Mastering Lightroom: Post-Processing Portraits

Before-After Comparison

Many of our previous Mastering Lightroom series articles focused on specific Lightroom 4 features and tools, as well as ways of using them in your everyday workflow. I’ve explained how to use the Basic Panel and talked about the Tone Curve in great detail. We’ve also learned how to use External Editors, Spot Removal Tool and Virtual Copies. However, simply learning what each feature does is not our goal with these articles. After all, theory makes sense only when put to practice. In the end, we want to teach you how to actually edit your images, start to finish, no matter the subject or scene or desired result. We want you to be able to use what Lightroom has to offer without thinking about it, just as we should use our cameras and lenses. Learning what each tool does individually is essential, but what matters in the end is how we make them work in conjunction with one another. Perhaps then it is time to shift away from features and theory for a while and move towards editing images to achieve desired look in practice? There are many aspects of Lightroom we haven’t covered so far. Many tools, options, modules and tabs yet await our attention. But this time, instead of explaining specific settings, we will do some simple portrait post-processing focusing most of all on color and tones.

Mastering Lightroom Basic Portrait Post-Processing

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Selective Color Correction in Lightroom and Photoshop


In my previous Lightroom Dodging and Burning Tutorial I chose a photograph that had multiple issues. I addressed most of them in that tutorial but specifically left out one major issue (which was quickly discovered by one of our readers) to be a subject for fixing selective color in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you take another close look at the photograph I chose in that tutorial, the face of the model is visibly brighter than the color of the rest of her body. While in many cases our facial color tends to differ from the rest of our body, it can look rather awkward in photographs. Especially in this particular photograph, it is obvious that the foundation on model’s face did not match to rest of her skin color.

If you have photographs like these, there are multiple ways of fixing them and these two methods could be used for a variety of other things. So, follow along to find out how I deal with such issues. First, I will show you how to do it in Lightroom, then I will also do the same in Photoshop.

1) Selective Color Correction in Lightroom

Thanks to Lightroom 4′s selective white balance correction, fixing colors in a certain area is a very easy and straightforward process. Start out by using the Adjustment Brush and painting the affected area. In this case, I carefully brushed the model’s face without touching her eyes and mouth. A quick tip: if you accidentally over-brush, do not forget that you can simply press and hold the “Alt” key, and the “+” sign in the adjustment brush will turn to a “-” sign, which indicates that you can erase the over-brushed area. Keep holding the “Alt” key and carefully un-brush the area that you do not want to touch. Here is my selection:

Lightroom - Adjustment Brush

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Lightroom Dodging and Burning Tutorial


This is a simple tutorial on how you can utilize Lightroom tools to Dodge and Burn selective areas of a photograph to your liking without using Photoshop. During the process I will also go through some simple steps to show how you can enhance an image directly in Lightroom. I chose a sample portrait to show the process, because I often rely on Lightroom to do most of my post-processing work.

So, what is dodge and burn and where did these terms come from? Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

Dodging and burning are terms used in photography for a technique used during the printing process to manipulate the exposure of a selected area(s) on a photographic print, deviating from the rest of the image’s exposure. In a darkroom print from a film negative, dodging decreases the exposure for areas of the print that the photographer wishes to be lighter, while burning increases the exposure to areas of the print that should be darker.

The same technique can be used in digital photography to achieve similar results, although in Lightroom you can take the process even further by opening up shadows delicately and manipulating the exposure of certain parts of a photograph without ruining any details or colors. It goes without saying that working with RAW images gives a lot more opportunities to recover lots of details, as explained by Nasim in his RAW vs JPEG article.

Here is the before and after comparison of what I have done to demonstrate the Dodge and Burn capability of Lightroom:

before and after

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How to Convert Portraits to B&W with Lightroom 4

B&W Result: HSL desaturation

In this tutorial I will show you how to convert a portrait (shot in RAW format) to a black & white image using Lightroom 4. By the end of the tutorial, and with some practice, I hope to teach you how to have full control over the look of your B&W images. While I chose this particular look for this particular portrait, Lightroom offers many kinds of different ways to convert your images to black & white, and so it’s impossible to put all the looks into one tutorial. Certain conversions fit certain images better than others, and it also depends on taste and goal of the author. In the future, I hope to make more tutorials for both black & white and color photography with different conversion methods and looks.

B&W Result: HSL desaturation

Before we start, I would also like to note that, despite the fact that our final image will be in black and white, it is important to understand how everything works in color during the conversion process. While sometimes a simple contrast slider and curves tool can lead to a good-enough conversion, usually it is better to spend some more time tweaking different color ranges and working with white balance to affect color, and thus the tone of the image in order to achieve the best result.

With that in mind, here is the image I will be working on:

B&W Conversion Using Lightroom 4

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