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The Business of Professional Headshots

Lesson 32 of 38

Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn

Gary Hughes

The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

32. Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn


Class Trailer
1 Class Overview 13:07 2 Getting Headshot Clients 27:23 3 Headshot Pricing Models for Individuals 24:47 4 Headshot Pricing Models for Groups and Companies 13:05 5 Payment and Delivery for Groups 20:49 6 Six Styles of Business Headshots 38:31 7 Headshot Lighting Gear 11:31 8 Posing Basics for Headshots 08:03
9 Basic Standing Pose for Headshots 05:10 10 Basic Seated Pose for Headshots 03:22 11 Head Position for Headshots 04:25 12 Expression Sells the Image 06:45 13 One-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model 35:42 14 One-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model 09:01 15 Two-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model 10:08 16 Two-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model 04:58 17 Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model 19:17 18 Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model 13:47 19 One Light Low Key Headshot with Male Model 16:18 20 Two Light Low Key Headshot with Female Model 14:55 21 General Q&A 11:03 22 Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Male Model 31:47 23 Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model 21:56 24 Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model 17:22 25 Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model 10:45 26 Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot 10:49 27 Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Male Model 12:06 28 Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model 13:53 29 Shooting Low Key Modern Headshots for Extraction 12:28 30 Basic Headshot Facial Retouching Techniques 23:48 31 Basic Headshot Eye Retouching Techniques 12:14 32 Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn 07:40 33 Basic Headshot Retouching Q&A 11:18 34 Extracting a Single Subject 20:01 35 Creating a Headshot Composite 15:07 36 F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle 10:36 37 F-Type Headshot Lighting: Execution 21:29 38 Shooting Headshots in Volume 18:49

Lesson Info

Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn

Now, some of the other things that I might do is it looks like maybe his face might be a little bright compared to the rest of the image, in which case you can create a whole 'nother layer. I'm gonna use another layer. I know you guys are shocked. Here's a cool thing you can make an action for; let me show you how I do it. This is a kind of burn and dodge action, but you're not actually burning and dodging. This is a way that I use to control the highlights and the shadows in an image that's non-destructive. So I'm gonna create one layer, and I'm gonna rename it Darken. Actually, I don't need it, I need a duplicate layer. Come on, Gary. So I'm gonna delete you. Get outta here! (clicking) Yes, delete it. I going to use command or control + J, and that's gonna give me a duplicate layer. And I'm gonna call this one darken. Cool. (clicking) And then I'm going to, this is a control that not alotta people use, and it's a really cool one. It's called the Image Adjustments Shadow/Highlights, o...

kay. So what, by default, it does is it enables you to increase the detail in the shadows a little bit or a lot. Or it's gonna enable you to bring those highlights down. So you don't wanna definitely do that too much, but you can start to bring back a little detail in those highlights. So I create one layer that's gonna darken. So I'll make a highlight at 10%, which is going to bring the highlights in the image down. I hit OK, and then I'm going to make a layer mask with this little layer mask button right here. And then I'm going to hit command or control + I to invert that mask, so that it's a dark layer mask, so that it's hidden. Or you can do that through the Layer, Layer Mask, Hide All or Reveal All. So this is a Hide All layer mask. And then I'm gonna go back and I'm going to duplicate that bottom layer again. And I'm gonna do the exact same thing, except I'm gonna do it with a darken control. Shadows/Highlights, boom. There ya go. Okay, and then I'm gonna bring those shadows 10%, hit OK. Add a layer mask. So, let's do it this way: Layer, Layer Mask, Hide All, booyah. Now, all what I'm looking at right now is the original bottom layer, and these are both hidden. So when you have a black layer mask, to paint through that layer mask, you need a brush that is white. And you can change, these are your brushes, your foreground and background color, and you can flip those around by hitting D. Will take you to the default of what those brushes are, which would typically be black and white. And if you just hit the X key, you can flip back and forth between the foreground and background color. So I'm gonna go default, with a white brush, nice, big, soft brush that I've been using. Oh, that's a tiny one. Let's do that one, okay. (clicking) So if I wanted a little more detail in the bottom of this suit here, oh, this is gonna be called lighten. (clicking) There we go! I would go to the lighten layer, select that mask. And now this is gonna burn and dodge, but it's only going to affect the areas that have shadow in them. So if I go to his face, the lighten isn't gonna do anything to his face. It's really, no matter how much I paint through it, it's going to affect a brighter area of the image. So you can actually be a little less precise. There we go. Let's paint all that back in, there we go. Good, okay. So, we're gonna grab that, make sure I'm on a white brush, take the darken, or the lighten layer. And I'm gonna go over here, and maybe I wanna just lighten his jacket up. But I don't have to worry about it affecting the background too much, 'cause it's only really going to affect those dark areas. I can do that over here, if you wanna bring in a little more detail down there. And now, in his face, let's say I wanna put this on, like, 10%, 'cause you really don't wanna do this too much. If you wanna bring down some of those specky little highlights a little bit, just use a little bit of this. (groaning) (clicking) Take some of the highlight out to make it match a little bit more. Cool. And now we've got a pretty well-balanced image. See his face is just a little less sparkly when you tone it down just a little bit. And then that jacket's got a little more detail in it, just like so. So if you do that actually carefully, you know, (chuckling) you can do that without all the brush marks and stuff. But that looks pretty good, I'm happy with that, that we got some of those more highlights under control. So at this point, this is where everybody's sphincter tightens who is a Photoshop guru. I'm going to flatten the image. (chuckling) (gasping) It's flattened, baby, and it's not goin' back! And that's pretty much the extent of the facial retouching. I don't do any skin-softening actions or filters. I literally will manually retouch everybody's face. But those are the most common problems you run into when you're retouching, that's pretty much it. Now, sometimes, if I really wanna bring focus onto my subject, I will create a vignette on my own. There are plenty of actions to do this, takes me like two seconds. Grab the rectangular marquee tool. You wanna feather it at the maximum, 250 pixels, right up here. And then you wanna grab the edge to edge like so. Cool. This is where I want my vignette to be. And then you're gonna Select, Inverse, and that's gonna be where your vignette is. Gonna put it on a new layer, command or control + J. And then you're gonna use your levels, which is Image, Adjustments, Levels, or just command + L. And now you can make, just bring those midtones over, you can make a cool vignette if you want to, see. Piece a cake. And if you want me to do that again, buy the class and watch it as many times as you want. (laughing) Cool, you see the vignette there? Sometimes I will do that if it's appropriate to bring a little more focus onto the subject, but in this case, I think we're pretty good. And if I really wanted anything more extensive than this, you could do it, but Oscar is not a good example of somebody who needs alotta retouching. And nor is Charney, for that matter. So we'll save it... Eventually. Okay, there we go! Not gonna save it as a PSD, uh-oh! I'm gonna save it as a JPEG. And here is the other part: if it's going into a client and the delivery is for the web, I don't even save that at full quality, I save it at 10 instead of 12. I know! There's another sphincter-tightening moment in there, and that's fine. So I'll create a folder, and it's gonna be called finished. Create, and I'm gonna save it as Quality, ooh, not 8, 10. Here's the thing about Quality 12 versus Quality 8: for the web, it really doesn't matter. But if you look at the difference in file size between 12 and 8, the 12 is gonna be a 12.7 megabyte file. Quality 10, which is still in the maximum range of quality, is 4.8 megabytes, which is less than half the size. And I guarantee you that if you line up 999 people, or a thousand people, 999 of them will not be able to tell the difference between a file that was saved at Quality and a file that's saved at Quality 12. So save yourself a whole bunch a space and do it. Because these images aren't necessarily going onto a billboard, these are going on a website, and they're gonna be this big. So I'm not worried about having them every pixel be perfectly detailed. That being said, images that are going for a much larger format or commercial format, I treat them very differently. But you have to know what the images are for. So create those standards based on your own experience and do whatever you feel is right. If you like buying tons, and tons, and tons a hard drives, you just save everything in layers and do all that stuff. But for my business, for this area of my business, it's totally different.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Professional headshots are in demand! Learn how to break into this lucrative genre of photography in The Business of Professional Headshots with Gary Hughes.

