Using Liquify to Improve Your Portraits

Any photographer with experience in portraiture knows that the image captured in camera is far from a finished portrait. Post-processing of portraits is a skill that takes time and practice to learn. Learning to use the Liquify tool can help to make a good image into a great image. As with all of the tools in Photoshop, it's important to know how much is too much.

In this video, Karl Taylor takes a great image that photography student Anthony Knight took of Sunny Vuong, and with a little use of the Liquify tool and some selective dodging and burning, makes some significant changes to the image. As with any art form, it's rather subjective to say the image is "improved," whether you think the changes are for better or for worse, you'll quickly see how a few subtle changes can make a big impact on the finished image. The theme for this capture was rim lighting, and I think Anthony produced a great portrait here.

Before and after Karl's edit of the rim lighting portrait of Sunny Vuong by Anthony Knight

You can see the subtle changes to the shape of her hair, the way her arms hang, and how deep the shadows are in the silk clothing. Subtle use of Liquify was enough to make the hair a more regular and round shape and make her arms appear to hang straight down in a less awkward manner. As you can see in this video, a little editing goes a long way. These tools are very powerful; a good retoucher knows when enough is enough.

What do you think of the edits made by Karl Taylor? What's your portrait workflow? Do you use the Liquify tool to change hair and clothing shapes? Let me know in the comments.

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5 Comments
Mike Ditz's picture

I have been using the liquify too a lot recently for a client who wants her body sculpted a bit.
It works really well, but she often wants more. I try to keep it real. LOL

Brad Wendes's picture

Liquify a great tool for minor shaping tweaks, it’s such a shame when clients aren’t happy in their own skin and ask for heavy edits. Society has a lot to answer for

Mike Ditz's picture

She does a traveling retro burlesque type nightclub/casino show with a team of pole dancers so it's part of the fantasy/hype.

David McClure's picture

Excellent, subtle improvements, but please remove that length of hair by her chin on the right side of the photo. I used my Photoshop Thumb and I think the portrait is much improved.

David Moore's picture

I use it to make hair a little bigger sometimes, or if there is a corset pushing things out a little unflatteringly. It is when you go "oh I can make this person look completely different!" is when things go awry.