10 tips and tricks for doing beauty retouching with Lightroom 

The following is a guest post written by Jane Grates.

Jane manages Sleeklens.com which specializes in Lightroom workflows and Photoshop. You can connect with them on facebook, twitter orYoutube. When she is not busy managing Sleeklens, you can find her traveling around the world or enjoying long walks in nature.



With the demands of creating quality post-production work professionally, beauty retouching is no longer a basic task that anybody can do and end up with a successful product. There are certain little-known rules that make beauty retouching an entirely new category within the world of professional photography. Through this guide, we are going to review 10 essential tips and tricks that will take beauty retouching in Lightroom to the next level!

The adjustment brush tool is going to become your best friend

When we edit pictures inside Lightroom, we are very familiar with the usage of presets in order to achieve quick results without too many problems, but what about the brushes offered by many professional designers these days? Brushes are for local adjustments that can be performed regardless of the topic of the picture. You have full control over them, and if you happen to work with brush presets, you can even control the intensity of the adjustment used.


Inside your resources library, you should keep a good set of Lightroom brushes to use for different kinds of retouching:

  • Hair
  • Eyes
  • Improving skin
  • Softening skin

…and much more. In general, you will not regret taking the time to produce those brushes, as they will come in handy in your workflow on countless occasions.

Split your task into areas

It is best to define areas narrowly, so you can work on each one specifically, rather than sticking to just one brush and adapting it as you change your target. Define areas on the skin as you work on producing the adjustments needed, and you will end up with a better quality result.

02_tip_beauty (1)

Areas, such as under the eyes, above the lips, or even a receding hairline require special attention, since you are not just softening for a professional result, but also wanting to keep detail, otherwise your subject won’t look realistic.

Always enhance eyes

As the phrase says, “the eyes are the windows to the soul”, which is a very true statement. There is no better image of sensuality than a close-up picture of a model with stunning eyes, carefully applied makeup, and combined with a short but powerful phrase defining the product you want to sell.


In order to get results like this, you need to mask the eyes with the Lightroom adjustment brush and adjust Exposure, Clarity and Contrast as your first attempt to create a quality result.

You can also enhance the tint of eyes by using HSL parameters, although you shouldn’t overdo this adjustment, or the result won’t look realistic.

Whiten teeth

For that “Colgate smile” result, the very first thing you need to do is to fix discolored teeth, but how can do you go about making this adjustment?

First, determine if your subject is suffering from either yellow or gray teeth. In either case, the adjustment is going to be similar.

If the subject suffers from yellow toned teeth, you need to reduce the yellow tint and increase blue values, and if the subject’s teeth look gray, you have to increase the yellow tint slightly at the Temp Slider inside the Adjustment brush tool.


Other values you will likely have to compensate are Saturation, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows. Exposure is optional, and you should avoid using Clarity, as you will bring too much attention to the teeth.

Work with tiny brush sizes and use some feather value, although not too much, otherwise you are likely to mask areas like the lips.

Sensual lips

Especially in outdoor pictures, it is absolutely necessary to emphasize the lips of your subject, otherwise the whitened teeth, you already applied are going to look unprofessional to say the least.

To give your subject a really nice-looking rose lips effect, you have to apply a warm up setup with the Adjustment Brush tool, while also reducing parameters such as Clarity and Contrast. You want the lips to be soft and sensual, but you’re not trying to increase the amount of detail on them. Increase saturation as well.

05_tip_beautyAgain, you will have to work with a variety of brush sizes as lips have a lot of detail, and please avoid using the same brush inside the mouth. If you want to give a bit more color to gums, create another brush instead. This, however, is not a very common adjustment.

Use sharpening in areas that require it

Things like eyelashes and certain skin areas also require special attention from you in order to boost their appearance. In those cases, use the Adjustment Brush to mask all the areas needed.

06_tip_beautyGeneral use of the sharpening tool or Clarity-based presets should be reserved for images with focus problems.

Always keep in mind that you won’t be able to add detail that doesn’t exist to the picture, so Sharpening will work only until a certain point… and from there on, all you’re going to add to the image is an unnecessary amount of noise.

Need to perform a quick sun tan? Use Clarity

Even if it sounds hard to believe, the Clarity slider is quite capable of simulating an intense sun tan effect without looking too orange in the process. This is because it not only enhances detail in images, but it tends to increase the amount of pigment in certain hues, while keeping the saturation under control.

Of course, you don’t want to overuse this slider, or the image will look like a HDR rather than a beauty retouching, but also keep in mind that this will bring detail, so it will reverse the skin softening effect.07_tip_beauty

Fixing under-eye bags

For hiding those annoying under-eye shadows we might encounter during portrait photography, we can simply correct it by using the Spot Removal tool and sampling a soft, bright area like the forehead. Remember to sample large areas rather than tiny spots, going over the area you need to correct evenly in order to blend in the sampled texture applied to the area.


Hiding unwanted elements

When shooting the picture, there are times where we overlook unwanted details, such as sections of wires, scratches, tree bark, etc. that may look distracting in certain areas of our image. Without having to use Photoshop, we can fix these elements by using the Spot Removal tool in Clone mode.

All you need to do is sampling an area with tint fairly similar to the area we want to mask. Bring Opacity to 100% in order to completely hide the element or reduce it to around 80%, if you want the object to blend in with the cloned texture.


Use presets to create mystic effects

Presets can be incredibly useful in beauty photography, as they allow us to perform many levels of retouching with just one simple step – just one click. Be sure you choose quality presets meant for portrait retouching, as presets covering other topics won’t improve your image to a high standard (unless your intent is to apply special effects to your image, in which case you can use Cyanotype or Cross Processing presets).

