Removing Hot Spots in Portraits in Photoshop

Excerpt from Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers Using Photoshop.

Hot spots are those shiny areas on your subject’s face that reflect the lighting and almost make their face look like they’re sweating. I try to fix these while we’re on the shoot, but one set of shots with them always seems to sneak through (unless I have a makeup artist on the set—they never let the models get shiny). If a few sneak into one of your sets, here’s how to quickly get rid of them:

Step One:
Here’s a shot of our subject, with hot spots on the bottom of her forehead, on her nose, her cheek on the right, and her chin. The Patch tool (shown below) works well with these larger repairs, but you can use the Healing Brush tool to do this, too. If you do, though, you have to remove the entire hot spot in just one stroke (you’ll see why in a minute).

Step Two:
Zoom in on her face, then press Com­mand-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to duplicate the Background layer—we’ll do all our patching on that layer. Take the Patch tool and draw a selection around the hot spot on her forehead (as shown here). The Patch tool works just like the Lasso tool for making selections, so you’ll feel pretty comfortable with it the first time you use it.

Step Three:
Now, click inside your selected area and drag that selection to a nearby area that has a similar texture (so, somewhere on the forehead), but isn’t shiny (as shown below). Release your mouse button (or remove your pen from the tablet surface), and your selection snaps back to its original position (over the hot spot), and your hot spot is gone. Sadly, so is the highlight, which we don’t want to lose—a nice highlight area adds dimension, so we don’t want it removed—we just want the amount of highlight lessened, so we’ll fix that in the next step. For now, whatever you do, don’t deselect (you need to keep your selection in place).

Step Four:
Press Command-H (PC: Ctrl-H) to hide your selection around the area where the hot spot used to be. Now, go under the Edit menu and choose Fade Patch Selection. This brings up the Fade dialog (shown here), which I like to think of as “Undo on a slider.” At 100%, you have the full effect of whatever you did last (in this case, you used the Patch tool to remove the hot spot, and everything else, on her forehead). If you lower the Opacity to 0%, it would all come back as if you never did anything. So, your job here is to lower the Fade Opacity amount until the highlight comes back, but you want to stop before the shininess comes back. In this case, 29% brought back the highlight we want, without the shiny stuff we don’t want. Click OK, and you’re done with that hot spot.

Step Five:
You’re going to continue this process on each of the other hot spots, and don’t be surprised if you use a different Fade Opacity amount for each one—just use your best judgment. Also, Fade only works on the very last thing you do, which is why immediately after you use the Patch tool, the very next thing you need to do is Fade it—the Fade command will disappear as soon as you do anything else (luckily, it doesn’t count the Command-H [Hide Selection] keyboard shortcut as a step). So, I always do it in this order: (1) remove the hot spot, (2) hide the selection, and then (3) go right to Fade and lower the Opacity. Now, select the hot spot on her chin (as shown below) and drag it to a nearby clean area with similar skin texture.

Step Six:
Hide the selection (so you can clearly see what you’re doing), then go under the Edit menu, choose Fade Patch Selection, and lower the Opacity until it looks about right (as shown below; for this hot spot, the amount that looked right to me was 36%). Remember, all your patching was done on a copy of the Background layer, so if you feel like the highlights all still look a little too dull, you can lower the Opacity of the layer a little bit and it will all back down proportionally. A before/after of the retouch is shown at the bottom.

Learn more about working with Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush in Professional Portrait Retouching for  Photographers Using Photoshop. Also, be sure to check out all the great online Photoshop classes offered by KelbyOne.