When we take beauty portraits, there is usually a gap between that initial raw image and the vision we hold in our mind’s eye. Once we get that image into our editing software, we subject that original picture to the proverbial death of a thousand cuts, or in our case, a thousand edits to produce something new and polished.

Each adjustment isn’t major, rather, most are minor and seemingly insignificant on their own but together can result in a new image. Photographer Chris Knight shares some insights into some the techniques he uses for retouching portraits.

And check out our interview with Chris and a tutorial piece he wrote for us here:

Dramatic Portraits | My 5 Essential Tools to Create Drama in Your Portraits

Chris Knight Rapid Interview | Dramatic Portraits & The Business Of Photography


Goal: The addess tonal and texture inconsistencies in the skin of your subject.

Step #1 – Create two Curve Adjustment Layers

Copy Shortcut


Name one “Darken” (Burn) and one “Lighten” (Dodge)

Burn Layer
Dodge Layer

Step #2 – Invert the Masks to turn the to “black” masks so that when you paint “white” on them, the desired effect shows.

Invert Shortcut


Step #3 – Create a solid color 50% Gray Layer and set the “Blend Mode” to color.


This layer better preserves tonal relationships than a simple black and white layer which could mislead you as you dodge and burn.

Step #4 – Add another “Curve Adjustment Layer”

By darkening this layer, you reveal even more tonal inconsistencies, making it easier to achieve you desired final result.

This level of retouching can be a very time consuming endeavor but, the results make the process worth it.  Chris usually zooms into his images to at least 200% and sets the flow on his brush to between 1 and 3. This prevents any single adjustment from being to pronounced. Always be sure to zoom in and out to see your progress and make sure your edits leave the skin looking natural.

This video provides useful Photoshop shortcuts and insights into the methodology of retouching that we can all implement. The link The best retouching often includes subtle adjustments that have a cumulative effect and profound effect on the final image.SaveSave