Enhancing a Portrait of a Young Woman in Lightroom
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Enhancing a Portrait of a Young Woman in Lightroom

with Jan Kabili

Video: Making basic adjustments

Before I make any adjustments to specific areas of this portrait, I'm going to giving the model's skin this nice, soft glow.

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Watch the Online Video Course Enhancing a Portrait of a Young Woman in Lightroom
1h 25m Appropriate for all Nov 13, 2013

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When you're starting with a beautiful subject, you already have the makings of a great photograph. Lightroom allows you to make subtle image adjustments that take it to the next level. Learn how to enhance a portrait of a young woman in this short start-to-finish retouching project with lynda.com author Jan Kabili. Jan will show you how to optimize tone and color, hide blemishes, brighten eyes, whiten teeth, add contour, and enhance hair.

Topics include:
  • Cropping
  • Adding a tone curve
  • Reducing lines and wrinkles
  • Minimizing under-eye circles
  • Whitening teeth
  • Softening skin
  • Enhancing hair
Jan Kabili

Making basic adjustments

Before I make any adjustments to specific areas of this portrait, I'm going to adjust the overall tone and color here in the Basic panel of the Develop module. What I like about the Basic panel is that the sliders are pretty straight forward to use. You just drag them from their defaults of zero to the right or left, and they're set up in a workflow where you can just start at the top of the Basic panel and you work your way down through the sliders. I'm going to skip over the White Balance sliders because I'm pretty happy with the overall color cast of this image. It's a little bit blue and I like that because it reflects the weather that day.

I'll go straight down to the Tone section of the Basic panel and I'll start with the Exposure slider. The Exposure slider affects primarily the midtones in the image. So if I hover over the Exposure slider and you look up in the histogram up here at the top of the screen, you'll see that this area in the center of the histogram is highlighted. And that means this slider affects mostly the midtones in the image. I could either drag the slider or I can click on the value and then use the up arrow key on my keyboard to increase the exposure or the brightness of the midtones in small increments like that.

And then I'll go to the Contrast slider. I'd like to increase the contrast or the difference between the dark and bright tones in the image. So, again, I'm going to click in the value field for the Contrast slider and use the arrow keys on my keyboard to increase contrast just slightly. That gives me a little more control than dragging the sliders. Now, I want to take a minute to emphasize that there's no need for you to use the exact same values for your sliders that I'm using for mine. Your monitor may be calibrated differently than mine. It might be brighter, or not as bright as mine.

And, therefore, I urge you to use the values on all the sliders in this course that look best on your screen. You can use the directions in which I'm moving the sliders, but choose the values that you like best in your work environment. Next, I'm going to go to the Highlights slider. Hovering over this slider shows me that it's going to primarily affect the three-quarter tone highlights in the image. And I think those are a bit bright. For example, the highlight here on her nose and her forehead is making the skin tone a little less even than I would like it. So I'm going to take the Highlights slider and move it to the left.

You can see the histogram move as I do this and you can see the highlights in the image getting a bit darker. Now I can see more detail in the highlights as well. If I want to brighten up the three-quarter tone shadows in the image to see more detail in her coat, for example, I can move the Shadows slider over to the right, like that. If you take a look at the histogram panel, you can see that there are no bars, gray or color, over here on the right side of the histogram. And that means that there are no bright, pure whites in this image. So, I want to take the brightest tones in the image and move them over toward the right side of the histogram.

So that I don't go too far as I do that and blow out the bright whites, I'm going to click the highlight clipping warning triangle here in the histogram, and then I'll move down into the Basic panel again, I'll take the Whites slider and if I go too far to the right, you can see that I get these red marks on the image. And they indicate the brightest pixels in the image which have now been pushed so far to the right that they are pure white with no detail. I do want detail in most of those so I'm going to drag my Whites slider back over to the left, maybe to just about there, and then I'll turn off my highlight clipping warning.

And if I want the darkest areas in the image to be even darker adding contrast, I'll take the Blacks slider and I'll drag that one over to the left. I'm not as concerned about losing detail in the very dark blacks so I'll often drag the Blacks slider a bit to the left particularly when I've opened up the shadows so that I get the contrast or the pop that I want in the image. Now, let's do a before and after so we can see how far we've come by pressing the backslash key on the keyboard which is three keys to the right of the P key. So that's where we started, a nice image but a little flat.

And now there's more contrast or pop in the image. If I scroll down, I can access the Presence sliders. If I wanted to add more contrast in the midtones, I would drag the Clarity slider over to the right. But, with portraits, I often want to do the opposite. I want to soften the model's skin tones. So I'm going to drag the Clarity slider not to the right, but rather over to the left, giving the model's skin this nice, soft glow. And finally, if I want to increase the intensity of color in the image, I can use either the Saturation slider or the Vibrant slider.

Saturation saturates all the colors equally and it usually doesn't do a great job on a portrait as you can see here when I drag it to the right. So I'm going to put the Saturation slider back to zero. You can set any slider to zero by double-clicking its title. And then I'll take the Vibrant slider instead, and I'll drag Vibrant slightly over to the right, to get a little more color intensity while protecting the skin tones. So, those are the adjustments that I'm going to make to the image overall in the Basic panel. I'd like to save this state of the image as a snapshot. So I'll go over to the Snapshots panel and I'll click the plus symbol there, and then I'll name this snapshot.

I'll call this 2 basic, and click Create. So if I ever want to get back to this state of my retouching workflow, I can do that by clicking on the basic snapshot. There are a couple more things I want to do to the image globally or overall. One of those is to add a tone curve to tone down some of the brighter highlights in the model's face. And I'll show you how to do that next.

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