Before & After: Manual Edit – NO ACTIONS
Look Mom, no actions. Okay, in all seriousness, I wanted to prove that I could edit without using actions…and hopefully you’ll tell me that I still do a good job. Here’s what I’m going to do…I’ll show you my basic edit in my typical before and after format. Then, I’ll max it out with texture and style…again, no actions. My hope is that this will translate into most editing programs. Thank you Exposed Mom for allowing me to practice on your beautiful little girl. (By the way, I still have the second photo to edit – all this blogging my steps took time).
_DSC2161aweb Before and After
For my basic edit: 
  1. Go to enhance (top tool bar), adjust color, adjust color for skin tone. Select the forehead (neutral territory) and allow it to play. Because I don’t have white balance correction in PSE, this sorta does the same thing. If you have Light Room, you should be able to adjust the white balance there. 
  2. Go to your adjustment layers, select levels. I pulled my shadows up to 12, my midtones to 1.16 and left my highlights at 255. Then go to your green channel (there will be a drop down menu at the top of your levels box). Pull your shadows/darks up to 11 – leave the rest of your numbers alone. The go to your blue channel. Pull your shadows up to 12 and your highlights to 245. 
  3. Go back to your background – create three duplicates. The first layer will go just above the background. Move the other two copies above your levels layer (we’ll get to that in a second). 
  4. So in your first copy (just above the background)….I wanted to even out her skin tone. I used the eye dropper to select a darker tone on her right cheekbone then used a low opacity brush (I think I used 20-40%) and gently paint over the brighter spots. I did the same thing on her neck. I also used a combination of my dodge and burns tools to even it out. To check my work, I turned the layer off and then back on again. I lowered the opacity of the layer to 80%.
  5. On your second background copy, select filter, other, high pass – set at 20 pixels. Then set the blending mode to soft light. Create a layer mask and fill the mask black. Then use a soft white low opacity brush to paint over her eyes – this will make them pop. 
  6. On your third background copy, select filter, other, high pass – set at 20 pixels. Then click ctrl + i to inverse the selection. Set the blending mode to soft light. Create a layer mask to fill the mask black and use a soft white opacity brush to paint over the rough spot on her chin. I went back and used the paint brush/dodge tools to really smooth this out. 
At this point, you’re done with your basic edit. See, told you I could do it. I decided to keep moving with the Ashley edit. 
  1. Merge all previous layers (ctrl + shift + e).
  2. Create a duplicate copy of the background. Go to filter, create camera distortion – you can create a vignette here and really control how much of a vignette you want. 
  3. Open 2 texture files: HeavensBlush and Vintage Grain 5 – leave them in the bin for a moment. 
  4. Go back to your photo and drag heavensblush onto your photo. Set the blending mode to overlay and the opacity to 60%. Use a layer mask to erase the texture from her face (I tend to use a 40% opacity brush so it’s not too harsh). 
  5. Now drag vintage grain 5 onto your photo. Set the blending mode to soft light and the opacity to 80%. 
_DSC2161aweb Texture
That’s all for textures. Now style…
  1. Merge all previous layers. 
  2. I created two blank layers (I should have recorded the exact colors). In one of those layers, I filled it with a cream color, set the blending mode to screen and the opacity to 20%. The second layer was filled with a brown/gray shade, the blending mode set to screen and the opacity to 14%. 
  3. I then went back to my background and created two duplicate layers – I pulled those above my color layers. 
  4. With the first duplicate layer, I set it to screen and the opacity to 18% – this allowed me to lighten the photo. 
  5. With the second duplicate layer, I set it to multiply and the opacity to 22% – this allowed me to darken the photo. 
  6. I then went into my adjustment layers and increased my contrast to +28.
  7. Then I went back into the adjustment layers and added a warming filter (85) at 8. 
_DSC2161aweb Final
To finish out my edits, I always re-size and sharpen. Re-size first by going to image (in your upper tool bar), re-size, image and I adjust the width to 850 pixels (for my blog). Then create a duplicate layer. Go to enhance, unsharp mask (85%, radius 1, threshold 0) – set the blending mode to luminosity and then adjust the opacity to 50%.   

That’s it! Any questions? By the way, I should have watermarked the last two photos – do me a favor…don’t steal them.