It's the holidays. Who doesn't want to look good in all those annual photos that will be snapped over the coming weeks. But sometimes you can only do so much to enhance your age in those photos. Sure, you can slap on the extra moisturizers and other bondo-type make up that hides those flaws you've acquired through the years, but if you have a computer and a good photo program, you can add a little enhancement to make those shots look even better.
I use Paint Shop Pro (PSP). I've used PSP since version 4 and love it. (Although I worry about its future now that Corel bought out JASC!) PSP is a fantastic graphic and photo enhancing program for, generally, under $100. Let's hope Corel doesn't destroy that fact! For now, I still highly recommend it.
In this article, I'll show you a few tricks you can use with PSP to give your favorite photo a little face lift. But know that PSP doesn't corner the market on these tricks. Most graphic/photo software programs provide you with some common photo fixing tools, but the better programs will have more advanced tools.
Here's a stock photo I swiped from the web. As you can see, this woman's face carries the marks of time. We'll help her out a bit with a few tricks.
PSP has a tool that allows you to Soften the blending of the pixels in the photo.
I'll use this tool to soften some of the lines in her face to help take away a few years.
When using these enhancement tools, be sure to set the levels of intensity to no more than half their strength. In other words, if the Opacity level goes to 100, start with something no more than 50. You can always raise the level if it's taking you too long to get the results you want. But lighter changes are less noticable.
Also, to help make the changes less drastic, zoom in. This way you're working with a more precise view and when you zoom out, the changes will be more finely tuned to the specific areas and will blend in better with the photo as a whole. The Soften tool is one of my favorites to gently blend away the years.
There are times when a photo needs a special fix whereby you might want to take part of the photo and duplicate the color or texture from that part of the photo to another area so that a change or coverup looks more natural. That's when you'll want to use the Clone tool.
For example, say you are trying to cut someone out of a photo, but their image is within the shot of the person you're attempting to focus on. Below is a group photo that we took last holiday. It's not a bad photo of me so I'd like to use it elsewhere. But Susie's santa hat is a dead giveaway in the photo.
With the use of the Clone tool, I can duplicate part of the photo. To use the tool, you right click on the area that you want to duplicate. Then you draw by left clicking the tool along the photo. Notice in the image below you can see the X above the square with the cross-hair. The X shows me what area is being copied and the cross-hair shows me where that color/texture is being copied to. A few strokes and then a little softening to blend in that area and no one will know that this was a holiday photo and Susie's santa hat was in the shot.
The Clone tool is also great for carrying patterns like fixing a spot on a tile floor or carrying clothing patterns. In the image below I've put a black blob on Greg's jacket. If a photo was damaged in this way, it might be very difficult to duplicate the pattern of the folds in the jacket. But with a little cloning of the material around the same area, and then a little smoothing with the Soften tool...I can remove the damage and the jacket will still look very natural.
For our woman's face lift, we'll use the clone tool to keep the tone of her skin properly adjusted as we move around and make fixes. Using the clone tool helps to ensure that the area you're coloring is very similar to the same area of color you need. This allows me to use her same skin tone to blend away her mole and other major marks on her face.
Another great tool for fixing photos is the Scratch Remover. Oh sure, this is meant to allow you to easily blend away white scratch marks in old photos that you've scanned. But it also works great for blending away those wrinkles!
Again, you'll want to use the tool at a medium strength so the changes aren't too drastic. This tool can take a little practice to appreciate how it works. What it does is take the colors from the surrounding area and blend them in by smudging the colors a bit. If you select too wide of an area, you might cause too many colors to blend and it'll look wrong. But also, in some cases, too small of a selection will mean that the problem area isn't blended away, but made worse! This is when you'll want to remember that Ctrl + Z is your Undo key! If the last change you made doesn't look right, get rid of it and try again.
I use the Scratch Remover to blend away some of the deeper lines and spots in her face.
And here you have it...the before and after.
Much younger looking and all it cost was a little time with my favorite photo enhancement tools.