Newborn photos can be incredibly tricky to shoot and even more tricky to edit. I personally think light, clean and soft simple editing is the way to go for newborn editing. Lighting, as with any kind of photography is everything. I’ve mentioned it many times that before you can hope to have top quality images or before you spend gobs of time editing a photo to “fix” it, spend more time setting up the shot with proper lighting. It will make ALL the difference in your images, not only with the exposure, but with the quality (no grain) and the coloring. Tones, especially skin tones, are greatly effected on digital images based on how you expose your images.
For this blueprint, the lovely and talented Charlotte Morgan Photography donated this precious newborn image for me to edit. Please note this is my edit of her image.
The main issue in this image is the color of the skin and overall tone of the image. The skin in the original has a very yellow-orange tone. My goal was to even out the skin, make it more creamy and pinkish in skin tone, while keeping it warm, and to even out the blanket creases.
Firstly, I always recommend using a RAW editor like Lightroom or ACR to adjust color temperatures and tints. It is SO much easier than doing so in Photoshop. The temp and tone sliders in such editors make it a breeze to tone down yellow or red skin, whereas in Photoshop, it’s much more time consuming and a bit of a crap shoot. I did not use Lightroom for this image, to show those of you who do not use a RAW editor how you can fix yellow/jaundice skin in Photoshop with my actions and curves.
Here’s our before and after.
Photo Editing Blueprint.
Editing time: 6 minutes
1. Cloning. I like to get rid of as much of the creases in the blanket as possible because they are distracting. I find that using the clone tool at about 30-40% opacity works just great for that. At a low brush opacity, you can easily smooth away wrinkles and blend the background. I actually think I should have worked a little harder cloning the crease above her head, but you get the idea. Use a soft brush and re-sample your clone area continuously to match the clone space.
2. Blue Powder 43%. This bluish, airy tone worked great here to counteract some of the yellow in the skin. When you want to remove yellow, add blue. The lightness of the Blue Powder action helped to brighten and soften the photo as well. Fiddle with the opacity to find the sweet spot for your photos.
3. Sapphire 30%. This is another blue tone, but without the haze factor that Blue Powder has. Again, adding blue tones decreases the yellow of the skin.
4. Rapture 34%. Rapture has an airy feel with pinkish-brown tones to it. Any of the actions in the Creative HeART Delicates set are good to try for toning newborn images. Some might be too yellow, like Euphoria, some more pink like Radiance. In this case, Rapture adjusted to 34% worked perfectly to give the skin and the overall image a lovely soft, creamy tone.
Next I noticed that the fingers and arms were a bit discolored and needed to be evened out to match the rest of the baby’s skin. I treated the fingers in 2 steps and the arms I simply darkened. Here’s how.
5. Anti-Lobster Skin CS3 version. Overly pink fingers and toes are part and parcel for newborns. However, they can really stick out and be distracting in an otherwise beautiful photo. By running Anti-Lobster Skin and painting it over just the hands, I was able to remove most of the magenta.
The CS3 versions of some of the actions will remove the color casts, but also lighten a bit. The CS2 versions will just remove the color casts but not lighten. CS2 users have to use the CS2 versions. CS3 and higher users can use either version.
6. Custom Curves. I notice that the fingers are still a bit too pink for my tastes. I could go into the Anti-Lobster Skin action and increase the settings. However, here’s a simple curves adjustment that you can do to tone down magenta on skin. Click a new curves adjustment layer. I like creating an actual curves layer in the layers palette so I can take advantage of the layer masking feature, rather than just going to the Image >> Adjustment >> Curves menu. That won’t allow me to paint the effect just where I want it. Go into the green channel in the curve dialog box and raise it up to the upper left corner from the center of the line. This decreases the magenta by adding in green. Go to the blue channel. Lower the blue line to the bottom right corner. This decreases the blue tones and adds in yellow. These two together counteract the magenta and keep the skin a normal flesh color. I only wanted this tonal change on the hands, so I inverted the white layer mask to black.
(cmd + i on a Mac // ctrl + i on a PC).
7. Flawless Face. Some babies have really uneven, blotchy skin. This baby didn’t need much skin smoothing, so I painted in Flawless Face with a 20-30% opacity brush just to cream it out a bit, but not make it look fake or overly softened to where the skin looked plastic. You can paint in more Flawless Face if the skin calls for it. I also painted it over the arms.
8. Light + Shade. This is very similar to dodging and burning, only you don’t have to flatten all your layers and if you don’t like the effects, you can simply delete the layer. I like to give a little definition to the lash line and other detail areas… makes it look sharper. Using a tiny sized, 10% opacity black brush, I painted carefully over the lashes, the nostrils and a touch on the lips to darken.
That’s it. That’s the color edit. Light, creamy and not overdone.
9. Hinterland. There are a number of actions that I love for creating nice black and white images. All of my black and white actions are very versatile in allowing you to customize. Here I opened up the Hinterland action and turned off the brighten layer. I opened up the tones group and turned off the Warmth layer and changed the Cranberry layer opacity to 15%. It’s now a nice black and white with just a hint of warmth.