Learn To Edit Faces in Lightroom Like a Pro

Sometimes, when we are taking portraits, especially candid shots, we are more focused on the emotion of the person sitting in front of us, rather than our camera settings, lighting, etc. We get caught up in the moment and when we get home, the image we upload doesn’t have the right feeling we were hoping for. Here are several easy steps to editing portraits and touching up faces in Lightroom to get stunning lively images. The goal is to show you ways to make your images pop and give some personality back to your subject! And each step explained can be applied to almost any portrait you take! We have an image of my friend Garrett. Let’s bring him into Lightroom and edit him to make sure we capture the essence of who he is!  



Basic Adjustments

In your Basic Adjustment Panel, let’s change the contrast, shadows, and blacks. Each of these makes the subject pop a little bit more by giving the image some deeper blacks overall. Also, make sure your image is properly exposed before you begin. My image was under exposed by a stop so I had to adjust for that.

Increasing contrast by +38 points eliminates some of the mid tones of the image making the image more contrasted. Increasing shadows by +90 points makes sure that we’re not losing key details in the darker areas of the image, like his beard. Decreasing the blacks clipping by -82 points clips some of the blacks to help maintain some of the contrast going on. We didn’t really change a lot, but he is already looking better. Next, let’s focus on minor facial adjustments.

Blemish Removal

To begin touching up blemishes or other problem areas on the subject’s face, click on the Spot Remover tool on the upper left side of your editing panel. Set your sizes, feather, and opacity so that you can remove the areas you need in one click.

If you notice, ours is set at about the size of each blemish. It’s important to make sure we are in heal mode rather than clone mode, so there is not noticeable circles where we are fixing things. Then click on the areas, acne, blemishes etc that we want to get rid of. Garrett has a baby face so there was just one slight blemish that I removed just for the purpose of this tutorial. Make sure the area that is replacing the blemish is close in color and texture to your blemish area. If your subject has many blemishes, also try using the soften skin brush. You can use this by clicking the adjustment brush and selecting the drop down next to “effect” and select soften skin. With this portrait, we avoided the soften skin brush because he started to look too “photoshopped,” and he lost a bit of his rough, biker look. The soften skin brush can help with faces that have a lot of blemishes, oily skin and lots of pores.

Teeth Whitening

For most individuals, the teeth whitening setting using the standard adjustment brush works pretty well! For this guy, his teeth aren’t showing that much, but here’s how to do it.

Basically, just set the adjustment brush to the right size, and “paint” over his teeth! Then boom, whiter teeth! If the teeth start to look to white, play with the size, feather, flow and especially density setting to get it right. If the teeth do not look white trying bumping up the exposure a tad but don’t over do it.

Eye Adjustments

In the adjustment brush editor, there is an option for editing irises; and like with the teeth whitening, “paint” over the areas you'd like adjusted. If the tool makes the eyes too bright just play with the exposure. The other adjustment you can make to someone’s eyes is removing the dark circles underneath. Similarly to how we just edited his eyes, click on new underneath the adjustment brush icon and then set the brush to exposure. “Paint” in the dark areas underneath his eyes and move the exposure slider to +.83. We don’t want to bring the exposure up too much or it’ll be noticeable that only those areas were brightened! I also like to lower the flow and density when doing this.  

And there you have it, the finished portrait. What we primarily did is increase the contrast in the original image. In the basic adjustments, we tweaked the blacks so that they stood out a bit more than the colors. Then we removed some blemishes, made the teeth whiter and opened his eyes by darkening the irises and lightening the circles underneath. For each portrait, this should only take you five minutes if you know your way around Lightroom. We really strived to make the image look great, but not too edited. This is a super easy way to touch up faces in post production for portraits that really grab the viewer’s attention. Do you want a faster way to edit photos? Yes… then checkout these Lightroom workflow tools.

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