Simple steps to photo touch-up

In this post I’m going to show you how to go post-process this image:
By the end, we’ll have an image that looks like this:

This tutorial was created using the GIMP, but it’s equally applicable to your favourite editing software as long as it has the same tools. Photoshop, and other editing software should work equally well.
The steps described here are worth practising, and will apply equally well to any portrait!

First of all, I came across this photo on Flickr through my contacts page. Here’s the original photo, and Ayhtnic kindly let me use her image.

After you load the image, the first thing to do is use Auto Levels from the Layer->Colors menu. This tool alone does wonders for most photos, especially if they’ve been captured as Jpeg straight from the camera.

The image is a little noisy so let’s clean it up a bit. Use Selective Gaussian Blur from the Filters->Blur menu. Use small values as we just want to smudge the noise away without losing too much detail. A radius of 3, and delta of 10 worked fairly well here.
Let’s brighten it a bit and add contrast. Use the Curves tool from Layers->Colors for this. The classic “S” shape always adds life to a photo.
Open the Layers dialog and duplicate the background layer.
Select the new layer (called “background copy” here) and use the Curves tool again to brighten this layer a lot.
With the same layer selected (the top one, the “background copy”), we’ll apply some blur. Open up the Gaussian Blur tool, it’s in Filters->Blur. Apply a blur of 5 pixels to the top layer. Don’t worry, we’re not finished!
We’re going to change the “mode” of the top layer now. With the top layer selected, click on the drop down box that says “Normal” and scroll down to “Soft Light”. You can also try other modes, they’ll make for interesting photos!
Notice how the image suddenly changed?
Even with the nice glowing effect, the image looks indistinct. Let’s sharpen the bottom layer. Select that layer in the Layers dialog and load the “Unsharp Mask” filter. This is in Filters->Enhance->Unsharp Mask.
Don’t apply too much sharpening. Make it subtle. The settings in the screenshot work well.

All that’s left is to save the image, save it with a quality setting of 92%. Don’t bother with higher as it’s practically impossible to see any difference in quality.


The finished photo

Black & White Recipes

Here’s a long list of channel mixer settings to emulate various black & white films. I used the high contrast setting for the photo below but the different types of film create interesting effects.

It’s worth checking them out, but don’t get hung up on them – one setting will suit one particular type of shot while another will suit others.