How Do You Fix Bad Skin Tones In Photographs?

One of the trickier tasks in tweaking digital photographs is dealing with human skin tones; go too far and everyone looks like they've been attacked by aliens. How do you deal with fixing pictures where people are a prominent feature?

Digital photography guru Helen Bradley offers some useful tips on fixing up skin tones as part of a series on image workflow and making the most of your photos. The specifics fix relate to Photoshop Elements, but there's one general hint that's worth noting:

If you don’t get good results sampling from a person’s face, try sampling on their neck or arm – sometimes makeup on the face can give poor results and skin not covered in makeup gives better results.

The overall technique described in the post is definitely handy if you do own Elements, but many of us favour a different image editor. What are your best tactics for dealing with skin tones and other human-specific photo editing challenges? Share your wisdom in the comments.

Photo-editing workflow – Fix skin tones [Project Woman]


    Im a graphic designer and spend most of my work days in Illustrator.
    But, when image editing is required, even though I have the complete Adobe package, I dont use Photoshop.
    Ive been using PaintShop Pro for many years and have never had the need to switch to Photoshop.
    Paintshop pretty much does what Photoshop does (minus some of the more advanced options which you never use anyway) and you seriously cant go past PaintShop for photo editing.

    The Express Lab in PaintShop Pro X3 for quick photo touch ups is fantastic!

    Sampling from the neck isn't much help without a technique to use on it. So ...

    Isolate a crop of skin only from another image with the tone you want, and look at the histogram.

    Do the same with your target image and fire up the curves tool. Muck around with the curves until the histogram matches. Now save that as a preset and go back to the full image and apply.

    I believe Photoshop has a Match Color tool that effectively does the same, but I'm a freedom loving, GIMP using hippie :)


    Also, sampling from a shadowed neck area could be worse than sampling from well exposed area with makeup, depending on the lighting setup.

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