Having a makeup artist when shooting is a luxury for some photographers. While it is a must-have on a beauty or fashion set, when doing more simple portraiture it is not always easy to justify the cost for one. The biggest problem I find myself with when not having a makeup artist on set is people with oily skin are going to shine under strobe lighting. A simple makeup brush and some setting powder can do the trick, but sometimes we don’t even have that with us. So I am going to show you a way to quickly correct that using Photoshop.
Diminish Strong Highlights In Post-Production
The technique I am going to show you is very easy to use and set up. It only takes a few seconds to get the hang of it and get great results. Though keep in mind this technique is not meant to be used when doing beauty retouching. I hope if you have a beauty picture to retouch a makeup artist will have taken care of the problem before you get into Photoshop! Here is a before/after example where I used the technique on the cheeks of my model to show you the difference:
As you can see, it is subtle. If you can't see it, look at his left cheek (right of the picture) where it is most visible. It diminishes the brightest highlights on the skin and in turn gives the impression that the skin is slightly more matte, as if we had powdered our model’s skin.
How to Create Digital Setting Powder
To get a similar result, start by creating a merged layer of everything you have done so far in your file (cmd/ctrl+a to select the whole image, then cmd/ctrl+shift+c to copy and cmd/ctrl+v to paste). Once your new layer is created, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and chose a radius that will only keep the color of the skin but no texture.
If you are used to frequency separation, you should be familiar with those first steps as they are very similar. Now that your layer only has color, your strongest highlights should have have disappeared. Then we are going to use the blending options of our blurred layer to get the texture of our image back. To open up the Layer Style window, right click on your blurred layer and chose Blending Options. At the bottom of the window, you should have two sliders.
As our highlights are whites, we want the black and mid-tones of our image to be left alone. So we just have to slide the black cursor to the right so that our layer doesn't affect anything but the highlights. To make the adjustment more subtle, alt+click on the cursor in order to separate it. By separating the cursor, we are now able to fade our adjustment in order to get a more natural result. I usually drag the first half all the way to the right and then play around with the other half to get somewhere that lets my texture show, but still "masks" the highlights I want to hide.
Finally, create a mask filled with black, and then paint with white to make the adjustment appear only where you want it to.
As you can see, it is kind of a dirty trick. I am not a big fan of Gaussian blur for cleaning the skin, but in this case it works quite well as we only make it visible on very small surfaces. On tight portraits, this technique might not be the best and I would rather use the method Michael Woloszynowicz presented in a previous article, but on larger crops it usually does the trick if used parsimoniously.