Tutorial – Eye Pop for Elements

Your eyes haven’t deceived you. I am back with a new tutorial! I had a reader ask me how to do an eye-pop in Photoshop Elements! I can definitely help with that. Getting eyes to pop can really make an ordinary photo something special. The eyes are what makes someone really look alive! We want their eyes to sparkle as much on film as they do in real life.
Before we go on with the tutorial, I want to give you a couple of tips to make your subject’s eyes pop IN camera first. Biggest thing to look for is catchlights. Those are the reflections of light in your subject’s eyes. If there are no catchlights, your subject will have “dead” eyes. That’s no good! Try to find something light or shiny that will leave a reflection in your subject’s eyes. That could be the sky, a flash, something metal….whatever. Change your location, change your position, the subject’s position, whatever, until you see that amazing light appear in their eyes. It’s not that hard to achieve, but the difference is incredible.
There are a few different ways to add ‘pop’ to eyes in Elements, so I’ll just show you a super quick and easy one using Levels!
1. Open a photo in Elements. That kind of goes without saying, but I said it.  If you are trying this for the first time, choose a photo where the subject’s face is rather close-up and the eyes are wide and facing front. This little cutie is a good example of what I mean:
2. You will now create a Levels Adjustment Layer. Adjustment Layers are so great because you can customize where you want the adjustments to be. I highly recommend getting comfortable using Adjustment Layers in Elements. They ROCK! 
Okay, so click on Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels
3. A little screen will pop up and you can name your adjustment layer. You can choose”Fifi” or “Scooter” or you can be boring like me and just call it “Eye Pop”
4. All of a sudden, in your layers palette to the lower right of the screen you’ll notice a new layer has appeared above your “background” layer and a screen like this will appear:
What you want to do is look at the 3 different upward arrows, a black, gray, and white one. Click on the white and start dragging it towards the left. What this does is brighten the highlights. This will make the catch lights in the eyes appear brighter later on. Next, do the same with the gray arrow. This brightens up the midtones and will make the whole iris brighter. You can then drag the black arrow slightly to the RIGHT and that will deepen the shadows a bit. Right now, your whole image is going to look kinda whacked out. It’s okay. Breathe. We’ll fix that right away!
5. Click Ctrl+I. This will inverse your layer mask and cover up all of the changes you just made. WHAT?!? Why am I covering up ALL of that hard work?! It’s okay, really…do you trust me? Do you?? Okay. Then read step 6 and it will all make sense 🙂
6. Look over to your tools palette and switch white to your foreground color. You do that by clicking on the little double-headed arrow until the white square is on top.
7.  Now, select your brush tool from the tools palette, and choose a soft round brush. Set your opacity to somewhere lower than 50%. I happened to have mine set at 37% for some reason. It doesn’t really matter.  Now, drag your mouse over towards the eyes and “paint” over the irises and the whites of the eyes only, revealing the levels adjustment you made earlier. The eyes should really  brighten up! If you don’t notice a big difference, try painting over them a second time, increasing the brush opacity, or even clicking on the levels adjustment and tweaking the settings until you get a look that you like!
8. You can sharpen the eyes using the Unsharp Mask if you want to, or just sharpen the whole image. You should notice the eyes look a lot brighter with this simple eye pop technique. Like I said, there are several ways to get an eye pop effect, so if this doesn’t work for you – let me know and I’ll possibly post another way to get there that you might like better 🙂
Doesn’t she look happier to have such bright eyes? 🙂


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