Quickly turn your image from a colorful shot to a stunning Black and White image. In just seconds, you can have up to 2-4 possible variations of your images, as long as you happen to work with the right resources.


As you can see, Lightroom provides everything needed in order to apply professional retouching to our images, all without requiring extra software like Adobe Photoshop or something similar. Keep practicing in order to improve your skills, and soon you will realize that most retouching will take mere seconds, because you will develop the skill to spot problem areas on your image off-hand. In general, the idea is to have as much fun while doing the post-production work, as you do while taking pictures.

Good luck and keep editing!

SmugMug Review: Protect Your Photos, Create a Customized Website and Make Some Money

smugmug_bannerSmugMug is a premium photo and video hosting service for people that want a website they can customize, that will protect their photos, and where they can easily sell prints to clients and fans.

And when I say “premium”, I mean – it ain’t free.

And like any purchase, you must ask yourself, “Is this a good product for me? And is it worth it?”

Well, that depends, of course. But I hope that this review will help you decide if SmugMug is the right solution for you.

Basically if you’re a pro photographer, aspiring pro photographer, or avid amateur photographer – SmugMug is a fantastic service that can help you sleep at night (security and privacy features), show off your portfolio (gorgeous and flexible customization), and make you money (slick e-commerce tools).

Here’s my simple, but effective photography website – powered by SmugMug – www.ryanoakleyphotography.ca

If all this sounds great and you want to cut to the chase – click here to save 20% on your new SmugMug account (which includes a 14-day free trial).

And if you want more details – keep reading…

The Main Features and Benefits of SmugMug

Security is one of the main reasons pros and regular people alike choose SmugMug to host their images online.

Security is one of the main reasons pros and regular people alike choose SmugMug to host their images online.

Safety and Security – It’s not sexy, but it’s pretty important to us photographers. We take pride in our craft and we want to protect our images. And this might include password protecting client galleries, un-listing or hiding away photos of our kids, or watermarking and right-click protecting our award winning shots. SmugMug has a great suite of tools to lock your photos down, or unleash them to the world.

After Hurricane Katrina hit, thousands of people sadly lost their homes (and their computers). Which means many of them lost all their files and photos that were on their local hard-drives. But I remember hearing stories of people emailing SmugMug saying how grateful they were that they had all their important photos on SmugMug – safe and sound, backed up in the cloud.

Our photos are priceless – and SmugMug helps you organize and keep them safe.

SmugMug DesignsFlexible and Powerful Drag-and-Drop Customization – Photographers are striving to create and express. Why should it be any different with our websites? The new SmugMug, released in the summer of 2013 opened up the world of web customization to everyone – not just coders and designers.

SmugMug has dozens of designs that you can choose to use right off the bat. But they are fully customizable with colours, fonts, content blocks and the like. Even the hard-core web designers can have fun with CSS and HTML to really make their sites unique and personal.

It’s drag-and-drop easy but if you need some help, you can check out my SmugMug Customization Tutorial.

Making Money – For folks with Portfolio and Business SmugMug accounts, you can set your own prices on everything from prints, merchandise, and even digital downloads.

Making money by selling photos helps off-set the cost of SmugMug

Making money by selling photos helps off-set the cost of SmugMug

After the cost of producing the good(s), the photographer takes home 85% while SmugMug takes 15%. Some people have criticized this split, saying 15% is too much for SmugMug to take. But I disagree. For the 15%, SmugMug takes care of payment processing, order fulfillment, and even takes care of the 100% guarantee and customer service.  Even if I had employees to do this work for me, it would cost me and my business way more.  So yeah, 15% of my profit is just fine with me.

SmugMug has also done a lot of great work for the SmugMug Pro users – adding features like coupon codes, boutique packaging, global currency, and making partnerships with other services like Moo Cards, Animoto, and Blurb to name a few.

Yeah - SmugMug takes their Customer Support "Heroes" thing quit seriously.

Yeah – SmugMug takes their Customer Support “Heroes” thing quit seriously.

Customer Service – They call their team of customer service staff “Support Heroes”.  They even make them wear face paint (hopefully not every day!). But really, I have found their customer support to be one of the best for any company I deal with – not just in photography. Though they are a family-owned intimate business, they have the staff to properly service their customers. When I send a question in to their help email, I usually get a response within an hour. That makes my life easier.

On top of that, SmugMug has been around for a long time – and I don’t see them going away (or being acquired by Yahoo) anytime soon. So that gives me confidence that my photos are in the right hands and I don’t have to worry about a critical change that could disrupt my business or my life.

It’s Not Perfect

The biggest issue with SmugMug is that it’s not free – or even cheap. As I mentioned at the top of this post, SmugMug is a premium service. So you need to decide for yourself if the service and benefits that you receive is worth the cost.

I’d say that for anyone selling photos or doing photography as a full or part-time business, it’s an easy choice.  Even their top-end package at $300 per year is a steal when you consider how much pro photographers will pay monthly to rent studio space.

Personally, even with my part-time business, I’ve been able to sell enough prints every year to easily cover the cost of my SmugMug site.

If you have zero interest in selling prints, the choice is a bit more difficult. I’d suggest you look at the free alternatives that are out there, and ask yourself if there is something missing that you really really want. Maybe it’s the security features, or the ability to customize and personalize your own site. Maybe you want to make sure your photos are viewed at their very best – not next to some ugly ads.

SmugMug isn’t for everybody. But with their 14-day free trial it’s easy to sign-up, give it a spin, kick the tires and see if it’s a good fit for you.

14 Day Free Trial + 20% Off Coupon

True story.

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