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Post-processing techniques in Adobe Photoshop can be used to enhance portraits after they have been taken. Here are some fairly simple yet effective Adobe Photo shop tips that you can apply to your own pictures.
Vignetting is the darkening of the corners of an image. This can be an effective way to bring the viewer’s focus to the center of the image, where the subject is. Traditionally photographers used a snoot or grid to light the center part of the background where the subject appears, rendering the corners and edges darker.
In the Adobe Camera RAW dialog box, the Lens Vignetting slider is moved to the left in order to darken the corners. To soften this effect (similar to using a Feather command) you can move the Midpoint slider to the left.
Dodging and Burning
Dodging refers to lightening parts of an image, while burning refers to darkening. This is a useful technique to selectively expose your image in exactly the amounts desired. For example, some photographers use this technique to darken the surroundings of a portrait in order to de-emphasize the background, leaving the subject very distinctly presented to the viewer.
During the days when I used to print black and white film in the darkroom, dodging and burning was performed by using a card to lessen or increase exposure in the darkroom.
In the Adobe Camera RAW dialog box (Photoshop CS4 onwards) you can use the Adjustment Brush tool (on the top left corner) to perform dodging and burning. To dodge, adjust the Exposure slider to the right. To burn, adjust the slider to the left. Alternatively the Dodge tool and the Burn tool are available as separate tools on the Toolbar in Adobe Photoshop.
Local Contrast Enhancement
The Local Contrast Enhancement technique is used to increase the clarity of the edges of an image, especially if the subject appears on a similar colored background, eg. white dress against a white sky. Coincidentally this technique appears in the Adobe Camera RAW dialog box as the Clarity slider.
Local Contrast Enhancement is done using the Unsharp Mask command in Photoshop. My settings are: Amount 20%, Radius 60, Threshold 0. This is different from the usual Unsharp Mask that we use to sharpen images, which typically use these settings: Amount 50%, Radius 1, Threshold 0.
Beware of over-using this technique as it may render overly dark and distinct edges in a picture.
Learning to do these yourself
I have found that watching a video tutorial really helps me absorb whatever is being taught. This is the approach that Kent Weakley uses in his 31 Days to Understanding Photoshop. The lessons are interactive, as they are accompanied by follow-along work files to help you get the most out of the topics covered: