Follow along: retouch a portrait in Lightroom

In this second "Follow Along" series, we will be using only Lightroom to retouch a portrait from A to Z. So let's jump directly into the tutorial but before that, download the sample file and follow along. Please note that the sample file is a DNG file so you have to import it in Lightroom like any RAW file.


1. White Balance and color shits

The photo was taken with Camera Auto White Balance. A head light was put over and behind Yasmina's head at camera left and pointing down on her hair. I used a softbox as my key light on camera right at 45 degrees angle and a 5 in 1 reflector as fill light. Whenever you shoot portrait indoors using speedlites, you can get away with Auto WB or Daylight white balance presets on your camera. I tend though to warm it up a notch in post processing. But not for this photo as I believe the WB was 100% accurate. If you don't believe me go to the Develop Module (D), in the Basic Panel on the right-hand side, click the White Balance Selector tool (W) in the top left, then sample from the background; look for neutral color like gray or black (fig.2) You will notice that Kelvin amount didn't change which means the camera Auto WB nailed it right.


2. Basic Global Adjustments

Exposure +0.5 , Highlights -34 , Shadows +10, Whites +12, Blacks -10, Clarity -10, Vibrance +30, Saturation -5. 


3. HSL / Color / B&W

Whenever I have a portrait to retouch I tend to reduce reds and orange in the skin. For that go to the HSL / Color / B&W panel and under saturation set Red to -2, and Orange to -16.


4. Details: Sharpness and Noise balance

This photo was shot at ISO 100 using a softbox at camera right. No need to reduce noise here. It could benefit however from a small amount of sharpening. So go to Details panel and increase Sharpening to 73 and Masking to 78. 


5. Local Adjustments


Select the Adjustment Brush (K) tool from the top right of the Develop Module. Decrease clarity to -24 and paint over the face including eyes and mouth. Then use the eraser to bring back clarity to those areas. Use 'O' for overlay to see where you are painting (fig.3)


To brighten the eyes, select a new Adjustment Brush (K) and set Exposure +0.4, Contrast +10, Clarity +10, and Flow 100. Paint the whole white area and the iris. Zoom in tight to se where you are painting and erase spill by holding the Option (Mac) / Alt (PC).

Next we want to enhance the iris even more. So select a new Adjustment Brush (K) with Temp +30, Exposure +0.5, Shadows +24, Sharpness +21. Paint over the center of the iris but not the edges (fig.4). Don't overdo the catch light...

Blemishes and imperfections

Select the Spot Removal (Q) tool and start removing any distracting element like stray hair, blemishes, and skin imperfections. Make sure you are on Heal and not Clone.

Line and black pocket diminishing

We want to reduce the wrinkles under the eyes and the black pockets that everyone has. To do that, select a new Adjustment Brush (K) and set Clarity -50, Sharpness -10, and Flow to around 50. Start painting over wrinkles under the eyes. Don't overdo this but slightly add to the effect as needed using the flow feature.

Teeth whitening

Yamina's teeth look great and don't need adjustments. For the sake of this tutorial however, we are going to retouch them a notch. Select a new Adjustment Brush (K) and set Exposure +0.41, Saturation to -63, Auto Mask ticked, Flow of 50 and start panting over each tooth separately. You don't want to spill over the edges.


6. Finishing touches

Finish by adding a Post-Crop Vignetting effect under Effects panel. Set the Amount to -40, Roundness to +90 or there about. 

Export to JPEG with Screen Sharpening set at Standards. Figure 5 shows the resulting final image.

Now it is your turn to share your results in the comments below! Have fun!

fig.1. Starting photo - not retouched yet. You can download the DNG file from here.

fig.2. Select the WB Selector (W) from the Basic Panel and pick a neutral color. 

fig.3. Press 'O' to show / hide adjustment brush affected areas

fig.4. paint over the iris but keep away from its edges. Don't overdo the catch lights.

fig.5. Final image