One of the effects I've decided that I really like is what I'm calling the "Soft, Warm and Fuzzy", an effect which is easily applied to an image in Photoshop. I can't take sole credit for this since it's the result of seeing how other folks do different things and playing with modifications of their work, so feel free to claim this or any variation you come up with as your very own!
Other editing programs may work as well, I just don't know anything about them, so if you're using Paint Shop Pro or similar, your mileage may vary.
Start with an image that's pretty clean and crisp. Soft, in this case, doesn't mean 'out of focus'.
This was lit with a single monolight pointed at her head and shoulders from the rear, camera right. The light passed by her and was reflected right back into her face from a large gold reflector placed just out of the viewfinder on camera left. This is one of the reflectors that Jeff Black sells on his website, and works like a champ.
Jeff Black's silver/gold stand-alone reflectors
Duplicate the layer (Control-J or Command-J or whatever way you want to do it) and apply Guassian Blur to the image. At this step I'm wanting to create a large blurred effect, so I use a radius of 30 pixels.
Now, reduce the Opacity of that layer anywhere from 25% to 50%. Depending on the image, I'm usually finding that 30-35% works well with 'Soft, Warm and Fuzzy'... less if I'm looking for less of a "glow" effect.
This one is set to 35%:
Now, on the duplicate layer only... Adjust the contrast of the image to where you begin to get a bit of blooming (IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST )... I usually wind up punching up the contrast 15-25%. More begins to clip the image's colors too much, less doesn't show much of an effect. Find what works with you.
Then, while you still have the BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST action up, play with the brightness... sometimes, an image will look better with the brightness brought up a few percentage, sometimes it's better brought down for a darker, moodier look. That's the cool thing about Photoshop... if ya don't like it, UNDO it!
I like the sharp features of the face, eyes, etc. to still be sharp while having a bit of glow around it. DIFFUSE GLOW doesn't produce the same effect I'm looking for, which is similar to what I got when I used to expose monochrome (that's black and white to most everyone) paper through a stretched nylon to get a black outline around strong edges in a B&W print, only this time it's in color and it's a lighter color. OK, well, maybe it's not the same after all! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
Now, at this stage, you can also try a little bit of DIFFUSE GLOW on another duplicate layer. Sometimes it works well, sometimes less so. I added just the tiniest bit of glow to the image. You can also alter the technique, with resulting slightly different results, by adding the DIFFUSE GLOW before punching up the contrast. Again, experiment and make this work for YOU!
And, after adding the obligitory copyright mark, here's the finished product:
I've used this for a couple of budoir customers and they really seem to appreciate not only the soft effects but also the added warmth to the image. While it's not something you'll see in Maxim or FHM, it might work into your arsenal of shooting/post production techniques.