Bring Out the Freckles
I have to admit, I’m a bit ga ga over freckles. While I notice my son’s freckles in real life, they often do a disappearing act in photos. Let me lead you through a black and white process that is freckle friendly. This black and white conversion is not for all pictures. It’s a once-in-awhile deal to have in your arsenal. I’ve outlined quite a few steps. If you are a beginner I suggest just paying attention to the first couple steps of this photo editing tutorial and letting the others go for now. So here we have the straight out of camera shot taken in my kitchen with his face looking towards a naturally lit window. I will be using Adobe Photoshop CS3 for editing.
Step #1| Convert
Go to your layers palette and choose the ‘Black & White’ option.
Look at all those sliders. You can adjust by hand right from here if you desire. This feature is commonly used to darken blue skies in black and white conversions. Easy does it: if you slide things too much in can turn ugly. The image below is without any adjustments and looks pretty flat.
Step #2| Filter
I’m going to choose a Black and White preset filter for this photo. Go to the drop down menu and choose the ‘Blue Filter’ to get those freckles bursting. Now try ‘High Contrast Blue Filter’. Ahh, leprosy! Go back, I repeat, go back! The blue filter can also be a great option to bring out the manliness in a male portrait depending on their skin tone. The sliders are all adjustable if you need to scale back the blue filter. This filter also lightens blue eyes and can result in alien eyes. Just ease those blue sliders down if that’s the case. Moderation is key.
Step #3| Lighten up
The photo is looking dark. Time for a curve bump. I’ve chosen the “Curves” option in the layers pallete and plotted out two points to lighten things up with some contrast as pictured below.
Step #4| Cleaning up!
Make sure all layers are flattened at this point. [From the Layer drop-down menu across the top of the screen, choose Flatten.] I used the healing tool to fix a small blemish on my back and then used the clone tool to cover a messy part in my hair. I also cleaned up a few spots on the wall and cropped out the rest. If I wanted to get really crazy I could have used the liquify tool to smooth the hair lumping out the side of my head. Lets not even go there. Liquify is terrifying and may result in hate mail.
Step #5| Sharpen up
There are several ways to sharpen a photo when editing, but I love to use the high pass filter. Start by duplicating the background layer (Ctrl J). Select the top layer then go to Filter> Other > Highpass. For this image I used a radius of 4.3. You basically just need to move the slider up until there is a light basic outline showing in the image (see below). Then change the top layer to “Soft Light’ mode and flatten. If it’s too sharp just down the opacity to taste before flattening.
Step #6| Getting edgy
This is looking satisfactory, but like I said, I’m head over heels for freckles. There is a way to bring out texture a step up from basic sharpening. Duplicate your layer and choose highpass filter one more time. This time crank up the radius a bit more. I used a radius of 18. Choose the ‘Soft Light’ mode as we did above and then add a layer mask. Fill it with black and then paint white anywhere you want the texture (freckles in our case) to show through. Remember you can use your opacity slider to tone down the whole layer if needed.
Step #7| Soften up
Now I’m just getting picky. But if there is one thing that drives me nuts about some photos is the blacks are so black and the whites so white. Go to “Selective Color” in the layers palette. Choose “Blacks” in the drop down box and slide the black slider down a bit. I did -7. Next choose ‘Whites’ from the drop down box and move the black slider up a few notches. I did +7. It was looking a little muddy so I chose an opacity of around 35% on this layer and then flattened.
And the Final Image!
And here’s the Before & After so you can compare:
Maryanne Gobble is a Fine Art Photographer located in Redding, CA. She used to squint her eyes in the mirror as a kid in an effort to erase her freckles. Now she wants them back. Follow her on Facebook or check out what inspires her on Pinterest.