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Simple and Effective Photo Retouching with iPhoto
Elaine Ashburn on Sat, August 17th 0 comments
There are times when all you want is make some quick fixes to an image and even opening up Photoshop seems like overkill. Enter iPhoto's sophisticated image editing tools!

There are times when all you want to do is make a couple of quick fixes to an image before sharing. And even opening up Photoshop seems like too much work (or maybe you don’t have the application). Good thing it’s not always necessary, as iPhoto has some pretty sophisticated retouching tools available within the program itself. I like to think of it as Photoshop Light.

Here’s a quick before and after picture I’ve retouched using only iPhoto. *

Before… and after.

Pic 1 and 2: Before… and after.


Meet the Tools

Getting to the retouching tools is easy. Just click on the edit button, bottom right (pic 3). It opens a number of retouching options: rotate, enhance, fix red-eye, straighten, crop, retouch. Above these quick fix buttons are also effects and adjustment options. We’ll use them all.

Pic 3

Pic 3


Taking (back) the Red-Eye

The first thing you’ll notice with the “before” picture are the red eyes on my friend Linda’s daughter Cheryl. As you just discovered, iPhoto has a built-in red-eye adjustment tool. Simply click on the button to access it. You can auto fix or fix manually. I chose the manual so you could see the progress. Click on a pupil and drag the slider to match the red area’s size, then click. No more late nights for that eye (Pic 4). Do the same to the other eye and it’s bye-bye red-eye (Pic 5). 

Pic 4, 5 and 6.

Pic 4, 5 and 6.


Clean-up time

Now since I like to give all my friends a little painless plastic surgery, I noticed Linda’s neck could use a little work. Hit the done button under fix red-eye and open the Retouch button.

Change the size of the brush using the size slider. I would make the brush just big enough to cover one line on her neck. This works similar to the healing brush tool in Photoshop. Click or drag over the lines to remove them. While you’re at it, subtly soften the crow’s feet and use the same tool over the red spots to make her skin color more even (pic 7). I just love this tool, it’s like airbrush makeup. I would do a little on her daughter too, removing slight imperfections here and there. When you’re finished click done.

Pic 7

Pic 7


Chop Chop!

OK, I think it’s time for a little cropping now. There is too much background on the right side; I’d rather mother and daughter be central. Click on the Crop button to open it. Since we do not want to keep the same ratio as the original, scroll down to custom in the column that says 3648 x 2736 or whatever yours says. Draw a marquee around the area you want to crop and then hit done. Your image will now be cropped to the size you indicated (pic 8).

Pic 8

Pic 8


Color Me Perfect

The composition is looking better but the color is still a little off. There are a few ways within iPhoto to adjust this. Let’s start with Adjust first. We can always play with our other toys later.

Go to the Adjust button in the top right and click it. A new palette will appear. Let’s just up a few of the sliders to see what happens. The exposure is pretty good the way it is now, but let’s raise it anyway to, say 0.21. I’d up the contrast about the same amount (on the slider it’s a 5). We could use a little more saturation, so I’d increase that quite a bit—to around 69. I also added to the highlights and shadows a little.

Even after all we’ve done, I don’t feel like we’ve really moved the color. It’s still a little yellow, so let’s move the temperature into the cool area—I did a minus 17 on the temperature and a minus 1 on the tint. Much better, don’t you think? (Pic 9).

Pic 9

Pic 9


Before we move on, I see a little more red-eye that I’d like to fix. Let’s go back to the quick fixes button and try to get rid of that last little bit of red eye. Make your brush size a little bigger (the size of Cheryl’s pupil) and click once more on each eye. Yes! That fixed it. I feel better about moving forward now (Pic 10).

Pic 10

Pic 10


Cause and Effects

I think I’d like to play around with a couple of the other buttons to see what they’ll do.

Open the Effects button on the top. There’s an awful lot of blue-white wall to the right of Linda, maybe if we vignette the image that will go away? Let’s try. Click on the vignette button in the center. You’ll see it put a bit of an old-school vignette around the picture and also you’ll notice that a #1 appeared on the vignette button itself. This shows you that there is more than one vignette preset. Click it again and #2 will appear. You’ll notice it vignettes more of the picture. Keep clicking right and you’ll notice there are 24 presets of vignette, each one masking more and more of the image. 

Well that’s not what we want, but it’s kind of cool to know it can do this. Let’s go back to #1 and take another look at it. You can do this by clicking the left button until the number one appears on the button face like before. (Image 11)

Pic 11


I’ve got to tell you, I’m just not wild about this—let’s click back to no numbers on the vignette and try some other options. There are a number of different buttons here and since they are pretty self-explanatory, feel free to try them all on your own.

Since I’m a bit of a perfectionist I’d like to do something else to get that color more neutralized. I’m going to try a trick from Photoshop. Let’s go back to the Adjust button on the top again. See the eyedropper tool right next to the word Tint? Click on it and a dialogue box appears. It says ‘pick a neutral gray or white point in the photo to remove the color cast’. Click on the mounding of the white wall behind Linda. You’ll notice the whole picture brightens up (pic 12).

Pic 12

Pic 12


Just Checking

I like this look a lot. I think we should stick with this and call it a day. What do you think?

Maybe we should compare it back to the original again just to make sure we‘ve reached our objective.

Pic 1 and 2

Pic 1 and 2: Before and after.


No red eye? Check. Less facial imperfections? Check. More natural color? Check. And a nicer over-all composition? Check.

I hope you enjoyed this little demonstration of some of the built-in retouching effects you can do without having to resort to Photoshop. As you can see, iPhoto does a very nice job of cleaning up images without too much knowledge or work.

*Photos used with permission.

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