A Quick Portrait Editing Trick

July 19, 2011
f/4.0; 1/13sec; 58mm; ISO 400

f/4.0; 1/13sec; 58mm; ISO 400

This is one of my quick tips that I haven’t mentioned before because I was afraid it was some sort of “fad” for me. I often find that I do some trick when editing that after a while I stop doing because I think it looks stupid. But I’ve been using this particular method for a quite a few months and I still try it on a lot of my portraits.

You guys know I usually like to describe what exactly is happening and why it works to produce a better photo. But to be honest? I don’t know the math behind this one or why it always seem to like how it looks on portraits. But… I do like it on portraits!

The first step is, if you don’t already have it, get the FX-Foundry suite of scripts for Gimp, as described in this post. Then open a photo to edit. I’m going to edit this photo of yours truly:

Me, unedited. I'm not very excited.

Me, unedited. I'm not very excited.

Most of the FX-Foundry scripts I use when editing photos are in (obviously) the Photos menu option, but there’s a Toolbox menu option as well:


Under Toolbox there is an option for Lasm’s Channel Extract. This is what I use almost exclusively for converting images to black and white because it gives you a bunch of different options, each as a new layer in your photo. But maybe I’ll talk about that some other time. For the purposes of this tip, all you have to do is deselect the “All Channels” option and select only the L channel. Then say OK. You’ll end up with a photo that looks like this:

Me: as a ghost!

Me: as a ghost!

Now just switch that layer to Overlay and play with the opacity. This is my photo at 75% Opacity:

Oh, now I'm excited.  This looks better!

Oh, now I'm excited. This looks better!

And that’s it! Here’s the original for comparison:

Still not so exciting, is it?

Still not so exciting, is it?

I’ve tried this on a lot of portraits and usually like it (no editing technique works for all photos, so yes, there are times it looks pretty horrible), but for a quick and easy edit of a photo, I think it adds something without a lot of work. For instance, this particular photo I was just uploading to show some friends my new hair cut, and I didn’t want to go to a lot of trouble, but I think this 2 second edit is much nicer than the Straight Out Of Camera shot!

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

ps. don’t forget, there’s still time to submit photos to the iffles.com Monthly Themes group to be eligible for tomorrow’s Wordless Wednesday! July’s theme is Statues/Parks!

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Filed under: Photo Editing
  • Patrick Corrigan

    You explained it very well. But, what is FX Foundry? 

  • Thank you so much for this...I  have had troubles with portraits but the one I did today just pops!

  • Meginsanity

    That's great. Thank you! :)

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