How to retouch a portrait – Lightroom Tutorial


In this tutorial we are going to learn portrait retouching. Ever wondered why portraits you see on the internet are so beautiful, models have soft, smooth and clean skin? Most photos are being retouched and I will show you how it’s done!  So let’s jump into Lightroom and get started!


The first thing I usually do is use Spot Removal tool (Q) and get rid of any pimples or blotches. So select Spot Removal tool, make sure it’s in HEAL mode and the Opacity slider all the up. Use left bracket key ( [ ) to make brush smaller and right bracket key ( ] ) to make it bigger, make brush just a little bigger than the spot that you want to remove.

Click on the spot, Lightroom will find a spot that it thinks is similar. Lightroom does pretty good job at this but if you are not happy with the spot it picked you can click and drag the spot until find a better replacement. So go around you subject and remove all pimples and blotches you don’t like.

1The next thing we are going do is softer the skin. Select the Adjustment Brush tool (K), in the drop down select Soften Skin tool. You’ll notice that it turned Clarity all the way down and sharpness up a little. Paint this on and see what it does, remember even after you apply it on you can move the sliders and adjust the effect the way you want it. P.s. make sure that Feather / Flow and Density sliders are at 100%



As you apply the brush make sure you paint only the skin, you don’t want this on subjects eyes, lips or hair. If you made a mistake and painted over subjects eyes for instance, then press O on your keyboard, this will show the whole mask. Then by holding ALT key (you’ll notice brush turns into minus)  paint over areas you made a mistake.

4Now hit the O key on your keyboard and you can see the effect. Now you can move the sliders and adjust the effect, for instance if you think that the effect is too strong move the Clarity back of if the skin tone is too dark move the Exposure slider up a few stops. Play around until you’re happy with it.

5Our subject looks much better already, but we are only half way through! Let’s see that else we can do.

Now we’re going to make her yes pop! Click on new brush and in the drop down select Iris Enhance. Zoom in on subjects eyes ( Ctrl + ) and make the brush a little smaller than subjects iris  and apply brush over.

6Move sliders until you find the sweat spot. In this case I increased Exposure and Clarity to make her yes brighter and sharper, also Saturation to increase the colour tone.



Next thing we are going to do is increase the colour of subjects lips. So select a new brush, move Saturation up quite a bit and Tint up a few stops. Again this will vary on each photo so paint it on and then adjust the sliders. In this case I moved clarity down a bit because subjects lips were too soft and I down to make her look like sick person.

8Another thing we are going to do is bring some highlights in subjects eye brows and hair. Lets make new brush again, this time we are going to increase Contrast, Highlights and Clarity a bit. Hit the O key on your keyboard and paint over subjects hair and eye brows. This will darken and enhance the hair a little.


You might want to add a vignette using  Radial Filter (Shift + M). Click at the centre of subjects face and drag your mouse to the right. You can rotate and shape the sphere any way you want to. Now let’s bring the Exposure slider down, you will notice it’s bright in the middle of the sphere and it gets darker around it. Place the sphere so subjects eyes and face is bright, this will drag viewers attention right to the subject.

10And that’s pretty much it! This is how you retouch a portrait. All we did was we removed all blotches, softened the skin, enhanced the eyes and hair. It was relevantly fast and easy and as you see from before and after pictures the changes are pretty obvious!


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