We all shoot portraiture during our sessions. If you’re doing a family session you’ll get some individual shots of people which is portraiture. If you’re shooting a branding session or boudoir session, that is also portraiture. Since portraits are something we all come in contact with in our lives as photographers, let’s talk about editing portraits in Lightroom.

Today I’m sharing my 5-tips for editing portraits. A lot of these might seem really simple and basic, but that’s because going back to basics and getting those right means you can add in your own personal editing touch after! I know we all have unique editing styles that attract our ideal clients so we don’t want to mess with the goodness you already do! Let’s dive into my 5 tips for editing portraits in Lightroom.

Tip 1 – Start with White Balance

As I said, this may sound basic to you, but start with white balance. Good white balance will help you achieve a good skin tone, which is especially important when working with portraits. There are two pieces to white balance. The first is making sure your monitor is calibrated correctly. If your monitor hasn’t been profiled, you might have quite the shock when viewing your work on your phone or when your work is printed! The second part is using the White Balance Selector tool in the Basic Panel of the Develop Module. Click on the tool or hit the ‘W’ keyboard shortcut and hover over an area of the portrait that should be neutral in color. Try to avoid a BRIGHT white or black area because there is a possibility the color is saturated and might give a false reading. The White Balance Selector will do a great job at automatically adjusting the color temperature and tint, which gives you a nice base to continue to edit from.

Check out my YouTube video on White Balance here.

Tip 2 – Check out the Highlights and Shadows

Take a look at your histogram. Your histogram will show you the distribution of brightness values so that you can spot loss of detail in the highlights or shadows. If your slider is peaking near the left (shadows), then you’ll want to brighten up your image. If the slider is peaking near the right (highlights) you’ll want to bring in some more shadows. You want your photo to end up pretty equal throughout unless you’re going for a super dark, shadowy look or a really bright and airy look.

Tip 3 – Crop
Cropping your portrait is a great way to remove any distracting pieces of background so you can focus on your subject. Your composition for a portrait really matters because you want your subject to stand out and be the main focus. When you look at your image, eliminate any background that doesn’t support your subject or that pulls focus.

Tip 4 – Look at the Skin
This tip is totally optional! Some people don’t like to use the spot removal tool for blemishes to keep a real and raw look to their image. Others like to go for some skin smoothing to even out skin tone and to help keep an image looking clean and polished. Whatever you decide to do, do it with class. You want your subject to know it is them! If your subject has defining features, don’t spot remove them away accidentally! Use any Spot Removal or Adjustment Brush selectively and wisely.

Check out my YouTube video on skin tone here.

Tip 5 – Make the Eyes pop! 
Eyes are always a gorgeous feature to make pop in a photo. Making the eyes of your subject pop can be a fun way to add some wow-factor to your portraits– especially with boudoir when your subject is working that ‘smize’. With your Adjustment Brush selected, select the Iris Enhance option. This Lightroom preset makes a slight increase in exposure, increases the clarity and boosts the saturation to enhance the patterns and colors in the iris. All you’ll need to do is brush the iris to add the effect! Be sure to check the Amount slider when you’ve finished and either back off or increase it until the eyes look improved, finding the balance between natural and obviously edited.

These 5 tips for editing your portraits in Lightroom will make your portraits wow whoever sees them. It’s often these simple, basic things we already do that we skim over without realizing how important they are. Next time you edit a portrait, approach it with fresh eyes and enjoy the process of all the small tweaks that can make a big difference. ​​