The character of your portraits is conveyed by many different elements, but a crucial one is the eyes of your subject. In this short tutorial, I’ll show you how to make eyes pop without making them look fake.
There are tons of techniques to edit the eyes in Photoshop, and while all of them can be useful, the one I’m about to show you is straightforward to use and tends to leave your subject natural-looking. For this method, we are going to rely on a simple black-and-white adjustment layer to make the structure of the iris more crunchy by adjusting the luminosity of each color channel.
To get started, create a black-and-white adjustment layer and change its blending mode to Luminosity.
We are now going to invert the mask and fill it with black. To do so, press Cmd/Ctrl + i on your keyboard, or click on invert in the properties panel while having the mask of the layer selected. Then we want to make the adjustments to be visible only on the iris of our subject. So using a white brush, paint on the iris. Use a soft brush to make the transition between the adjustment and the rest of the image as smooth as possible.
With our mask adjusted and the blending, let’s tweak the settings to make the eye visually stronger. As we are using the luminosity blending mode, by moving the sliders on our black-and-white adjustment layer, the saturation and hue won’t change. There is no right or wrong in this process: rely on your taste and feel to find the proper settings.
And that’s it! You are done. The technique is no more complicated than that. One thing to help you out and make the structure more visible is to contrast the two most perceivable colors. In my example, this would be blue and cyan. As the cyan was in the lighter areas, I brightened up the cyan while I darkened the blue zones.
If you want to go further, you can even tweak this by adding a curve in the clipping mask to the black-and-white layer. Then, play with the different channel of the curve to bring even more contrast out of the eyes. Just be careful not to go too far with it: while bringing out the texture and luminosity out of the iris can make your portrait stronger, overly retouched eyes will ruin your image every time.