Eye Pop Tutorial for Lightroom and Photoshop Elements







I love looking at close up pictures of people and especially love looking at their eyes. I also really like looking at the photos in scrapbook pages. One thing I really like is when their eyes just pop. I’m finding, though, that this doesn’t just happen naturally, even with the most amazing light source or camera lens. There still needs to be a little bit of editing of the eyes to get them to pop. They’re usually a little bit dark and could use some clarity to them. It takes a little bit of extra work but I highly recommend taking that little bit of extra time to make the eyes pop in your photos. I’m going to share a little bit about how I do it in Photoshop Elements 9 and also in Lightroom 2, and then I’m going to make a confession, LOL.

Photoshop Elements

I’ve already edited this photo because it was slightly underexposed, but it still needs a little eye pop. See my last tutorial for how I fix underexposed photos. Here is the original or initial edit.

First I’m going to zoom into the eye. I’m going to use the magnetic lasso tool and it’ll be more precise if you’re zoomed in. I’m going to highlight the iris of the eye.

After I’ve highlighted that, I’m going to Select → Feather (alt+ctrl+d) and put that at 10px and click OK.

I then go to Enhance → Adjust Lighting → Shadows/Highlights and adjust to my liking. I usually only adjust the shadows part and leave the highlights, but feel free to play to your liking.

Last, I go to Enhance → Unsharp Mask and again adjust to my liking. I usually just stick to my normal settings which is 150/.3/0.

I then zoom out to see if I like it before working on the other eye.

For the second eye, I keep the settings the same as the first eye, so that the shadowing in the picture looks natural. So you’ll see in this photo that his left eye is darker than his right eye because of the shadowing it makes from the light source coming from the right side. I don’t want to brighten up that eye more than the other because it would really look unnatural.

And there you have eye pop in Photoshop Elements.


In Lightroom 2, it’s a little bit different and I like how easy it is to edit both eyes at the same time. I opened up the same original pre-eye pop image that I used in PSE. On the right hand side of the “Develop” section, underneath the Histogram, click on the Adjustment Brush (K). I changed the brush size to fit inside the iris of the eye and adjusted the feathering to something small. I then click on the eye in the iris so that I’m highlighting the iris on each eye.

I then click on the little circle from where I started the highlight on the eye. You’ll see in the Effects palette, a menu of bars shows up. I start from the top and move down. So I’ve adjusted the Exposure first to something that I like. I then move down to Brightness and adjust that to my liking. And then, Contrast. I don’t touch Saturation. My favorite adjustment is Clarity. This is where it really pops. My personal preference is to not touch Sharpness and just stick to Clarity.

When you’ve made your adjustments to your liking, you’re done. Since you’ve highlighted both eyes with your adjustment brush it works both of them at the same time. I LOVE that!

Here are the three edits together so you can see the differences.

My confession? OK, I went overboard with the Lightroom edit. I wanted to show what it would look like if you do too much. It looks really unnatural and the catchlight is too overexposed. This is also the reason I don’t mess with the whites of the eyes, because they’re naturally gray and not white. If your overall picture is underexposed then it will be fixed when you fix the lighting in the picture and you only need to do a little bit of pop to the iris.

We hope you’ve found this helpful. We can’t wait to see your eyes pop in your photos.

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