Professional headshots are an easy addition to nearly every photographer’s list of services and in this class, you’ll get up-to-speed on everything you need to know to launch a headshot business. 

You’ll learn:

  • 6 Primary styles of corporate headshots
  • The gear that gets the job done
  • Basic posing theory
  • How to get clients and manage inquiries
  • Retouching, organizing, and delivery tips and techniques

You’ll also get to watch Gary in action as he demonstrates shooting and retouching a variety of headshot styles.

If you want to bring home more money and book more business during your slow times, don’t miss this comprehensive guide to running a lucrative headshot business from Gary Hughes.


Melville McLean

Gary Hughes is possibly the best teacher I have seen here and that is a very high compliment. His business analysis is simple and to the point. His set ups and techniques are simple and straight forward, no easy task in itself. His interactions with his models/clients are finely developed and reduced into the fewest but most important key exchanges. He teaches by example how to interact and direct. If you are a high volume photography with brief time per sitter, you might especially appreciate his tips. It is extraordinarily difficult to keep a tight, well structured class going live for so long at a time. His intelligence, wit and personality are all in his favor but it is the content itself that is most impressive. I am not a portrait photographer but I have 30 years of commercial studio experience. He knows what is most important, leaves out the rest and has organized the material in anticipation of most difficulties that arise so that it rests in a seamless, smooth, coherent learning experience. All of his practical advice is excellent. Just understand that his work is about doing a relatively large number of shots in the most efficient way rather than a lot of time spent on a few clients for a completely different format [presentation like very large prints. In fact he is especially pragmatic. He emphasizes that you do not have to own the most expensive equipment but you absolutely do have to know how to use the equipment that you already have. And I am telling you this as someone he makes fun of in his course with fancy cameras and Profoto lighting gear. He is an advocate of all thought out approaches as well as relying on skills and knowledge. You will understand how and why to make all of his key, conventional light and posing set ups. He makes everything sound simple and doable -- and with his help -- it is. What you have to appreciate is that it is up to each individual to acquire the specialized skills to make our work compelling enough to be competitive. The unspoken truth that we all face is that talent plays a key role as well and that it takes time to become every accomplished. But I have also seen concentration, commitment and hard work result in developing innate talents that blossom in very successful careers. Mr Hughes reduces every step into the clearest, most essential components. He is self effacing both as a photographer and post process retoucher but he is very good indeed and does not waste time overdoing images that cannot benefit from a larger format presentation. Everything is appropriate and practical. He has already removed everything that does not matter for his purposes for us that would only interfere with the concise, clarity of his presentation.


I am so glad that I had the opportunity to watch this course. It has not only provided valuable lighting set-ups, but also great basics for posing.!. The Photoshop extraction technique Gary demonstrated was icing on the cake. Gary did a great job teaching and I greatly admired the technique in which he taught. Thanks for a great class!


This was an excellent class! The class covered so much information and great tips and ideas. Gary is funny and has an easy going approach, which makes the class that much more enjoyable. As a struggling pet photographer, I have been trying to find something to supplement my business with that does not involve children/babies, or shooting weddings again and headshots seemed to be a great option. After watching this class, I feel confident building up a headshot component to my business. Definitely recommend this class!