How to Edit Newborn Photos Using Lightroom

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This post is by Cole Joseph – creator of our 101 Lightroom Presets Bundle.

BW.jpgNewborn photography requires a tremendous amount of patience, skill, a willingness to be okay with accidents, and even stronger photo editing skills as these precious little newborns often have numerous skin imperfections that can cause you to spend a significant amount of time editing and retouching the photos.

Until recently, to truly excel at editing newborn photos you had to be quite proficient using Photoshop, but now with Lightroom 5’s newest tools you can get great results with far less time!

Here are my top 6 tips for quicker and more effective newborn photo editing in Lightroom:

1. Slightly Overexpose in Camera

To get amazing final edited newborn photos you first need to focus on getting your exposures as close as you can in camera. Since newborns often have some redness to their skin, the best way to help minimize that is to slightly overexpose your photos while shooting. Doing so will help you achieve that soft, creamy and bright skin that we all love!

Slight Overexpose

2. Shoot RAW

I always shoot in the RAW file format. There are many advantages of shooting in RAW, but for newborns which require a lot of touching up and white balance changes, shooting in RAW will help keep the color tones of your images as natural as possible – even when making big adjustments.

3. The Magic “C” Sliders

If you’re after soft and creamy skin tones, the two sliders in Lightroom that will help you the most are the contrast and clarity slider. By reducing contrast you will smooth out the tonality of the image (just watch the histogram when you change contrast) and it will help remove the dark shadow areas or even bright highlights. Remember, for most of us, the goal with newborns is soft, airy photos – rather than edgy high contrast imagery. Adjusting the clarity slider downward a bit will help give you the “creamy” factor. Just be very careful to not remove too much clarity! I recommend somewhere between -10 to -20.

Contrast and clarity sliders

4. HSL Sliders for Adjusting Skin Tones

Adjusting the white balance will only get you so far, sometimes you need some fine tuning on the skin tones and that is where the HSL sliders can really help. While you can manually adjust each color slider, the real trick is to use the targeted adjustment tool on each element (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) to fine tune your skin tone corrections. Simply click on the targeted adjustment tool, go over a part of the image with the skin tone color you want to fix, click (and hold) then adjust with your mouse up or down and you’ll see the sliders adjust.

HSL Sliders

Tip: if you are trying to remove redness, click in the photo where there the skin is red, and follow this sequence with each slider using the targeted adjustment tool:

Hue: move the mouse up and the red/orange sliders will move to the right
Saturation: lower the mouse and the sliders will shift to left lowering saturation
Luminance: raise the mouse to adjust the targeted color sliders to the right, raising the luminance (brightness) of those tones in the photo.

See below for video tutorial of this technique if you are a visual learner.

5. Choose Wraps, Blankets and Props Wisely

Extremely light colored wraps or blankets can be so cute, and can look great with color images. But, if you are a fan of classic, timeless, black and white images I’d urge you to stay away from blankets or wraps that are too light, or even white in color. There simply isn’t enough contrast in color between the baby and the blankets for an effective, and attractive black and white image, and your photo will often look too washed out.

B W

6. Presets for Speed and Consistency

Once you find an edit or a look that you love, make sure to save it as a preset so you can use it on other photos that were taken with similar lighting and settings. Not only are presets vital for saving you a ton of time while editing, but they also will help you create a consistent look to your photos.

Specifically for newborn photography, I created a complete Lightroom presets collection that make soft, creamy and dreamy newborn photos with the simplicity of just one-click.

Newborn Lightroom Presets

I sure hope that you can put these six tips into use right away and start editing your newborn photos quicker, with better results. If you have any questions at all, just let me know down below, I’d love to hear from you.

Enjoy this post? Check out Cole’s 101 Lightroom Presets Bundle.

Read more from our Post Production category

Cole Joseph is the owner of Cole Joseph Photography, and founder of Cole's Classroom - an online photography training blog focused on making you a better photographer.

  • Choo Chiaw Ting

    wow.,, very nice article, even nicer if we could get those preset free πŸ˜‰

  • Thanks for checking out the article, I am thrilled you enjoyed it πŸ™‚ I actually have a FREE Lightroom Presets collection on my website (linked in my profile) that you are welcome to get and have instantly sent to you and also a couple other paid premium presets. Enjoy!

  • Also – the newborn workshop deal on Snapndeals right now includes the Newborn Lightroom Presets for free πŸ™‚

  • andyshrestha.com

    If you use Photoshop, you can get such effects with gradient map with lower opacity.

    try it.

  • lea

    Wonderful article! Thank you for for sharing your knowledge!

  • Saurav Dhyani

    Amazing… wish this was posted 2 yrs back.. i could click my daughter in much better way… Thanks for wise advices and quick tips.. they definitely help.. Regards

  • Olga

    Useful and practical article, thanks a lot! It would be even a brilliant one if you share some basic newborn presets for free πŸ™‚

  • Kristen Danielle Eller

    Thank you so much for sharing your insights. I learned something new, and I LOVE it when I learn something new! πŸ™‚ You’re a good teacher, easy to listen to, simple and practical advice. Kept my attention the whole time, which is sometimes hard to do. Thanks again!

  • Thanks for the comment! Appreciate it πŸ™‚

  • Darius Burns

    I’m getting very confused about whether to add contrast or remove it when editing baby photos. Some tutorials like this one talk about adding negative contrast for the reasons outlined above (and often negative clarity to soften the image), but most others I’ve been through talk about adding a lot of clarity (e.g. +65 which seems huge to me and in the wrong direction) and positive contrast e.g. 10 to 20. I am comfortable making my own decisions on clarity as I just think about it like a soft focus tool, but for contrast I am very confused. Negative contrast often makes the image worse imo as mentioned many tutorials say to do, so any advice on this would be appreciated.

  • Louise Kellie Skorpil

    thankyou! Finally an article that explains the process, not one that says “step one, open image, step two, buy my presets!”

    Thanks again!

  • Maryn

    THis is so great, thank you! What is your best advice for baby acne?

  • Jimmie Marko

    my friend needed to fill out Canada T1 General Form some time ago and learned about a great service with a lot of fillable forms . If others want Canada T1 General Form too , here’s https://goo.gl/qlgRn6

  • Anyone can’t do this newborn editing with Lightroom. edit newborn photos, need extra concentrate.

  • nancy

    Do you have a smaller newborn preset package? I’m a grandma taking photos of my grandson but have no intention of becoming a photographer and do not feel I need that many!

  • Thanks a lot!

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