How to Edit Portraits in Lightroom

How to Edit Portraits in Lightroom

Read this post about how to edit portraits in Lightroom in 15 easy steps. No matter how much Lightroom portrait editing experience you have, this guide will let you make portraits pop and get that WOW effect in several clicks.

How to Edit Portraits in Lightroom in 15 Steps

Even the most high-quality portraits taken by expensive equipment and with professional models require photo editing to become gorgeous. Lightroom has many simple and intuitive tools that allow beginners to perform many tasks associated with portrait photo editing quickly and easily.

how to edit Pportraits in lightroom

1. Import Portrait

portrait editing importing

Select "Import" in the LIBRARY module and click on it.

Go to the "Source" panel, find the folder with the necessary photos and select it. Note that if the folder contains subfolders, tick the “Include Subfolders” field. This way, you can see thumbnails of pictures.

Make sure you use the "Add" option, not "Copy". Otherwise, there will be photo duplicates.

2. Apply Presets Upon Import

portrait premium lightroom preset for portrait editingportrait premium lightroom preset for portrait editing


A convenient trick is to use presets while importing images. This is especially relevant when working with a large number of photos.

You can adjust the light by reducing or increasing its amount, eliminate redness, brighten the darkened parts of a photo, change the intensity of shades, adjust the skin tone, lightening it or making it softer, etc.

To use the preset during import, go to the right panel of the program, find the tab “Apply during import” and choose the desired preset. Go to the DEVELOP module after you have imported the necessary file.

3. Assign Camera Defaults

portrait editing camera defaults

You need to perform absolutely different actions for pictures taken by different cameras. Open the file using the default settings, press and hold the Alt button to see available options in the develop module.

4. Fix the White Balance

portrait editing white balance

The White Balance tool (keyboard shortcut “W”) will help you fix the flaws connected with incorrect shades. It looks like an eyedropper and is very convenient to use.

Select the tool, find the area you want to change and apply it. For example, you can remove the gray tint in this way.

If the picture is dominated by too cold tones, click on the temp slider and move it towards the yellow color. If your photo has a too noticeable green tint, move the slider towards magenta.

5. Crop and Straighten

portrait editing cropping

Cropping plays a huge role in the portrait edit. This tool eliminates compositional flaws quickly and easily.

You can emphasize the face of the model and remove unnecessary details with its help. Find the tool in the “basic” part of the develop module or simply press and hold the "R" key.

6. Add Depth with Tone Curve

portrait editing tone curve

This is the main panel for managing colors. The lower left corner is responsible for the shadows. The upper right corner deals with highlights. The middle part of the panel is responsible for mid-tones.

The properly adjusted curve will make your image deeper. In fact, it is quite easy to learn how to work with it. All that is required from you is to know clearly what exactly you want to correct.

7. Edit Color Using HSL Panel

portrait editing hsl

The HSL panel is one of the best tools for changing colors and emphasizing your portrait photography ideas. To apply it, use a few sliders, such as “Saturation,” and / or “Luminance” and “Hue", and change the image according to your portrait retouching goals.

The "Hue" sliders allow you to move hues around the color circle. “Saturation" will determine the intensity of colors and shades, and "Luminance" will be responsible for brightness.

8. Use Dodge and Burn Technique

portrait editing dodge and burn

Using the sliders will allow you to adjust the colors. However, if you need to change specific areas, you should use brushes. They will help you lighten or darken the desired parts of the picture.

In order to apply the brush properly, you need to select the correct settings. Specify a high feather value to achieve the most natural effect.

Use a low opacity value to apply a brush gradually. Select the necessary size and process the chosen area.

9. Adjust the Amount of Noise

portrait editing noise adjustment

The amount of digital noise depends on the ISO settings and the sensitivity of your camera. Some photographers prefer to turn it into an element of photo styling.

However, regarding portraits, I recommend reducing the noise and making the image smoother. Open the "Detail" tab, select the "Luminance" slider under "Noise" and move it to the right to reduce the amount of digital noise.

10. Remove Blemishes

portrait editing remove blemishes

Remove spots from the skin using the Spot Removal tool. Make sure it is set to Heal. Go to the tool parameters, which are located on the right side and check it.

Adjust the size of the brush tip using the square bracket keys (] and [). It should be slightly larger than the spot you want to remove when editing faces in Lightroom. Get rid of it by painting over or dabbing.

