Turn a Snapshot Into a Portrait Using Photoshop Magic

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Some photos start out looking like snapshots, even if they were meant to be a portrait.  If the lighting and feel of the photo is strong, you can transform them using various techniques and Photoshop actions. This photo, submitted during a private training class, was taken by Maggie Ford.

The image had so much potential but due to the soft focus, centered composition, and slightly inaccurate colors, I would consider the straight out of camera more of a snapshot. I wanted to help enhance the photo, turning it into a photo she would be proud showing.

Here is the before and after – plus a list of what I did to get there.

Meghan ba Turn a Snapshot Into a Portrait Using Photoshop Magic
pin it4 Turn a Snapshot Into a Portrait Using Photoshop Magic

Here were the steps we took:

  1. I wanted to really enhance this one and add some drama.  I started by using the Crackle Photoshop action (similar to defogging) which is part of the Quickie Collection.
  2. What an amazing face!  I just knew I wanted to make her eyes the focal point. Using the Eye Doctor eye enhancing Photoshop action, I enhanced the catchlights and sharpening the eyes.
  3. Then I lightly smoothed her skin using Powder Your Nose from the Magic Skin skin smoothing Photoshop action at the default opacity. I just painted the smoothing on where needed.
  4. Her face had some shiny areas near her nose, and I used the Shiny Skin Vanisher from the Bag of Tricks action set.
  5. I decided that I wanted the image in black and white. I used my favorite black and white conversion, Vanilla Ice Cream, from the Quickie Collection.
  6. And for the finishing touch… I used the Free Photoshop action – Touch of Light/Touch of Darkness.  I used the Light layer on her face with a 30% opacity brush.
  7. And lastly, and for this image, probably the most important, I cropped it.  In Photoshop CS5 there is a rule of thirds guide and I placed the eyes at the top 1/3 mark and placed her off center for a most more desirable crop.
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 Turn a Snapshot Into a Portrait Using Photoshop Magic

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and teaches Photoshop to photographers across the globe.

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15 Comments and 0 Replies



  1. 1
    Mike Sweeney says:

    Nice trick.. I’ve used it myself to recover a botched exposure into something useful. The image attached was a victim of shooting at 1.4 with strong lighting which washed out the entire image due to lens flare. My conversion was done completely in Lightroom 3 by building on the blown out look. A different look than just B/W.

  2. 2

    Mike, That’s really cool. If you ever have time, I would love a quick tutorial for my blog on a before and after on that image. What a great save and unique edit.

  3. 3
    Regina White says:

    WOW! I am super impressed. For me I would have deleted that image. Nice.

  4. 4
    Elizabeth says:

    OMG, that’s gorgeous!! I LOVE everything about the after!! What a beautiful woman as well. Great job!

  5. 5
    Tiffany Parrott says:

    Do you have this Vanilla Ice cream for PSE 8 by chance?

  6. 6

    It does not work in elements, sorry. Check out the “Take My Color Away” which is in the Complete Workflow and is elements compatible.

  7. 7

    Wow Jodi, that is an amazing transformation!!! The end result is absolutely stunning.

  8. 8
    shannon says:

    Thanks so much for the step-by-step.
    What a difference from the sooc!
    She is a gorgeous girl. Those eyes remind me of Twiggy.

  9. 9
    cna training says:

    What a great resource!

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Ally says:

    wow that is just beautiful! I just love what you can do with post processing! Thanks for sharing your tips:) Happy 4th!

  12. 12
  13. 13
    Emily says:

    That is one of the best before and after shots I’ve ever seen! It is motivating and makes me want to go back and look at all the photos I ruled out because I didn’t like the “snapshot.” Thanks for sharing!

  14. 14
    robin cornett says:

    Really impressive before/after… made an OK image into something really striking. One of my favorites from the blueprints series!

  15. 15
    Sarah says:

    I’ve never done any post-processing and full photoshop is not in my budget, but, how much use is elements? Can something similar be achieved with that? Thanks!



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