Lightroom tips: 6 quick tricks for giving your portraits a professional finish

Remove unwanted blemishes, soften skin and boost eyes

Use these surefire Adobe Lightroom tips to remove unwanted blemishes, soften skin and boost eyes to ensure your portraits are the best they can be.

Lightroom tips 6 quick tricks for giving your portraits a professional finish

More and more lately we're finding Adobe Lightroom is overtaking Photoshop as the program of choice for enhancing our portraits. At first glance, with its emphasis on tonal controls and presets, Lightroom may not seem like the ideal place to carry out detailed work like portrait retouching.

However, Lightroom was developed for editing photographs and it's surprising how far you can take an image using a few simple tools and techniques.

A big part of retouching a portrait involves making adjustments to different areas of a face, and they're usually the same adjustments every time: we lighten the eyes, soften the skin, boost the lips, sharpen the eye lashes, and tone down any bags under the eyes.

All these adjustments can be made with one powerful tool: the aptly named Adjustment Brush. We'll use it here to give our portrait a fully professional finish.

Another important (if at times monotonous) stage of retouching is the removal of marks, spots and blemishes. Everyone has them, but what goes unnoticed in a moving person can spoil a static image.

In this area Lightroom is still playing catchup with Photoshop, but Lightroom 5 has taken a big leap forwards with the improved Spot Removal tool, which operates just like a brush.

Lightroom tips to give your portraits a professional finish (1-3)

Lightroom tips to give your portraits a professional finish step 1

Lightroom tips for portraits: 01 Lift skin tones
Download our start files and follow along! Drag retouch_before.dng into Lightroom's Library and click Import. Next, head to the Develop Module. In the Basic Panel set Exposure +0.15, Contrast +24, Blacks -17, Vibrance +15. Go down to the HSL Panel. Click Luminance and set Red +22, Orange +20, Yellow +50 to lift the skin.

Lightroom tips to give your portraits a professional finish step 2

Lightroom tips for portraits: 02 Enhance the eyes
Grab the Crop tool from the toolbar and crop in slightly tighter to the face. Select the Adjustment Brush, and in the Brush settings on the right choose Effect: Iris Enhance. Zoom in to the eyes and paint over both irises. Hit O to toggle a view of the mask overlay.

Lightroom tips to give your portraits a professional finish step 3

Lightroom tips for portraits: 03 Soften the skin
Click New at the top of the Adjustment Brush settings then set Effect: Sharpen. Paint over the lashes. Click New again and choose Soften Skin, then paint over the lighter areas of skin on the face and arms. Click New again and paint over the lips, then set Contrast +25, Saturation +15.