How To Fix Distractions Like Stray Hairs and Shadows in Photoshop

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

How To Fix Distractions Like Stray Hairs and Shadows in Photoshop


Photoshop Actions

I was so excited to see this image pop up on my screen after a perfect session with three little girls. They were all over the place and challenged me to get the shot on the first try. I remembered so clearly having a split second to capture this and was thrilled to see her eyes so perfectly in focus. In the world of family photography, capturing each child’s personality is so important. And this shot did just that!

However, I noticed that there were some harsh shadows and quite a few stray hairs that really distracted from the essence of the image.

Here is what I did to fix distractions using Lightroom, then Photoshop:

I imported the RAW image into Lightroom and used MCP Quick Clicks Lightroom Presets: Best Guess White Balance, Add 1/3 Stop, and Blowout Buster Light. I also enabled the correct lens profile in the lens correction section.

Here’s what it looked like at that point:
Photoshop Actions

Then I started work in Photoshop:

I opened the adjusted image in Photoshop and ran MCP Color Fusion Mix and Match. Jenna’s Sweet Shop looked best – I dropped the opacity to 20% to make the effect slightly more subtle. And although I had not done ANY work on her eyes, they looked far too sharp to me, so I masked off her irises in the Crisp It layer. Still slightly sharper than I would like, but I just let it go because I did not want to alter the natural beauty of her eyes. Once I was done with these edits, I flattened the image for work on her skin.

Results at this point:

Photoshop Actions

Next up, I warmed her skin tone using a curves adjustment layer.  You could also use MCP Bag of Tricks Magic See-Saw Photoshop action if you are unfamiliar with curves color correction. In order to lessen the hard shadow on the left side of her face, I used the patch tool to soften the lines. Then, I tried the healing brush tool to soften it even more, but was really unhappy with the results. So instead, I tried to use the skin from the opposite side of her face.

Here’s how I did it. First, I copied the background layer and used the transform command to flip it horizontally and lined up the left side of her cheek by lowering the opacity of the new layer (that way I could see them both at the same time). Once lined up, I erased the portions that were not useful so that only her cheek was showing in the new layer. By carefully erasing and lowering the opacity of her new cheek, I dramatically reduced the shadow and made her skin look very natural.

Here’s the results of the skin work:

Photoshop Actions


Last up, the stray hairs. For the hairs across her forehead and other smooth areas of skin, the spot healing brush did a great job. Once I was near features, the precision of the healing brush tool was required and I used it in both the replace and normal modes to finish removing hairs. Each time I made significant progress, I copied my background layer again. That way, if I started to goof up, I could always step backwards. When I was done, I flattened the image.

My clients were thrilled with the finished product and so was I! After all, happy clients make happy photographers.

Here is the final product:

Photoshop Actions

This article was written by Jessica Rotenberg of Jess Rotenberg Photography. She specializes in natural light family and child photography in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can also like her on Facebook.

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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  1. Missy
    February 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm —

    Definitely looks better without the distractions.. Thank you for the step by step. I have a harder time taking shadows away in my pics.

  2. January 5, 2013 at 9:30 am —

    I prefer it with the hairs. I think I’m still mad about the photographer who removed my purposeful 1990’s side hair piece in the final edit of a family photo. I worked hard to put that there!

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How To Fix Distractions Like Stray Hairs and Shadows in Photoshop