Fixing Shiny Happy Faces
No, we don’t want to make everyone mad. But what do you do when you get someone with a glint of sweat or oily skin and toss them in front of a big bright light? Yep, you get shiny faces and that is one thing we don’t want. You could either politely ask them to dab their face off, hit them with a powder poof or of course if it is too late already, just fix it in retouching.
First off, we want to go ahead and process the image how we normally would. We want to try and get as much detail in the skin, even the shiny spots. So if you need to process it with a little highlight recovery (if working from RAW) or tone down the exposure a bit in order to save details, do so. We can always bring the levels back up later.
Here I am working with a recent subject of mine who after 2+ hours of shooting outdoors in urban locations, we decided to go back to the makeshift studio (IE: My garage) and do some formal shots. The problem was the fact that it was getting a bit humid and the garage was even worse since it had been closed up all day and about 25° warmer than outside. The second we got everything set up and started shooting, the sweat started rolling off everyone. In this situation, rather than try and fight it, I made the decision to fix the photos later. (Besides, it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two per image I decide to sell.)
First thing I want to do is duplicate the Background layer. I try to do this for all major retouching work so I have something I can easily check before & after as well as clone things from or in the event I make a mistake and catch it later. I save this extra layer in the PSD also since you never know when a client might not like the retouching work done or feels it needs to be toned down. Then I create a blank layer over the Background Copy layer in Photoshop. This will be the layer that takes all of the edits. Now using the Healing Brush, set the Sample properties to “Current & Below” and a medium size brush to easily cover the shine but not go over areas of detail.
Normally I would sample from the face but in this case, I have the next best thing. So I am going to set my sample point to her shoulder which is free of blemishes and shine but still has a similar skin tone and texture to her face. This is important as it allows the finished version to retain a natural texture and matching skin tones. Otherwise I would sample from cheeks or the forehead where shine isn’t present. Now go ahead and “clone” the texture over the shiny spots. When you release, it should blend nicely with the surrounding tones. If it doesn’t, go ahead and undo and try again. Avoid going too close to hair lines or facial features including major facial lines. You can use a smaller brush later to get into those areas or the clone stamp tool for stubborn areas that refuse to blend nicely.
Now simply turn down the layer opacity. I like a setting between 40% and 65% for most facial shine problems. For this image I decided that 55% opacity was good enough to allow enough shine to show through without making the face too flat looking. Too much opacity and the face looses definition and shape, too little and it will still look too shiny. Now is a good time to check that you haven’t colored outside of the lines. If so, you can add a layer mask and simply mask off areas that need to be revealed. This also works if you want to selectively reveal some areas more than others. Simply set the layer opacity at the maximum level you want and mask other areas using the paint brush at a low opacity. This will reveal more of the underlying layer details with the option to easily paint back in on the layer mask if you make a mistake.
That’s it. If you are happy with your results, you can go ahead and flatten that layer onto the Background Copy layer and continue with editing or save as a new file for output. Keep the unretouched Background layer in place JUST IN CASE. It’s easier to tweak from that than try to undo bad retouching.
Depending on your level of skill and how bad the facial shine is, this method should take less than one to two minutes to do on a single face. In the time it took to read this tutorial, I went ahead and finished retouching this image including a simple eye enhancement, removing some stray hair, removing some scars and bruises and a little more facial retouching. Here is the finished image.