Airbrushed to beautiful

What is beauty? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is skin deep. Beauty is …

Dean Sherwood is the first photoblogger I’ve come across who linked to the campaign for real beauty video by Dove. He says he feels slightly hypocritical for posting it because it deals with the process of creating the image of a beautiful woman from make-up to photoshop trickery.


I understand how he feels but I have never felt bad about enhancing a photo. I don’t have the skill to do as good a job as they did in that video! Artists throughout the ages have made their subjects more beautiful. We get hot and bothered about it now because what they do is so much more accessible to the masses.

This video is manipulating you and making you think in a certain way. At the beginning of the video the woman’s face is in shadow. Bright lights are turned on one at a time, she’s not smiling, her hair isn’t even combed in a flattering manner. If she smiled I’m sure that face would glow with radiance.

Long before marketing and the fashion industry created the size 0 model men and women have made themselves up. Nature loves beauty. Does the peacock not display his feathers to attract a mate?

If you wonder if photos should be processed, read Who’s in Charge? You or the Camera? The camera rarely gets it right so you have to adjust the image until it matches what you saw in your mind’s eye. You should be in control.

Do I agree with Dove’s campaign? Yes, of course I do.

fountain-of-youth-thumb.jpg Here’s a very dramatic example of what can be done with a computer and some time and patience: Fountain of youth. It’s kind of scary what can be done!

The Dove advert is on YouTube now so I can embed it here:


Airbrush a pretty girl

You may have seen this already, it’s on delicious, but it’s something I’ll read over later so I want to mention it. This airbrush tutorial is very detailed, showing each step with accompanying screenshots.
The result is quite a stunning image in the Playboy tradition of perfect skin and tones. Fake but it’s what people want!

I posted a similar touch-up tutorial a few months ago, but it concentrated on general techniques for giving a portrait more punch.

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