It goes without saying that professional photographs look flawless. But how? What tricks are they using? Although photographers with extensive experience may know some tricks of the trade to minimize imperfections while they are shooting, one can only do so much during a shoot. That’s where Lightroom post-processing comes in.
First things first, let’s get your image into Lightroom. Go ahead and import your photo. You should see something similar to the set-up below.
First, you'll want to zoom into the location you would like to retouch. To do this, in the top right-hand corner, in the navigator panel, you have a few view options available. Experiment with the 4 options, Fit, Fill, 1:1, and 2:1 to see what view they produce. For additional zoom options, select the vertically stacked arrows facing opposite directions. This is circled in the picture below.
For this particular image, I’m choosing to work in 2:1. I found it gave me the best magnification for what I needed to do. Once you’re zoomed in, you can move the image around with the hand tool to pin-point the exact location you want. This can be done with the image in the navigator box or with the main image.
Quick Tip: For a quick way to magnify your image in Lightroom, go to VIEW > ZOOM IN from the drop down menu at the top of the page.
It’s now time to use Lightroom’s spot removal tool in heal mode in order to remove wrinkles and blemishes. This is an amazing tool that can instantly and easily remove unwanted spots on your images. Heal mode works by automatically sampling nearby “best guess” pixels that will perfectly blend in with the area you're retouching. With everything setup correctly in heal mode (as shown in step 2), you can now select an area to retouch. In this case, I chose to remove a blemish on the woman’s chin. To do this, I placed the cursor over the area and clicked once. The pimple is now removed!
You may find that after you make modifications, you still need to make slight adjustments to the original coverage area, the area being sampled, or the brush size. To change the coverage area, place the cursor over the original area, and when the cursor turns into the hand tool, you can then move the location.
When the computer’s best guess at sampling similar pixels was in fact not a great guess, you can move the sample area by placing the cursor over the 2nd circle that has an arrow attached to it, and move it to a better location.
If you need to change the size of the brush to have a larger or smaller coverage area, you simply put the cursor near the edge of the original circle and drag until you see the appropriate size.
If you simply want to start over, you can click either circle and press delete.
Removing wrinkles can be a little challenging compared to removing a blemish. This is because the coverage is often larger and continuous. To remove or reduce wrinkles, repeat the same steps as above. But this time, drag the circle along the length of the wrinkle. If you want to completely remove the wrinkle, set the brush opacity to 100. Be mindful that removing all wrinkles can give a fake or unnatural look. For the wrinkles you keep, you may want to lessen their appearance by sliding the opacity a little further away from 100.
Once you finish fixing the wrinkles and blemishes in your portrait, it’s time to apply the final touch - the soften skin effect. This effect has the potential to dramatically improve the look and quality of your image. It removes pores and fine lines, and gives an overall healthy skin look.
STEP 1 - Selecting the Adjustment Brush and Soften Skin Effect
To locate the soften skin effect, first select the adjustment brush icon (see red circle below) located in the same menu bar as the spot removal tool. Once this is selected, the effect menu becomes visible. To the right of the word effect, you will see up and down arrows, click on them to reveal the drop-down menu and select soften skin. Quick Tip: Press the letter “K” - it’s a short cut to make the adjustment brush panel visible.
As with the heal tool, you can adjust the size of the brush and the feather. You also have some additional options such as adjustment of flow and density. The flow controls the amount of effect that is applied, and the density controls transparency. Experiment with these adjustment brush properties to see how they affect your image.
Now that your settings correct, you can start softening the skin. To do this, simply start brushing over the parts of your images that you would like to soften. A black and white pin will appear where you start brushing and is an indicator that the brush is active. To better view the areas you have brushed over, select the show selected mask overlay option, located just below the image. This will apply a red mask. Once the mask is visible, you might notice there are areas that you did not mean to cover. You can easily erase these strokes by selecting the erase tool, as highlighted in the image below. Once the erase tool is selected, start brushing over the parts you would like to remove the effect from. Once you’ve perfected your image, click done.
Congratulations! You now know how to reduce and remove wrinkles and pimples, as well as smooth the skin in Lightroom!
Looking for more ways to enhance your portraits? Make your subject’s eyes pop, remove dark circles, add make-up, whiten teeth, enhance skin tone, enhance skin color, and more! All of these brushes and more are available in our Portrait Collections: Luxe Portraits and Brixton Film Portraits. The below picture was retouched using a blend of presets and brushes from both collections. There is a definite difference!
About the Author: Jeanne Romero is a professional photographer, with a specialization in advertising photography. Her Bacherlor’s degree in Advertising Photography is from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.