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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Shadowless lighting without a ring light

If you’re a photographer, you’ve probably seen fashion images shot with a right flash to achieve that characteristic wrap-around shadowless light, popularised in the 80’s. You’ll often see these images with strange circular catch-lights seen in the subjects eyes. I’ve been a little intrigued by this look, but it’s a little harsh in most instances and could often flatten out the image somewhat. That, coupled with the fact that ring flash setups are pretty specialist and fairly expensive, I was never that interested to go out and purchase one myself.

There has been a revival of the ring light in a few different forms over time, more recently from Dani Diamond a writer for fstoppers with a home-made DIY continuous light setup. Have a look at Behind the Ringlight. Also a setup popularised by New York headshot and portrait photographer Peter Hurley used 4 Kino Flo light banks positioned in a square formation, wrapping the subject in light.

I tried a different setup to achieve this shadowless look, although it is a somewhat softer one, having used a larger effective light source…

Photography by Brad Scott - Beauty portrait

Technically this wasn’t a ring light at all as it is reflected light. Here’s the setup we used that day:

Ring light like reflector boardRing light like reflector board

It’s basically a polystyrene board taped to the c-stand with a lens sized hole cut in it. The subject was seated on the yellow stool pictured above. I generally shoot with strobes, so in this test I simply and haphazardly pointed two different strobes back at the reflector panel, bouncing the light back towards the subject, ensuring the angle was such that no direct light would hit the lens (creating flare) or spill directly onto the subject. The background is lit by the same light source and some of the light that gets past the reflector and bounces around the studio.

To be honest I can’t take 100% credit for the setup as I found the reflector panel with the hole already cut in it and decided to give this a try. I shoot in a studio shared by some other photographers, so I just used what I found that day. Thank you whoever you are for the idea!

The image shown here is shot with a 50mm prime lens. Ask me any questions in the comments below.

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Inner Warrior Fitness

For this shoot I wanted to craft an image from concept through to the final product. Initially Nathan contacted me to get a profile shot of Tania, who had recently joined him at Inner Warrior Fitness to work as a personal trainer beside him. They work with their clients running tailored personal fitness programs and run bootcamp sessions with small groups.

I had an idea to do a little bit more than a straight profile shot and create some images that were to be a little more gutsy, showing the dedication they put into their training and something a little aspirational for their clients. Thankfully they were very much all for it.

With the help of Kelly from Simply Beauty Studio we setup the shoot in the studio. Kelly, I think we’re getting the sweaty look down now;)

Nathan and Tania really gave me want I needed after getting Nath to hold heavy weights by his side for lengthy periods of time – sorry mate! I guess it was good motivation to give me what I was asking for quickly:)

Nathan & Tania - Inner Warrior Fitness - Photography by Brad Scott

I shot Nathan’s gym separately with the intention of dropping Nathan and Kelly into the scene. I was pretty happy with the final result as I know they were. The result was pretty close to what I had conceptualised in the end…

Tania & Nathan - Inner Warrior Fitness - Photography by Brad Scottnath-iwf-profiletania-iwf-profile

Inner Warrior Fitness:
Simply Beauty Studio:

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The Mighty Moustache

If you’ve been keeping track of my Facebook page you would have noticed rather a lot more moustaches than you would usually see on my page during the month of November. This is because I was running a little competition to help do my bit for Movember this year. Here are some of the faces who entered to do their bit for men’s health:

Images by Brad Movember facebook competition entries

Given I wasn’t actually participating in growing a mo this moustache season, I decided to have a bit of fun by getting a few lads to post a photo of themselves to my page so I could pick a winning entry; shoot them in a spoof photo to help raise their profile and get a few more donations. Of course I would donate $50 myself to the winner’s Movember campaign. Before we get started on the spoof I shot this year and to be sure I’m committed to the cause, here’s my very own spoof of moustache crusader Chuck Norris from a previous year:

Movember Chuck Norris - Brad Scott - self portrait

And the winner of the competition was… Benjamin Sutherland… One true die hard Movember campaigner, raising over $1000 in donations this year! I decided to make him Clint Eastwood – of course.

Benjamin Sutherland - Movember spoof - Clint Eastwood - Images by Brad

Well done on a great campaign and doing your bit for men’s health; funding cancer research and raising awareness about mental health issues.

Benjamin Sutherland - Movember portrait - Images by Brad

Benjamin Sutherland – Movember Portrait

Benjamin’s mospace:

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This week I hit the road to photograph an up-and-coming and extremely talented food photographer Sophia Terra-Ziva.

Sophia Terra-Ziva - Images by Brad - Food Photographer

Sophia asked me to come and take some profile pictures of her for her website / blog and also for some an impending press exposure she will be getting very soon. It was a delightful morning spent at Sophia’s house / studio. Her home is also her husbands steel fabrication workshop, which seems to work perfectly doubling as a studio for the style of food photography Sophia does. It has an definite edge to it – being real, honest and accentuating texture and earthy tones. She showed me all her prized props; a remarkable collection of mortar and pestles, colanders, bowls and serving platters, all with their own rustic charm – a photographers delight! Of course she cooks most of what she shoots, so she’s talented in the kitchen also:)

Sophia Terra-Ziva - Spices

Sophia Terra-Ziva - Images by Brad - Food Photographer - behind the scenes

Sophia Terra-Ziva - Images by Brad - Food Photographer

Be sure to check out Sophia’s website

Vesela Grigorova - October 19, 2013 - 7:14 am

She is realy talented!!

Vesela Grigorova - October 19, 2013 - 7:16 am


Teodora Aleksieva Ivanova - October 19, 2013 - 1:04 pm

Sophi you own it ,style that is distinct is the signature of the talant

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