Award Winning Portraits with Computer Magic


Susan Cowles Portrait Workshop
January  25, 2011

Susan shared her program, “Award Winning Portraits with Computer Magic” with us. She has won numerous photography awards and this last year won the PSA (Photographic Society of America) 1st in the World for Small Color Prints, with her portraitures. She photographs models with a goal of creating great art. She has a style that presents perfection.

She begins with doing the model's makeup and hair and posses them with props, like hats and scarves. She works with .jpg files, and shared her workflow, step by step, correcting the image. After cropping, removing flaws on the skin and clothing, and removing the small light reflections in the corners of the eyes (not the catch light), she uses a plug-in called Portraiture Imagenomics. The plug-in creates a very sophisticated mask and makes the skin look youthful and near perfect. There are many presets in the plug-in that can be used for additional styles like "glamour".

She uses layers for each area she works, such as eyes, cheeks, and lips. The image of the model she was demonstration had "pretty eyes" which is a solid band of color next to the whites of the eyes. If your model does not have that naturally, add it in burning in the color. Susan demonstrated how to apply blush to the cheeks, apply eye shadow, change the color of lipstick, whiten up the teeth, and add highlights to the hair. She even added longer eyelashes to the model. Eyelashes are available at

When rushed for time at a model shoot, she does not worry about colors matching because that can all be changed in Photoshop. The bright colorful scarves seen on her models, are pieces of fabric from a fabric store.

Check out her website at and her gallery.

Get a 20% Discount at Imagenomics– Use SUSANCOWLES for discount

The following is from Susan's Notes:

If you have any questions about the material that I have covered please feel free to contact me at

Becky In Green Scarf,   as it Came out of the camera and after photo shop

  • Starting Image – Jpg
  • Taken in Studio
  • Nikon D-200 F-8 -1/125  studio flash
  • In this image use the patch tool on her face and eyes & the small healing brush on some of the places on her scarf to clean up this image.
  • Imagenomics Portraiture plugin is used for skin softening. Skin warmth and contrast are also adjusted. One good thing about Portraiture is only affect the skin and not anything else if you wish.
  • Fix Hot spots on cheek using clone stamp in blending mode darken.  Select 30% opacity. This is always done on a separate layer as you can adjust the opacity on a layer if you need to and then merge it down when you have it just right.  Another thing to remember is Use your history to your advantage.  You can use it to back up to erase mistakes but also to take pictures of your images at different steps or crops and then make a new image with the saved images in the history.
  • Sharpening of Image…use Smart Sharpen. A good rule of thumb for sharpening images is 150% Radius 1.5 set at Gaussian Blur.  Make sure that Basic is checked and more accurate is unchecked.
  • Adding Hair- I needed to add several pieces of hair to this image. Using the lasso tool encircle a piece of hair. Feather the radius by 5 pixels do a control copy clear the “ants” and do a control v.  The piece of hair will now show up on a new layer. Now do a File new making sure it is going to open up on a transparent layer. Open and drag the layer over onto the new file.  Cleaning up the images is easy on the new layer. See right side here.  Drag the hair to models head then use transform warp to help ease it in place.  The hair can also be reversed, erased to be shortened or opacity reduced to fit in.  Remember. Each piece of hair needs to be on one layer.
  • Changing the color of eyes- use the lasso tool and encircle both iris of the eyes. Feather by 3.  Open Hue and Saturation and move sliders.  If you don’t get the color you like try clicking the colorize box.  You can also add selective color to the mix. Many times you may need to dodge the color portion of dark brown colored eyes to lighten them up so that they accept a color change.  A 50% gray layer with blending mode on overlay should be used to do your dodging no matter what type of dodging you do.
  • In this image there is an unwanted small hole in-between her lips.  To close lips in this situation make sure you zoom in very close. Then use the patch tool in very small pieces working your way across the lips.  Zoom out and check your work.. All Better now!!
  • Two last things left to do.  Check your levels.  Remember that decreasing the mid-tones make a big difference and go a long way to deepening the colors in your image.  At this point if you feel you need to add Hue and Sat to boost your colors this is the place to do it.  Last but not least always do a double hit of the F key so you view the image on a black background.  This way you are sure your cropping is correctly done and you are able to see just the image on a black background.  It really makes your image pop and gives you an idea how the image will be seen if you decide to enter this in a digital competition

By Douglas Wade & Sue Craft
Photos by David Wilkins

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