Two Tips for Retouching Faces in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is an awesome piece of software. For photographers, it has many of the image editing and adjustment techniques that you need to make your photos look great, but it works in a quicker, easier, and more streamlined process.
Of course, Lightroom is less powerful when it comes to doing retouching than Photoshop. You do, however, have some tools for light retouching, and for many photos (especially if you're not preparing a magazine cover) it's just enough.
As an example, here are two tips to help set your portraits apart from others.
Step One: Remove Blemishes
The most basic edit - which you should make to just about all photos - is to remove blemishes from someone's face or skin.
Now, this can cause some debates. If a photographer gets overzealous and removes every imperfection in a subject's skin, it might leave the final product looking unrealistic. A portrait client may be unhappy, for example, if you remove a birthmark, scar, or a freckle.
But no one likes acne or simple discoloration. No one is going to complain if you remove a little pimple, zit, or cut. And it can go a long way towards making a photo look better. Even minor imperfections can detract from a photo, and a simple edit can fix that.
So what do you do? You use the Spot Removal tool.
Press the "Q" button to select the Spot Removal tool. Or, go to the Develop Module and click on the circle with the arrow pointing to the right. This will turn your cursor into a circle.
Now, click on the imperfection in question. You can adjust the size of the brush / circle by using the "Size" slider.
When you click on the photo, a circle will be placed over the point you click on and another circle will appear nearby. The second circle is the source area from which data is copied to cover up and heal the target area. You can move that source area around if it doesn't quite match up with the target area. You want to make sure that both areas are similarly colored (i.e. the same part of the face under same lighting conditions).
It also helps to zoom in on the photo to 1:1 or 2:1 so that you can get a good look at what you're trying to replace.
Below, look at a before and after shot of the model from above. Her face was pretty clean, but there were a couple tiny pimples that were easily removed with the spot removal tool.
Step Two: Soften the Skin
Once you've removed any blemishes that may be on your subject's face, the next step is to soften their skin a bit.
Now, there are a lot of ways to go about this. In Photoshop, you could take a shortcut (use a blur and then mask it off). Or, you could go through the extremely time consuming process of dodging and burning parts of the face to make everything look smooth or even.
Or, you could use the Adjustment Brush in Photoshop Lightroom. The effect reduces contrast on the face (kind of like dodging and burning), but it does so extremely quickly.
The final result isn't as good as doin a thorough job in Photoshop, but it saves you a ton of time. It's a quick task that can be done to any photo, whereas a real Photoshop softening job can only be applied to the most important photos.
Here's what you do. First, select the Adjustment Brush. You can do this by pressing "K" on your keyboard, or go to the Develop module and select the button all the way to the right (looks like a circle with a slider bar coming out of the right side).
Click on the "Effect" drop down menu and choose "Soften Skin." Alternatively, you could simply play with the settings. You want to reduce the Clarity (the preset drops it down to -100). This helps blend the tones together and drop the internal contrast of the skin. The preset also increases the sharpness a bit, and this helps prevent you from erasing detail where it actually matters.
Next, just draw over the skin areas of the face. Again, zooming in to 1:1 or so will help. You can adjust the size of the brush with the "Size" slider or with your scroll wheel. You'll also want to click on the checkbox at the bottom of the window titled, "Show Selected Mask Overlay." You won't be able to see the effect until you take this off, but at least you'll know what you painted over and what you didn't.
Here's a before and after shot of the face of the model in the photo to the upper right. Again, it's a subtle effect but it makes a significant difference and it only takes a few seconds.
Small Adjustments Make Big Differences
With these two tips in your toolbox, you can use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to really enhance your portraits and people pictures. Neither of these techniques is groundbreaking or extremely effective, but the small changes can really make a difference in a photo.
And the best part is that they're quick. You don't need to spend an hour on a photo in Photoshop, if it's not going to be blown up or printed in a magazine. Just run it through Photoshop, use the Spot Removal tool as necessary and run the skin softening Adjustment Brush on the skin.
Add a few other modifications - like adjusting the exposure and cropping the photo down - and you'll be amazed at how different your photos will look.