11. Soften Skin with Brush Tool

portrait editing soften skill

Lightroom’s tool for skin softening is another way to eliminate the flaws in portrait photography. Find it in the “User” settings of the program's brush.

Select the desired effect and brush over the skin. Adjust the sharpness and clarity to achieve the softest and natural look. In addition, apply a mask to define clear boundaries of areas with skin.

12. Whiten Teeth with Adjustment Tool

portrait editing whiten teeth

Make the teeth white with the Adjustment Brush. It has many useful pre-installed functions.

Select this tool, open the Effect dropdown and find the teeth whitening effect.

Brush over the teeth. By the way, this portrait photography editing technique does not require extreme precision. Just select “Range Mask: Color.” Do not be afraid to go beyond the contours. The program will determine them automatically.

13. Saturate and Emphasize Lips

portrait editing lips saturation

Work on lip color very carefully. White teeth can look very unnatural against the background of pale lips.

Make lips rosier with the Adjustment Brush tool, using the warm up setup. Increase the saturation of the light and lower the Contrast and Clarity values.

14. Sharpen and Brighten the Eyes

portrait editing eye enhancement

As usual, professional portrait photographers do not apply sharpening to the entire image when editing faces in Lightroom. It can lead to some digital noise problems.

The photographers prefer to work with the eye area separately. Use the Adjustment Brush. Click on the "Show Selected Mask Overlay" checkbox at the bottom of the program and start editing the eye zone very carefully.

Increasing exposure is a good trick for the eyes area. However, you should not overdo it. Choose the Adjustment Brush and set a positive exposure value. Work with white areas. Then darken the edges of the iris applying other settings.

15. Export Portrait

portrait editing exporting

Select photos. Using the Grid View is the easiest way to do this.

Bring up the export window. After you have selected the files you need, click "File" and open the export dialog. Enter the required export options.

Portrait Editing Tips

Image post-processing plays the same role as the photo shoot composition and equipment quality. You should know how to edit portraits in Lightroom correctly in order to get a good result. These tips will be useful to all novice photographers, regardless of the style in which they prefer working.

Use Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts

Use keyboard shortcuts to improve the efficiency of Lightroom portrait workflow. Do not be distracted by finding functions every time.

Lightroom has a modular structure. This means that the same shortcut can perform many actions in different parts of the software. Getting a keyboard cover skin is one of the best ways of how to make Lightroom faster and improve your photo editing process.

Use the Backslash Key

portrait editing before after

One of the most important Lightroom tips for portraits says “don't overdo it." In fact, the human brain remembers only new, edited versions of the image. Therefore, it is difficult to recall what the original picture looked like.

Use the backslash (\) key to see the photo before using various tools. Also, you can customize your software to check image changes using the Left and Right keys.

Use a Tablet

portrait editing tablet

All professional picture retouchers use tablets for post processing portraits Lightroom. You can use a graphics tablet or a full-featured computer with a touch screen for this purpose.

Outsource Photo Editing

Lightroom portrait editing services


Address our portrait retouching service in order to save your precious time and get professional portrait editing from $5 per photo.

Blur the Background

portrait editing background blur

If you want to achieve an out-of-focus background effect, use the clarity slider in Lightroom.

Select the Adjustment Brush tool. Set a fairly large brush size and a 10-20% feather value. Change the Clarity value to -100 using the slider and brush around the model, trying not to touch the contours.

FREEBIES for Editing Portraits in Lightroom

You do not need to be extremely professional to know how to edit portraits in Lightroom. Correct presets and Lightroom plugins will help you apply a variety of effects quickly and easily.


Fashion is ideal for those who want to learn how to edit portraits in Lightroom, when it comes to evening and studio portraits. It can add tinting effect and increase the contrast of the image, emphasizing the main subject.


This Lr preset is great for shots taken outside in the morning. It is able to smooth the skin color very realistically by reducing shadows and adding warm shades.

Cold Shadows

It works well with underexposed photos, creating a mystical effect. Use the preset for images taken under snowy or rainy weather conditions.


This is one of the most effective Lightroom portrait presets that helps hide background flaws. Add some highlights to correct your portrait. It will allow you to focus on the main subject of the image.

Old Film Effect

Use this preset to add that beautiful effect caused by an old film camera.

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