Images by Brad » Beauty Exposed

Beauty Image Retouching

I recorded the following video as a time lapse screen capture of my retouching workflow for high-end retouching of portrait and beauty images. See below for the finished image and details of the stages in my workflow…

I shot this image in the studio with studio lighting, shooting tethered to Capture One Pro, which did the RAW conversion and then into Adobe Photoshop CC 2014. The video compresses just under 3 hours of retouching into this 3:30 video, highlighting the steps in my processes as I go from the original image (RAW conversion) to the final in Photoshop.

Images by Brad - Beauty retouching - Brad Scott

The final retouched image

Note that I intentionally used an image that wasn’t the best image available; particularly in terms of hair and to a lesser degree makeup, so I could demonstrate the retouching elements.


The steps in this workflow are:

  1. skin clean-up
  2. liquify
  3. frequency separation
  4. dodge & burn
  5. hair cleanup
  6. enhance the eyes
  7. sharpen lips
  8. colour grading

Skin Clean-up

Using the healing brush mostly to clean up skin blemishes, removing the unwanted blemishes while retaining natural skin texture. At no stage is any sort of skin blurring used!


Used here mostly to shape the hair and push in the ear and chin a little to balance the overall shape.

Frequency Separation

Frequency separation splits the high-frequency detail (i.e. texture) from the low frequency detail (i.e. colour & tone) so they can be worked on separately. On the skin I’m only working on the low frequency or under the high-frequency layer to preserve the skin texture. Again, no skin blurring – we want all that texture intact!

Using a paint brush with low flow, I paint on a transparent layer to even out the skin tones.

On the high-frequency layer I remove some details in the whites of the eyes – like the red blood vessels.

Dodge & Burn

skin tone - retouched skin - retouching by Brad ScottHere we’re using dodge & burn to:

  • fix skin tones
  • contour the face and body
  • make the hair shine

All dodging and burning is done with curves adjustment layers. On the Fix layers, the objective is to even out the skin tones for the fine details as wells as the global view. That’s why you see the image zooming in and out to work on different levels of detail. You’ll also notice that the image is generally in black and white when working on skin tones, as this helps the eye see the tone issues better (removing the colour). I often use a black & white adjustment layer that drops the reds and yellows, which tends to exaggerate the issues in skin tones, so they are easier to see.

Contouring the skin is the next stage when dodge & burn is used to create localised contrast to create form or depth. Generally the natural highlights and shadow areas are added to where we want to emphasise the 3 dimensional form of that area.

Next dodge & burn is used to bring out the highlights in the hair, making it shine and giving it shape.

Hair Clean-up

Then the clone stamp and some healing is used to remove the distracting cross hairs and fill in areas that look patchy or distracting. The hair in the original shot is not that great, but the idea was to take this image and make it an acceptable image. The detail that goes into a hair retouch, where the hair is the focus is a lot more of the same and we would obviously start with a much cleaner image.

Retouching the eyes - retouching by Brad ScottEnhance the Eyes

The detail in the eye is brought out with a high-pass filter using overlay blending mode (or sometimes linear light) first and then the iris lightened under the catch-light in the eye to make it pop. The same high-pass filter is used to sharpen some details around the eye.

Sharpen lips

Another high-pass filter layer with overlay blending mode is used to bring out some detail in the lips that I though would make sense in this image.

Colour Grading

In the colour grading I desaturated the skin tones by the smallest amount; added a touch of contrast, to make the image pop a bit more without feeling like any detail was lost and then used selective colour adjustment layers to shift the colour of the shadows and highlights independently – adding personal style to the final image.

Photography & Retouching by Brad Scott

Other Images from this shoot

Portrait photography by Brad Scott - Images by Brad

Fashion photography by Brad Scott - Images by Brad

Fashion photography by Brad Scott - Images by Brad

Beauty photography by Brad Scott - Images by Brad

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