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Improve any portrait

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Your essential guide to the tools, techniques and tricks that can take your people photos to the next level.

Straight out of your camera, your portraits will often benefit from a few Photoshop edits and enhancements.

Retouching is part of it, but other factors are equally important – like the tonal choices you make and whether you choose to crop in tighter or not.

In this feature, we explain some of the most essential edits – the kind of techniques you can use to good effect on practically any portrait image. First we take an in-depth look at cropping for portraits, and explain how to crop with clipping masks for a perfectly balanced triptych.

We go on to explore essential tonal tricks for portraits, from enhancing colors to altering the mood. We also explain the basics of retouching, give you a masterclass in skin softening techniques and put Photoshop CC’s FaceAware Liquify tools through their paces.

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Find out about Adobe’s latest 3D editing software for beginners

Improve your composition

Cropping is an essential skill for any portrait photographer  – but where are the best places to do it?

Unless you want all your portraits to be full-length, you’ll need to crop into the body. But choosing the right place to make your incisions can be the difference between a professional-looking portrait and an awkward mess.

Of course, the best way to crop is to compose perfectly with your camera. This’ll give you the highest resolution possible and save time cropping later. But often when shooting people – especially more tricky subjects like children – there’s simply no time to frame everything perfectly.

In fact, framing a little loosely when shooting portraits may give you more options later when it comes to cropping in Photoshop, especially if the intended output is a different aspect ratio like an 8×10 or square.

Over the next few pages we’ll explore the key guidelines for cropping portraits. These aren’t set in stone: where you crop will be determined by the person, the pose, your lens, what’s in focus and so on. But they’re a useful set of starting points…

Cropping do’s and don’ts…

When you crop into a person’s body, you want clean lines without distracting or messy details around the edge of the image. Some crop points work better than others…

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Adding 3D models.
  • Don’t crop at the neck: crop into the shoulders
  • Crop just below the armpits, not at the wrists
  • Don’t crop at fingers, wrists or knuckles. Crop above       elbows.
  • Don’t crop at the crotch: crop above the knees.
  • Don’t crop off the feet. Crop into the shins, not the calves.
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