3 Tips for Highlighting Hair in Portrait Photos

Hair just doesn’t get the attention it deserves in photography. And meanwhile, great-looking hair takes a photo to the next level. So sit down, read on, and learn to give hair a healthy shine with (and without) a photo editor.

If you can’t get hair looking great while taking your pictures, then you’ll want to at least give it some attention during photo editing. We’ll take a look at the most useful advice on doing just that.

1.     Interesting Hair Attracts Attention

With some models, you’re lucky and their hair is simply interesting in itself. Because of that, you don’t have to worry about pretty and shiny hair during the shoot, and you can concentrate on other things.

Hana1.jpg A model with attractive hair takes you halfway there. But you can still make great hair even better, for example with an interesting hairdo.

A model with attractive hair takes you halfway there. But you can still make great hair even better, for example with an interesting hairdo.

Meanwhile, if your model’s hair isn’t naturally pretty, then you can use the services of a hair stylist. It’s not the cheapest solution, but hair is a prepared photographer’s best calling-card.

When you invest in professional hair styling for a model, your photos will show it.

When you invest in professional hair styling for a model, your photos will show it.

2.     Harness Direct Sunlight

One way to make hair in photos more beautiful is to fill it with light. Hair responds well to light. Hair doesn’t suffer under sharp sunlight. In fact, it looks a lot better and healthier under direct sunlight than in constant light, which is very diffuse. In diffuse light, hair has no striking contrasts, and it loses its shine.

Direct sunlight can give hair a very nice sheen.

Direct sunlight can give hair a very nice sheen.

On the other hand, however, photographing a model under direct sunlight is not all that easy. You’ll have trouble with the harsh shadows in their eyes, and they will not enjoy gazing right towards the sun. In fact, their eyes may start to water. Because of this, it’s a fine idea to use sunglasses—which are also a great thematic fit for a sunny scene.

Sunglasses can liven up a photo.

Sunglasses can liven up a photo.

Another option is to use a diffuser, which diffuses the light while still leaving it with enough intensity that the picture has some natural contrast. That way, your model’s hair will be shiny and their eyes will get some light too, but not an unpleasant amount. A diffuser also has a disadvantage, however: to use it, you’ll need an assistant and windless weather. Because of this, you can’t always rely on it.

Using a diffuser under direct sunlight.

Using a diffuser under direct sunlight.

3.     Adding a Sheen Through Software

If you want to add some shine through software, use Zoner Photo Studio. You’ll find the tools you need in the Editor. These tools are the Curves filter and the Selection Brush.

First bring up Curves, by using the Adjust menu’s “Curves” item or pressing Ctrl+C.

>> Read our article How to Use Curves to Adjust Image Exposure.

 

Then use the Selection Brush to select the bright roots of the hair. Give the Selection Brush a high Blur value so that the fade-in into the selection will be gradual. Also, make your selection with multiple brush strokes instead of just one. Keep in mind the importance of making your edit unnoticeable. Be sure to take advantage of the various Mask Display Modes, so that you can see exactly what you are and aren’t selecting.

>> Read our article Become a Smarter Editor—Master Masks.

 

Local brightening using Curves and selections.

Local brightening using Curves and selections.

Now repeat this approach, but this time around, darken the dark spots. This increases the local contrast in the model’s hair. Their hair will then look shinier and healthier overall.

Darkened spots.

Darkened spots.

And here’s how the photo looks after my edits:

The photo before and after edits.

Balance in Everything

You can tell healthy hair by its shine. Because of this, a little extra attention during editing to give it a healthy undertone can’t hurt—but don’t overdo it! It should be hard to tell that the photo’s been edited.

Like what you see? Download Zoner Photo Studio, try it free for 30 days, and you too can give hair some extra shine.

 

Last updated 20. July 2016

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Author: Majo Elias

I’ve been taking pictures since 2004. When I was starting out, I photographed almost everything. Later my style solidified and I began photographing people almost exclusively. At the moment my main genres are fashion and advertising.

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