Baby Airbrushing

A few weeks ago I happened to find myself on a photographer forum in a discussion about infant photography. I feel like I am still getting my feet wet in that area, which makes me so excited about all the upcoming newborn sessions I have! Anyway - the discussion turned to whether or not to airbrush an infant's face to remove redness, dry skin, baby acne, and other skin conditions characteristic of new babies. One photographer was very adement that airbrushing newborn photos was wrong, that babies are perfect the way they are, and it is a crime to change or edit their skin.

As a photographer - and a MOM - I could not disagree more.

Baby acne is a common problem. My own little girl had it as an infant. Of course when she was born, she was perfect. I don't remember her skin being red or blotchy at all, despite it appearing so red and uneven in her first photographs. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen (and not so secretly I breathed a huge sigh of relief she wasn't funny looking). However, a few weeks after she was born her acne hit. It was brief and went away on it's own. When I remember her as a baby, I remember her skin being flawless and perfect. That is what I wanted her photographs to look like.

When I work with parents during a newborn session there is a lot of downtime while we wait for baby to cooperate. In getting to know the family, I also typically address a few things - whether or not they'd like me to use props, if it is alright if I remove a diaper, if I may pick up and hold the baby, and if there are things they'd like me to remove or edit, such as the baby acne. I have never had a mother ask me to leave the acne or redness on their child's face. In the case of this argument, I think airbrushing wins. As long as the baby doesn't start to look like plastic (which I am sure I have been guilty of in the past) or you're airbrushing out characteristic details like birthmarks (without the consent or request of a parent) I think some cleaning up is absolutely necessary and okay.

Here is my sweet little girl and my image straight out of the camera. Look at those big blue eyes! Okay, sorry. Getting off track. Notice her skin? The uneven coloring, the red "pimples" and a lot of texture on her forehead. She was also molting or something because she was peeling like whoa.

The first thing I did was to use the Patch Tool  to remove the red spots and white fuzzies. Using the patch tool you simply draw and select around the area you need to edit and drag and drop your selection to an area you want to replicate from - so in this case, I dragged my selection to "clean" patches of skin.

Already a vast improvement. Next, I apply Coffeeshop PowderRoom skin action to my image. This creates a number of layers I can edit to improve my image - a skin smoothing layer, eye define, and eye brightness. I will use this to soften and blend in her skin and bring out the blue in those baby blues - she gets those from her dad.

Almost done! Now I've smoothed out the skin and brightened up her eyes just a tad. Now I want to work on the coloring and finish up my image. The white balance, or color tone, of the image is a little cool which means I would like to warm up the photo and add some yellows. This will also help make her skin a bit more creamy. I love Florabella's Vintage Photoshop actions Retro Vintage. I reduce the opacity of the action layer to 77% - a fine line between an "effect" and "natural look".

As you can see, it is an improvement from our straight out of the camera image while still sustaining her natural beauty. Airbrushing should be used like makeup - enhance what is already there - not cover it up.

Roll over the image with your mouse to see the before and after. Thanks for reading!


  1. whoa, what a great tutorial! One of the best I've ever seen (and concise, woot!)

  2. You do a great job! The rolling over feature is super cool, too.

  3. Wow. Thanks. I'm teaching myself on photoshop and this was a great tip!
    Awesome ;)