If you photograph people often, be it in a studio or not, you’ll be no stranger to the plight of balancing skin tones and colors. From how make-up is applied, to differing levels of tan, to how light is hitting each part of the body, it’s common for there to be obvious differences. It’s often one of the more difficult things to fix in post, and as all difficult things, it’s one of the more important. The disparity between tones on the face alone, much less between the face and body parts, can be vast. Managing this well before a shoot is where a good make-up artist comes in. Sure, you can fix this inequality in post, but well done make-up is a Godsend. Nevertheless, if you are to do it in post, this video by Aaron Nace, highlights a great way to do it.
Aaron shows what seems to me to be a unique way of analyzing the colors in the photo. By making a simple chart with a paint brush, it really does a brilliant job showing just how different color in one area can be from another. After this analytical step, Aaron implements the use of Levels, Hue/Saturation, and Group Layer Masking to find the right balance.
Levels, as he rightly points out, are far more powerful than most users are aware. Aside from adjusting just the darks and light values, they can also be used to adjust color. It’s through this mix of altering the red green and blue channels separately that the right colors are achieved. He does also point out, too, that it does tend to oversaturate the image, and desaturating it with a Hue-Saturation adjustment layer brings it back into a believable arena.
I work a lot with editing skin tones and I’ve never attempted to do it this way, but having just tried it, I can see how effective it can be. However, I do find that for matching smaller areas, say evening out tone between the chest and neck, or different parts of the face, I like to use the patch tool on the ‘Low’ layer within frequency separation. I’ll do a tutorial on how to do this later. It’s also beneficial for speed since I have it all set up as an action which I will show you.
As always, if you are a fan of Aaron’s teachings (and who isn’t?), be sure to check back here for updates, and follow along with Aaron on YouTube and Phlearn. You should also consider becoming quickly adept at Photoshop with the Phlearn Photoshop 101 & 201 sets as they are extremely comprehensive, and will have you quickly doing things with Photoshop you may have otherwise thought too complex, or didn’t even know you could do.