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Reduce Flash Specular Highlights

Have you ben in a situation where you couldn't shoot without a flash whether internally or externally to overcome the sun? The results are always specular highlights on faces and skin. To reduce those follow these simple steps in Photoshop.

2. Select the red channel

3. Create an empty layer with a white layer mask

  1. Create a new Layer from the background layer by hitting Command + J (Mac) / Ctrl + J (Win). This will ensure all modifications are non-destructive. We can lower the opacity of the retouches and we can even delete the whole thing by deleting the layer.
  2. Go to Channels and select Red. This will select the Red Channel only as we want to work later with the brush on the red skin only. Next press Command (Mac) or Ctrl (Win) + Double Click on the red channel thumbnail. Photoshop will make a selection based on the reds.
  3. Go back to the Layers panel. Create a new empty layer and a White Mask. Select the Layer Thumbnail and not the mask thumbnail.
  4. Press B for Brush tool and lower the Opacity to 35 and the Flow to 10. We need to work with small touches like adding salt to food.
  5. Now color sample from a dark skin region next to the specular highlight you want to reduce and paint in circles on the highlights. Keep on picking colors and painting until you are satisfied with the results.

Remember that we don't want to eliminate all the highlights. We want to reduce them as to become less imposing on your viewers. If you eliminate them completely, your photos will become obviously fake.

Before

After