How poking my wife's eyes out turned a grab shot into a fab shot (processing tips)


Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
Well, I'm glad to see the title of the thread got your attention (or perhaps I should be concerned!).

I thought I'd share a behind-the-scenes look at how I turned a common grab shot (literally just playing around with the camera) into a fab shot (one of my favorite photos I have of my wife).

First we'll start by looking at the original photo straight out of camera (SOOC). Here's the EXIF data.....not all that important really, but I was playing with my long tele which partly explains the unusual composition and having her smile cut off which at first dismayed me, but I've come to love about it.
Camera Olympus E-P3
Exposure 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture f/5.6
Focal Length 105 mm
ISO Speed 1000


P7080362 by Lukinosity, on Flickr

I was set at F5.6 for maximum sharpness. I like to have as sharp an image as possible to start with...... I can always ditch some sharpness along the way, but you can't really create any in post.

We hear it all the times when reading about portraits. It's all in the eyes. In the original shot here, they're a bit dark....kind of shaded. So after I decided this grab shot was worth saving (I like how her smiley dimples show her natural smile without being able to see her whole mouth.....something hidden but strongly implied) I decided it needed a couple things. I had to bring out her eyes with those natural catchlights and I had to cover up the crazy revealing sharpness of the lens.

That is not how we see people in real life and it's not flattering to anyone....that's why magazines retouch photos. I am a recovering HDR junkie, so I often start by taking an image into my fave HDR tonemapping software (Oloneo Photo Engine) and just play with the sliders to see what can be done. Don't tell HDR purists that I do this stuff with a single JPEG.....I'll be spurned by them for sure. My intentions are not to make a true HDR image, but I'm familiar enough with how the sliders work to know what end result I will get. Similar results can be achieved with any software. Basically, I'm going to drive the image off a cliff regarding saturation, contrast and sharpness. The resulting image will be absolutely grotesque (not my wife....the image, silly), but it's merely a stepping stone to the finished shot.

And if anyone shows this to my wife, I will be in BIG trouble:eek:.......

7929481840_421f935640_o-HDR by Lukinosity, on Flickr

Well, I told you it would be grotesque. Still, for a crazy looking HDR witch, she's got a cute smile :2thumbs:

Anyways, I'm done with the Oloneo software. I open the original image and the crazy tonemapped one in Photoshop Elements. The only part of the crazy one I'm going to use is the eyes......the rest I may save for Halloween.:biggrin:
So I'll use the smart selection tool (but use whatever tool you like) to select the eyes. It's OK if you get a little more than you can always trim some away later. Once I have the area selected that I want, I use the "Cut" command. I could have used the "Copy" command, but then I wouldn't have gotten to use this awesome photo to show you how it looks while you're working on it (sorry for the low quality screenshot.....I snapped a photo before I learned how to do a screenshot in Windows)......

DSCF1160 by Lukinosity, on Flickr

OK....are you scared yet? Zombie Lauren looks like she's hungry for BRAINS!

OK, I'm done with that photo. I close it before the cat who's watching over my shoulder freaks out. I then use the "Paste" command to add the eyes I cut out of the other photo into the SOOC shot. Then I move them into place and voila!

DSCF1161 by Lukinosity, on Flickr

Here you can see that I've set them into place and I'm just going to erase the extra bits......all I want are the irises (there's something I don't type every day). In the next shot, I didn't actually bother to erase all the bits of eye that I'm not using just to save time....the shots was done awhile ago. I just did a quickie version today for our little show and tell here. But in this next shot, I am using the spot healing tool to some skin blemish fixes. A couple clicks of the mouse and the pimples go away. I'm not very good at this stuff and the results are obvious and amateurish. I now realize that I'm wasted a bunch of time and nothing is going to work. I walk away from the computer a bit defeated, but I leave the image open in Photoshop while I consider other more drastic measures.

