Advanced Portrait Retouch on a Male Subject in Lightroom 4 - Part 2 of 3 - Digital Photography School

Advanced Portrait Retouch on a Male Subject in Lightroom 4 – Part 2 of 3

Introduction

This tutorial has been transcribed from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Workshop on DVD, a 14 hour Lightroom 4 A – Z guide with over 130 tutorials for mastering Lightroom from start to finish. The Digital download can be purchased from SLR Lounge while the physical copy is available through Amazon Prime.

Overview

In Part I of the Portrait Retouch on a Male Subject Series, we went over basic color correction on our image. I produced the image with a darker, more dramatic stylized look. However, grading and color stylization is all subjective. Retouch on the other hand is a bit less subjective. There are definite do’s and don’t when it comes to retouch. In this article, we will take our color graded portrait and use strictly Lightroom 4 to do some more advanced portrait retouching.

As we mentioned in the last article, Lightroom can be a very efficient tool when retouching portraits.  Lightroom does not have all of the tools and capabilities as  Photoshop. However, we find that for most of our retouching needs it is quite sufficient. We also save time by editing directly from Lightroom and not having to take each image into Photoshop. So in this Part II of our three-part series we will show you how to remove blemishes as well as apply a skin softening mask right within Lightroom.

Using the Spot Removal Tool to Remove Blemishes

We use the Spot Removal Tool to remove various small objects such as dust or unattractive details from our images. However, we can also use it effectively to remove blemishes. This subject does not have many blemishes, however, he does have quite of few freckles. Now of course we do not want to remove all of the freckles because these are distinguishing marks individual to him. We have a general rule when it comes to removing blemishes vs actual facial details. When it comes to removing blemishes, you can remove them all without a care. However we want to be very cautious when it comes to things like freckles, beauty marks, or other identifying facial traits. Removing such items will actually make the person cease to look like themselves. For this image, we will however remove a few freckles in order to present a bit of a cleaner look. Mainly we are looking to remove freckles that are distracting, and not identifying features.

We do this by selecting our Spot Removal Tool by hitting “Q” on the keyboard or by selecting it on the Adjustment Tool Bar above the Basic Panel. We will then zoom in to 100% on our image by simply clicking on it. To use the spot removal tool, adjust your brush size to the smallest possible brush that will completely cover what you are trying to remove. The second circle, which is the sampling area, will appear and Lightroom will try and guess an area of the image that matches what you are attempting to remove. If Lightroom does not correctly place the sampling area, select an area of the image that most resembles the area you are trying to clone or replace.

Use your judgement on what you would like to remove. Of course blemishes such as acne is something we will always remove. If a client or model has a strong facial trait that is being somewhat distracting, a tip would be to diminish but not to remove it. To diminish, simply bring down the opacity on the Spot Removal Tool so that it only has a softening effect. The Opacity slider controls transparency of the brush and is located in the drop down panel of the Spot Removal Tool.

Here is our image after cleaning up some of the freckles. Notice how left the few freckles right on his cheek and a couple above his eye brows because those are strong identifying freckles.

Using Adjustment Brushes to Soften Skin

Next we will will apply a subtle skin-softening mask. With portraits of men we always keep this effect pretty understated. This is because men do not usually want to look like they have baby soft skin, so we like to keep a little bit of ruggedness to their portraits. To create and apply our mask we will select the Adjustment Brush Tool by hitting “K” on the keyboard or selecting it from the Adjustment Tool Bar above the Basic Panel. You can reset the current brush settings by holding down “alt” on a PC and “opt” on a Mac and clicking the word “Reset” on the upper left corner of the Adjustment Brush drop down panel.

Then we bring down our clarity and sharpening settings. Reducing the sharpening and clarity has a softening effect similar to Gaussian blur in Photoshop. Once again, we keep this effect very minimalistic for men. For now we will start with -15 for the Clarity and -15 for Sharpness. We can always come back and adjust these settings after applying the mask.

Now we will adjust our brush size to a large brush and paint all of the skin showing in the image. You can show your mask overlay by hitting “O” on your keyboard. This will show what you have painted on your image in red.

Once you have completely covered the area that you would like to soften, we will go back in and refine the mask. We can do this by holding “alt” on a PC and “opt” on a Mac while you have the brush over the image. By holding down “alt”, your brush will remove the mask you had applied. We are going to refine the edges, as well as remove the softening effect from his lips, eyes, and eye brows. Always make sure to completely remove the softening mask from these areas. If it is not fully removed there can be quite a strange effect to your portrait.


You will notice we are not being extremely careful when removing this mask. This is because the mask is so subtle that there is no need to spend the extra time making sure it is perfect. However, if your softening settings are very powerful, you do want to make sure you spend the time making a perfect mask. Once you have your mask where you would like, you can remove the overlay but hitting “O” again. Now we have a finished retouched portrait. Hit “\” to see your before/after versions.

The SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 DVD Guide

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Advanced Portrait Retouch Series where we will go over how to enhance and brighten a subjects eyes, as well as enhance detail and contrast in hair and other parts of the image! If you enjoyed this tutorial then we know you will love the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Workshop on DVD featuring 130 tutorials and nearly 14 hours of training covering Lightroom 4 from A – Z, nearly half of which is devoted strictly to image processing techniques.

eDVD Digital Download available at SLR Lounge

Physical DVD available for purchase at Amazon Prime

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Post Production Pye I hate speaking of myself in the third person, haha. I am a Partner and professional photographer with Lin and Jirsa Los Angeles Wedding Photography, and the Senior Editor for SLR Lounge Photography Tutorials. I am passionate about photography as an art as well as my part as an educator in the industry. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and feel free to hit me up with questions anytime on Facebook.

  • ccting

    Great article, i always do the same, except using the skin softening preset in LR. Any difference to use the custom setting -15 clarity & -15 sharpness?

Some older comments

  • ccting

    June 4, 2012 10:57 am

    Great article, i always do the same, except using the skin softening preset in LR. Any difference to use the custom setting -15 clarity & -15 sharpness?

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