Tutorial: Brown eyes

I think the eyes are the most important part of a portrait and I have the most trouble with brown eye detail. After a lot of experimenting I found a great way to showcase those lovely brown eyes.

Let's start with the shot straight out of the camera
You can see the eyes are dull and mostly the same from pupil to outline. The first thing I do is to run CoffeeShop Perfect Portrait. I set my levels at the following:

Once the action has run, and I utilize the eye define layer I flatten the image so I can start editing the eyes alone.

I select my magnetic lasso, feathered at 2 (or whatever number you feel suits you best). I outline the eyes, make sure the add button is selected for the lasso.

Once you have selected both eyes Ctrl+J to put them on their own layer, so nothing else in your photo is effected. I hide the main image so I can focus on the eyes only. Select your dodge tool and you want to select highlights and set the exposure to about 30. You want the brush to be soft and just the right size to get just around the pupil, and brush around about 3 or 4 times.

Once you have done that on both eyes, keep your dodge tool out and select midtones and set your exposure to about 20. Select a larger brush big enough to cover the rest of the iris. Brush over both a few times to lighten.

Next you select the burn tool. Set it to shadows and exposure to about 10. Brush over the pupil and around the outline of the eyes as well as any shadows you see in the iris color itself. Do this a few times until the black is dark enough to your taste.

Then you want to do a high pass on the eyes. You go to filter>other>high pass.

I set the high pass to 20, but it is completely adjustable depending on the look you are going for, I just prefer 20 :)

Once you run the high pass you want to set that layer to soft light so it blends well with the rest of the portrait.

Finally you bring back the rest of the portrait, thus revealing the beautiful brown eyes with details.

The final edited image

The best is the comparison shot from the original to the edited version. The eyes make the portrait so much more intense.


  1. Hi Morgan!
    I just love your blog! I found you off of Rita's blog and you and Rita are awesome!!! I just tried your Brown eyes tutorial and my brown eyed beauty has popping eyes! Brown eyes are so hard to get to pop, at least I think so, and this tutorial was easy and really made the eyes pop in my picture. Thank you so much!!!

  2. Morgan I just love this!!!! Thank you so much! I was wondering if you do blue and green eyes the same way? Are you going to be doing a tutorial on those? I use this and your Newborn one ALL the time! Again thank you!Your work is beautiful!!

  3. Ashley I do everything the same except I adjust the high pass level higher or lower depending on the intensity of colors, anywhere from 10-30. Just play around with it.

    Sometimes all you have to do is select the eyes and just put them on their own layer and set to soft light.

  4. Hey Morgan ... I have played around with post production regarding the eyes for years.

    However I followed your way and really like the end results. I do use the sharp tool as opposed to the high pass at the end but both yearn somewhat the same results. I tweaked picture number 34 at the end of my photo gallery on my website: http://www.michaelalphonsephotography.com if you wish to see the results ... these eyes where tough since she is a very dark model. Keep up the great work! ~Mike

  5. This is perfect for my brown eyed baby!!

  6. Thank you for doing this! It made my brown eyed girls eyes POP! It was very easy to go off of!

  7. This is done in Elements.. is the process similar in CS5 or CS6?

  8. This is done in Elements. Is the process similar in CS6? I am a visual learner so this sort of throws me off. I really appreciate you putting so much effort into teaching others your secrets :)

  9. You can do it exactly the same in CS or PSE :)


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