DSCF1162 by Lukinosity, on Flickr

I poke around on flickr for some inspiration and suddenly I realize that if I can't fix it well, maybe I can just cover it up. With this new outlook on the problem, I decide to add a texture layer. You may have used a texture layer and not even been aware of it. They are built in to a lot of those quickie editing programs. Some common ones are oldtime-y looking frames or a thin layer of grime that can be added over a photo. Well with Photoshop Elements (or GIMP or any of a number of other programs) you can layer any photo you want over another one. I did a Google search for Free Texture layers and found this woman who has a number of great texture layers that she lets people use for free.....just give her credit. You can see a selection of them here..... Free Textures for Layers - a set on Flickr and here's the one that I chose (because I thought sparkly matched my wife in this one......I love sparkly things) ....... Free rippled glitter magic sparkle water texture for layers Creative Commons | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

So I downloaded and cut it and pasted it "into" (or over) the photo of my wife. Then I adjusted the opacity slider to let the image below show through.

DSCF1164 by Lukinosity, on Flickr
This is a simple way to create faux double exposures as well if you ever feel like trying on of those. I haven't done any in awhile, but I quite like this one .......
View attachment 58390
Mauiwaukee (Maui meets Milwaukee) by Lukinosity, on Flickr

but....I digress. Back to the portrait walkthrough. Well, it's pretty well done. I just gave it a crop, played with the colors a bit and called it done......
View attachment 58391
the girl of my dreams by Lukinosity, on Flickr

Fee free to ask any questions you have....either specificly about this work or any processing or Photoshop questions in general.

I hope to one day be a great photographer, but in the meantime, I can try to fix it in post.:wink:


The one where you have cut her eyes out freaks me out a bit! But it was interesting to see how you got your finished image. More work than I have patience to do myself but I appreciate looking at your images. I love the way you incorporate your sense of humour into your photography.


Sunny Frimley
I like the final image, your wife has wonderful smiley eyes although I don't think they'd be smiling at you any time soon if she saw the in-between images! I like to use the soft focus filter on the OMD or reduce the clarity on the fuji x Pro 1 because that's the only way I know how at the moment:)


Hall of Famer
Caguas, Puerto Rico
Real Name
Very clever, indeed. Does Photoshop Elements have layer masks? Last time I used Elements (version 5.0) it did not, but if it does now, rather than cutting and pasting the eyes, you could perform the changes on a duplicate layer and mask out everything but the eyes. No risk of misalignment and easier to work with the borders and transitions. It does not work without layer masks, though.

Nice work and a very lovely subject. I am sure she is pleased with the results.




Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
Thanks Antonio. It does work with layer masks. Since I am entirely self taught, I have no clue how they work. Maybe I should look on youtube for some tutorial videos. I think she like it. She doesn't say much about my photography unless it's photo of the pets. Those seem to be the only ones she likes.

Ray Sachs

Not too far from Philly
Real Name
you should be able to figure it out...
Very cool Luke. Great finished product, which is what ultimately matters, but the process is interesting too. I've never gotten around to playing with layers or this type of editing - just basic processing and occasionally minor cloning in Aperture or Lightroom... I don't think I'd want to go there for fear of where it might lead, but I really enjoy seeing the work other folks do with these types of techniques...



O.* Gonzo's & Bentley's Dad
Austin, TX
Real Name
i did a terrible hdr photo of my sister once, because she refuses to let me take her photo usually
it was a punishment
i made 2
one to show her so she could grab it and tear it up.. and the other taped to my back to whip out and run away with
and i did. :) she chased me all the way to my car
hahah it was great!


Top Veteran
Melbourne. Australia
Real Name
Cheers Luke.
I've been saving some basic PS tutorials off YouTube recently, there are so many it's crazy.

@Rico. I recently purchased PS Elements as a part of a twin pack with Premier Elements...v10 I believe and the PS does have layers/masks.


Top Veteran
Houston, TX
Real Name
Great tutorial, Luke!

Photoshop Elements out of the box doesn't have the same layer mask capability as full Photoshop, i.e., you can't add a layer mask directly to an image layer. However, there's a method to hijack a layer mask from an adjustment layer to achieve similar results. Beyond that, there are - or were - third party add-ones to Elements that will give you two of the key missing features of Elements: layer masks and curves. With those add-ons (Grant's Tools and Smart Curves are my favorites) you can get by quite nicely with sub $100US Elements vs. $600+ Photoshop CSn.

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