Portrait Processing in Lightroom

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Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Today I’d like to take a look at a portrait that I took last week and show you how I processed it in Lightroom.

I took this photo of Ashley one evening last week. The light was very soft. The sun had gone down behind a hill, leaving us in shade. We took this photo by the beach. It was rocky and the stones in this photo caught my eye when we looked for places to take photos. I liked the colours, the textures and the rounded edges of the stones. There was also a place where I could stand and look down to take the photo.

Ashley was wearing a blue and white summer dress and I knew the colours of the dress would contrast wonderfully against the muted hues of the stones.

We found a place for Ashley to lie down, and I took some photos. We only had a few minutes as the rocks were hard and it was uncomfortable for her. I composed the photo so that her body ran at a diagonal across the frame and filled the available space.

First steps

I imported the photo into Lightroom, ticked the Remove Chromatic Aberration box in the Lens Corrections panel, and applied the Camera Classic Chrome preset Profile in the Camera Calibration panel.

This profile is specific to the Fujifilm X-T1 and can only be applied to some Fujifilm cameras. If you have a different camera, just select the Profile that gives the most pleasing look.

There was no need to adjust the Exposure slider and I set White Balance to Auto.

These steps took me to this starting point:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Global adjustments

Next I went to the Basic Panel and set Contrast to +40, Highlights to +16 and Clarity to +20. This added some punch to the flat lighting and emphasised the texture of the stones:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

I wanted to give the photo a kind of faded, vintage look, so I went to the Tone Curve panel, selected the Blue channel and moved the left-hand side of the curve upwards, as you can see in this screen shot:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

This is the result:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Local adjustments

The next step was to make the stones darker (regular readers will know I like dark backgrounds). I did this in order to emphasise the tonal contrast between the stones and the model’s skin. I added three Graduated Filters (positions marked below) and moved the Exposure slider left for each one.

I’m not going to give exact settings here because every image is different. The important thing is to judge it by eye and adjust each Graduated Filter individually. Don’t use the same setting for each because each part of the image may require a different amount of darkening.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Ashley’s face is turned away from the brightest part of the sky and hence a little in shadow. I wanted to make her face lighter, so I painted over it with the Adjustment Brush and moved the Exposure slider right. This screen shot shows the area covered by the Adjustment Brush (in red):

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

I did the same to lighten the shadows on her neck. This screen shot shows the area covered:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

This portrait doesn’t require much retouching as Ashley’s face is so small in the frame. This screen shot shows the difference that these two local adjustments made:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

I decided that I wanted to make the right-hand side of the photo slightly darker, to emphasise the lighter tones of Ashley’s face and shoulders. I added another Graduated Filter (shown below) and moved the Exposure slider left.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Finally, I decided to darken some light patches on the stones. I used the same Adjustment Brush for each, shown below:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Here’s the final result:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

For comparison purposes, this is the original zeroed Raw file, without any adjustments:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

These adjustments didn’t take long at all to carry out, and show the benefit of applying a simple workflow in Lightroom.

Further reading

You can learn more about Lightroom with these articles:

How to Uncrop Square Format Images in Lightroom

How to Show the Focus Points in Lightroom

The Photographer’s Tools (Getting More Out of Lightroom)

How to Create the Black & White Matte Look in Lightroom

Use Lightroom Better with the Amazing Alt/Option Key

Mastering Lightroom ebooks

Plus, my Mastering Lightroom ebooks will teach you how to get the most out of Lightroom. They are written Lightroom 4 and Lightroom 5 and cover the entire workflow process, including post-processing in the Develop module.




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4 Responses to “Portrait Processing in Lightroom”

  1. Keith R. Starkey says:


  2. Rachel H. says:

    Very interesting to see what you did, step by step. I found this informative and easily understandable.

    Good work!

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