In a recent personal photo shoot with my father-in-law, I wanted to take a realistic photograph that captured his true and realistic self without much editing manipulation. I’ve been asked quite a bit to explain the process I took to get this look of minimal editing.

First of all, I took this photo underneath a covered patio with a natural reflector of a cement flooring coming from the bottom angle. I wanted to make sure that his skin was very clear but the background was blurry. With him being so close to the background, I had to use a wide open aperture (f1.8) with my 50mm lens to blur the background.


While I like that this shot above shows the character of his skin and the multiple details of his face, I don’t really think it necessarily looks like a editorial-like portrait. So I first observed the coloring and wanted to cool down his skin without losing his warmth.

Over on the left, I selected the “Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer” icon and clicked “Solid Color”.

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Once you click on the Solid Color tab, a color palette will pop up. Since a lot of red and warm tones consume the photograph, I chose a brighter blue to add to the coloring.

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Once you click on OK, a solid color layer will cover your frame.

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If you then double click on the Color Fill layer, you will have multiple blending options of what you’d like to do with this Color Fill layer.

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I usually choose Overlay or Soft Light which allows different levels of light from the blue Color Fill color chosen. Once you choose your blending mode, I then toggle the Opacity between 20-40%.

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I then added layers of Vibrance and Curves to bring out a pop of color and contrast.

You might have a different preference in coloring and tone but these are the tones I prefer because this is truly how I see my father-in-law. If you look at the before and after, you’ll see a pop of color and tonal change that can be brought out by utilizing the Color Fill layer and blending options.

If you have other tips for changing skin tones and creating a realistic portrait, let us know in the comments below.