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Adjusting Flesh Tones

So what do you do if you’ve used Levels to properly set the highlights, midtones, and shadows, but the flesh tones in your photo still look too red? You can try this quick trick for getting your flesh tones in line by removing the excess red. This one small adjustment can make a world of difference.

Step One:

Open a photo that needs red removed from the flesh tones. If the whole image appears too red, skip this step and move on to Step Three. However, if just the flesh-tone areas appear too red, get the Quick Selection tool (A) and click on all the flesh-tone areas in your photo. (Press-and-hold the Alt [Mac: Option] key to remove any areas that were selected that shouldn’t have been, such as the dress or hair.)

© ISTOCKPHOTO/LEIGH SCHINDLER

Step Two:

Go under the Select menu and choose Feather. Enter a Feather Radius of about 3 pixels, then click OK. By adding this feather, you’re softening the edges of your selection, preventing a hard, visible edge from appearing around your adjustments.

Step Three:

Go under the Enhance menu, under Adjust Color, and choose Adjust Hue/Saturation. When the dialog appears, click on the Edit pop-up menu and choose Reds so you’re only adjusting the reds in your photo (or in your selected areas if you put a selection around the flesh tones).

Step Four:

The rest is easy—you’re simply going to reduce the amount of saturation so the flesh tones appear more natural. Drag the Saturation slider to the left to reduce the amount of red (I moved mine to -32, but you may have to go further to the left, or not as far, depending on how red your skin color is). With the Preview checkbox turned on, you’ll be able to see the effect of reducing the red as you lower the Saturation slider.

Step Five:

When the flesh tones look right, just click the OK button and you’re set. But don’t forget that your selection is still in place, so press Ctrl-D (Mac: Command-D) to deselect.

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