digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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Portrait Retouching Using Lightroom in 10 Minutes or Less

In this portrait retouching tutorial I will show you the workflow I use for editing and retouching a portrait using Lightroom.

I usually spend no more than 10 minutes on a single image, and often it's less than five. Keep in mind I only do this on final selections for the client or ones I've chosen to feature – I do NOT do this to every single image I shoot.

Workflow for Portrait Retouching

Something I get asked about a lot is about my workflow.

The process I go through as I approach each photo when I'm editing.

That's a really long and hard answer so I thought I'd break it up into little bite-sized pieces that are easier to digest. Workflow includes everything from downloading, sorting, tagging, culling, and processing, as well as a backup strategy.

I'll try and cover some of those things in a future video but for today we're going to focus on the photo editing workflow for portrait retouching, and I'll be using Lightroom.

NOTE: Only do retouching and this degree of editing on final picks. Don't give yourself more work by doing every single image this way.

Watch the video now to see how I go from this before image:

Before image, straight out of camera RAW file
Before image, straight out of camera RAW file
After retouching in Lightroom
After retouching in Lightroom

To this finished one above. I might take a few more than ten minutes on the video, but I stop to explain a few things along the way. Enjoy the tutorial.

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Read: Lightroom Alternative - Is Luminar the Answer?

Until next time, keep shooting and have fun!

Cheers,

Darlene teaches portrait retouching

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  • Thanks Darlene that was very good. I really like how you kept the changes subtle, the photo ended up being very natural and realistic.

  • I have to agree with Jude, Darlene. I see way too many images of people with over-processed plastic skin. It’s one of the “looks” I really don’t like. I would much rather see someone with natural looking “laughter lines” that have been softened, rather than someone who has become completely unnatural looking πŸ™‚ I like the way you work towards the natural look.

    • Thanks so much Ken! The thing is that cameras and lenses and using so many pixels now have actually made it possible to make images that are so sharp and contain so much detail that they are unflattering to the subject. Sometimes things we don’t even see with our naked eye show up in the photos. So what I do is just scale that back to what we’d normally “see” with our eyes without going over the top.

  • Lenny

    Thank you Darlene! A very good
    tutorial for processing natural wholesome shots. I have a request…
    Natural is nice but I would like a tutorial on how to do
    boudoir/fashion magazine processing in LR. I know this sounds
    revolting to the photo purists but I like it sometimes. I happen to
    like the β€œplastic” over done glamour/fashion look and HDR on
    occasion.

  • Hi Lenny – thanks for your comment. No unnatural really isn’t my thing but the principals are the same, you just take it a lot farther. As for the fashion magazines they do extensive editing, sometimes spending upwards of 2 hours or more on one image – but they use pretty much only Photoshop. So the kinds of things they do are not really something I do or that you can do inside LR.

    I like HDR too!

  • Luke Kowand

    please remove πŸ™‚ double post

  • Luke Kowand

    Hey Darlene, I got three images here. Can you guess which one is the original out of camera unedited, my original edit, and then editing using the technique you described in your video? I’m very happy with the new results!

    • Only two showed up here?

      • Luke Kowand

        thanks. you identified the images correctly for sure. the bottom image did have an eye brighten done, usually something I always do, but didn’t on the “re-edit”. I’ll look at brightening the circles under her eyes too. The mark under her lip is actually a “hole” from a previous piercing.

        • Ah okay. That is something I’d ask the client about before removing it. Scars are permanent too and I lighten usually but not remove unless they specifically ask for that.

  • Guest

    Thank you! What a useful tutorial. I haven’t upgraded to LR5 yet, but found that 99% of this is applicable in LR4 anyway (the radial gradient is the only thing I can’t seem to locate within the program). The “” shortcut, the alt-click trick with black & white clipping, the sharpening mask slider (always wondered what that did), and the trick about adjusting the vignette with a zero feather before reapplying the feathering will all make a big difference to my editing.

  • Jill

    Thank you, Darlene!

    What a useful tutorial. I haven’t upgraded to LR5 yet, but found that 99% of this is applicable in LR4 anyway (the radial gradient is the only thing I can’t seem to locate within the program). The “” shortcut, the alt-click trick with black & white clipping, the sharpening mask slider (always wondered what that did), and the trick about adjusting the vignette with a zero feather before reapplying the feathering will all make a big difference to my editing.

    • Jill

      Oops. In an attempt to attach the photo I accidentally included it twice. My apologies. This is my daughter from a little practice session yesterday. Forgot to throw the camera into RAW but still found I could apply many of your principles to the image in LR.

    • Hi Jill – right the radial tool is new to LR5 only. Glad you found some good tricks and tips in there that will work for you!

  • Buck

    I am not a portrait photographer generally but I am new to LR5 and I learned some techniques that will help me with both wildlife and landscape photography. Thank you so much.

  • We done Darlene, Lightroom is one of foremost application to retouch portraits in a few minutes.

  • Carina Widdifield Le

    Thank you – excellent tips. Doing the church directory photos this weekend so needed something to allow me to process through a ton of portraits. Can’t wait to try it out.

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