Photoshop fairy dust / Neil’s secret sauce
As much as I believe in the “get it right in camera” ethos, it is near inescapable that most images can use some sweetening in Photoshop. My own preference is for fairly subtle retouching of photographs.
The photograph above is one I’ve shown a few times as a great example of how good on-camera bounce flash can look. I did have to adjust the WB and exposure as part of my usual RAW post-processing workflow. And for the image on the left, I also removed some skin blemishes with the Healing Tool. So it does look pretty good .. but it can be subtly enhanced. And the keyword here for me is *subtle*.
My post-processing retouching for portraits involve some Photoshop plug-ins that I use, but there are some useful (and well-known) Photoshop techniques to make an image pop a little bit more. Over several articles on Tangents, I’ve referred to it as either “Photoshop fairy dust” or in a humorous way as my “secret sauce”. The techniques vary, depending on what is needed, and on what I’d like to achieve. So the “secret sauce” varies from image to image by some degree. It really depends.
With the help of Photoshop wiz, Adrian (aka, Trev from the Tangents forum), we’ve put together two action sets that make these Photoshop techniques quite accessible … and more importantly, accessible in a subtle way. No over-the-top effect. Just that sweetening of the photograph as is necessary. The image on the right-hand shows the type of retouching that is possible with this action set.
The action set, called Neil’s Secret Sauce, is available for download for a $20 fee from that linked page. The zip file includes two actions as well as a PDF instruction sheet.
And of course, we’ll gladly help!
Where this Action can and can’t work:
Adobe Photoshop: YES
Adobe Elements: NO
Lightroom in Conjunction with Adobe Photoshop: YES
Lightroom Standalone: NO
Aperture in Conjunction with Adobe Photoshop: YES (not verified)
Aperture Standalone: NO
17 Comments, Add Your Own
is there a lightroom version?
Does “the secret sauce” work with Photoshop Elements 9 ?
I am using LR3 ONLY, no ps………can it ALL be done there?? ty
Love the action set Neil! Subtle, yet powerful and oh so customizable!
Bought mine. I have learned much on your blog and check it frequently. Thanks
10Bob Madia says
Like everything else from you, when I think that I already knew “that”, you add a twist. I am not newB (or am I). This simple/complex action will save me time / and add “that twist”. $10…hmm…2 Starbucks or this…..the winner is….
Neil, I have playing with the action sets today. I feel the changes are very subtle (maybe too subtle )but then again I probably am doing something wrong. The ones with the black masks seem to be giving me the most trouble. I have my brush switched to white, have increased the hardness and can see the effects on the mask but when I remove the “eye” I do not see a difference on the picture. Opacity is set to 100% everywhere I can set it. Can you think of any other setting I may have wrong? In particular I am looking to “darken” over exposed faces and “lighten” ones that are shadowed. Any advice on how to use your actions to correct my lighting problems would be greatly appreciated. As I am sure you can guess I am new to using masks! Thanks,
I have sent email. So you can send me image, I can check it out, edit and give a detailed account of what I did to it.
Maybe post here [with your permission]:
That way, other people in same boat will find it useful.
Thanks for the generosity in allowing me to edit your file.
I have posted here: https://neilvn.com/forum/discussion/401/neils-secret-sauce-action-sets-for-post-processing-now-available#Item_11
14Michael Foley says
‘The command “mezzotint” is not currently available’ is the message displayed when I attempt to run old vintage look (both bw and color).
Thanks for providing the action set! I just purchased it. I’ve been a daily reader of your blog for a year now. Thanks again for all the valuable information!