How do you spot a good retoucher from a novice? It's in the skin. Sure, that’s an oversimplification, but one thing that separates the best from the lesser is how they treat skin.
While it is the prerogative of each person to adjust to taste, and "rules" should not impede on creative license, skin tones that match throughout the body without affecting texture is a hallmark of someone who knows what they’re doing, and being able to fix skin tone is essential for professional images whether you shoot portraits, headshots, weddings, swimwear, dancers, or anything else.
Historically, however, achieving even skin tones and retaining texture has been a complicated and involved process, typically requiring specialized knowledge in Photoshop and accessories like a Wacom pen tablet. Capture One removes that barrier from your path and makes achieving perfect skin easy for anyone.
Here’s how, using the dedicated Skin Tone Tool.
This base image was shot in harsh, direct light, which is typically unforgiving, as it’s contrasty, which affects saturation, and of course, it highlights texture.
Even without makeup, our model, Christina, already has favorable skin by any standard, but we can see noticeable color shifts between different parts of her body, like higher green values in the torso and more reds in the arms. (You can see the exact values of any location in the image by moving the eyedropper from the White Balance tab around the image, and it’ll show in the bar above)
What we want to do is harmonize all the skin to be more even, but not exactly the same. Obviously, we’ll want to keep areas like the lips and palms of the hands differentiated; frankly, the whole body should have slight variances, and fortunately, Capture One’s layer opacity control and local adjustment masking makes this nuance not only possible but simple.
Create a New Filled Layer. Doing so will lay a mask over the entire image, and you can toggle that mask on and off at any time by hitting the "M" key.
We create a mask over the whole image so we can easily see what’s being affected as we make adjustments, then we can go in and apply the mask only to the areas we like after.
Click on the Color Editor tool and select the tab labeled "Skin Tone." This tool is easy to use and works by having you pick a "reference skin tone," and then, it equalizes everything else to that using sliders. It’s that simple.
Using the eye-dropper, select a tone on the image you want to be your reference tone. Once you do, the color wheel will show a range of colors in which will be the tone you picked.
The dot in the center of the color wheel is the tone you’ve picked, and the wedge that surrounds it is all the colors that will be affected by the slider movements you’ll do next. You can drag the parameters of that wedge around to expand or decrease the colors to your liking.
Move the Uniformity and Amount sliders around until you have an overall result you like. Be delicate with the "Lightness" slider, as while it’s useful and powerful, it can also flatten how the image looks if pushed a lot. You can see the settings for this image below.
Once you are satisfied with the selection, you can toggle "View Selected Color Range" on and off to see all the parts of the image your adjustments will affect. In the image above, it is selected, which is why the blue sky is grayed out.
At this point, you're almost done.
You’ll notice that since the mask is over the entire image, parts of the image you don’t want to match the skin (hair, lips, eyes, etc.) may also be affected. As you’re working on a masked layer, you can deal with this in two ways: erase all the areas of the mask you don’t want, or invert the mask and paint the mask in the areas you do with the Brush tool.
Given the uncomplicated nature of the background and swimsuit in this image, simply erasing the parts around the skin would be quickest. Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to be perfect with the mask, as you can use the "Refine Mask" feature to clean it up for you until the mask looks something like the screenshot below. Let Capture One do the heavy lifting for you.
You can get creative with the Brush and Eraser tools by changing their flow and opacity and applying the mask at varying levels throughout if you wish, making for a more nuanced edit.
Hit the "M" key to hide the mask and reveal the final image. That’s it. (See more before/after examples below)
As you’re working on the raw file, you have a lot of latitude to go in and revise anything you’ve done and change it as you like. But now you’ve got a gorgeous raw file with beautiful skin tone without having to dive deep into Photoshop, and the process takes only a few minutes in Capture One. Once you've gone through the process once, it will take you no more than about 5 minutes to achieve this result.
Check out this video and let David Grover of Capture One show you the process above on headshot, and if you'd like to see more tips and tutorials about Capture One, over the next few weeks, we are going to teach you how to use Capture One from the ground up, right to the edge of the envelope, so check back often.