 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Lei said...

Janine - before I invested in actions, this is how I learned to do it. Side by side I still prefer this method, but you are right - there are many actions out there that you can use!

January 12, 2012 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger D said...

Thanks for the tutorial. Great directions! I ended up doing this and then fooling around with adjustment layers of saturation to make my eyes bluer. I put my before and after up at

January 12, 2012 at 10:16 PM  

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