Turn a Snapshot Into a Portrait Using Photoshop Magic

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Turn a Snapshot Into a Portrait Using Photoshop Magic

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.

black and white

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.
Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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  1. Sarah
    July 19, 2012 at 9:08 am —

    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!

  2. robin cornett
    July 18, 2010 at 5:39 pm —

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

  3. July 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm —

    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!

  4. July 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm —

    Gorgeous transformation

  5. July 3, 2010 at 8:45 am —

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

  6. July 3, 2010 at 1:13 am —


  7. July 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm —

    What a great resource!

  8. shannon
    July 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm —

    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. July 2, 2010 at 12:37 pm —

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

  10. July 2, 2010 at 11:12 am —

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

  11. Tiffany Parrott
    July 2, 2010 at 10:32 am —

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

  12. July 2, 2010 at 9:35 am —

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

  13. Regina White
    July 2, 2010 at 9:29 am —

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

  14. July 2, 2010 at 9:18 am —

    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.

  15. July 2, 2010 at 9:14 am —

    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.

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Turn a Snapshot Into a Portrait Using Photoshop Magic