Are you wondering how to whiten teeth in Lightroom? Lightroom makes teeth whitening easy, thanks to a pre-installed preset that you can fine-tune to your liking.
Not every smile needs the same amount of whitening, though. That’s why, in this guide, I’ll show you how to use Lightroom’s preset, but also how to customize it and create different presets of your own.
Let’s get started!
How to whiten teeth in Lightroom: the basics
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to teeth whitening (using Lightroom’s pre-installed preset):
Step 1: Import your image
Unless you’ve already imported your image into the Lightroom catalog, this should be your first step. Select File>Import Photos and Video, then look through your files and import the one you need.
Alternatively, you can drag and drop your image into the Library workspace.
Regardless, remember that Lightroom is non-destructive – so no matter how you import your file, you’ll be adjusting a copy, not the original.
Step 2: Move to the Develop module
Importing occurs in the Library module. So once your photo has been added to the Lightroom catalog, it’s time to switch workspaces and enter the Develop module.
Simply hit the Develop button at the top:
In the Develop module, you’ll find all of Lightroom’s photo-editing tools. If you want to add any general edits to your photos or you’re thinking of applying a preset, you’ll do it in the Develop module. It’s also where all the teeth-whitening magic will happen.
Step 3: Enable the Adjustment Brush
Click to enable the Adjustment Brush (or hit the K key):
Lightroom will open the Adjustment Brush panel, where you can create masks, adjust the Brush options, and edit the selected area.
Step 4: Select the teeth
You’ll start by preparing to select the teeth. First, scroll down until you find the Brush settings, then adjust the size and feathering (the best settings will depend on your particular image).
Note that you’ll probably need a smaller Brush when selecting near the edges of teeth. Fortunately, you can create two saved Brushes (with the A and B choices). Otherwise, you can use the bracket keys to enlarge or shrink the Brush size while working.
I recommend you enable Auto Mask. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a tool that helps you select a specific area by recognizing edges.
You can also enable Show Selected Mask Overlay – you’ll find it under the image, and it will allow you to see where you’re actually painting the mask.
Finally, brush over the teeth. Zoom in if necessary and make sure you work very carefully.
Step 5: Apply the Teeth Whitening preset (optional)
Once you’ve brushed over the teeth, go ahead and disable the Selected Mask Overlay; now it’s time to apply adjustments to the selected area.
Because teeth whitening is such a common retouch, Lightroom already has a Teeth Whitening preset. If you want to use it, open the Effect drop-down menu and select Teeth Whitening. Your subject’s teeth should get whiter, and if you like the effect, great! It may be all you need, in which case you can hit Done.
Alternatively, you may want to use the preset as a starting point, then make further adjustments (as discussed in the next section).
Notice that once you apply the preset, sliders will change. The exposure will increase to 0.40 and saturation will be set at -60.
Step 6: Adjust the edits
If you don’t want to use the preset, or if you want to fine-tune the preset’s effect, you can manually move the sliders.
First, adjust the exposure and saturation to fit your image. You’ll also want to check the temperature – if the teeth are looking too yellow, slightly move the Temp slider to the left.
Keep zooming in and out to check the overall result because you don’t want the white to look fake. You can see a before and after version by selecting View>Before/After.
Remember that the Before view will show you the imported image. So if you make general adjustments to your image, whiten the teeth, and display the Before view, the preview will be stripped of all its edits, not just the teeth whitening.
Step 7: Save the preset (optional)
If you like your whitening effect, you can save it as a preset. Head to the Presets panel, then click the plus sign and select Create Preset.
A dialog window will pop up where you can check the elements that you want to include in your preset. Then all you have to do is name the preset, and it will be saved for you to use on other photos!
When should you whiten teeth?
Now that I’ve explained how to whiten teeth in Lightroom, let’s see when you should do it. Teeth aren’t naturally fully white, and each person has different tones of teeth. So you shouldn’t add teeth whitening as a default part of your workflow. Instead, use it in specific situations:
When your edits changed the original color of the teeth
If you apply a color filter, change the white balance, or move the color settings of your entire image, you might end up with unnatural-looking teeth, in which case whitening is a good idea.
That said, when you whiten the teeth, make sure they still match the overall mood and ambiance of the picture. For example, if you apply a vintage filter and then make the teeth super white, they will stand out…in a bad way.
When the teeth weren’t lit properly
Sometimes, an unflattering shadow makes the teeth look dark or stained. But you can easily fix this problem by adding more light with the Exposure slider.
Also, certain lighting might cause yellowish teeth. For example, using tungsten light or a golden reflector might give a pleasing warm tone to the skin while also causing the teeth to look yellowish. In this case, a white balance adjustment selectively applied to the teeth will go a long way.
Another common problem: teeth reflect colors from objects that are nearby. So if your model has a colorful prop or object close to their mouth, the teeth might show a hint of color.
When your model asks you
As I was mentioning before, teeth might be underexposed because of a light problem during the photoshoot or because of color editing during post-processing. If you’re whitening the teeth to correct any of these issues, then there’s not much conflict.
However, sometimes the person has natural discoloration – and if that is the case, don’t automatically add teeth whitening as part of your workflow. Wait for your model to ask (and if they don’t ask, then don’t make any changes!).
You should never alter how a person looks without their consent. If the client hasn’t asked you for any aesthetic changes, you shouldn’t assume they want them.
5 tips for whitening teeth in Lightroom
By following the step-by-step teeth whitening guide shared above, you’ll be able to retouch your images without any problems.
But these extra tips will help you get even better results, starting with:
1. Understand editing pins
When you’re using the Adjustment Brush, you’ll notice that a gray dot (i.e., an editing pin) appears when you click on the image.
Anytime you need to go back to edit that selection, just click on the pin to make the selection active once more. (If the pins are distracting, you can press the H key to make them invisible.)
2. Fix a selection
If you accidentally select the gums, lips, or anything that’s not supposed to be affected by the teeth whitening, don’t worry – you can always use the Erase tool!
Inside the Adjustment Brush panel, next to the Brush A B presets, you’ll see the word Erase. After clicking it, you’ll be able to erase your selection. (Alternatively, you can hold the Alt key, which will toggle the Eraser option.)
3. Keep in mind the person’s age
Remember that teeth discoloration is part of the natural process of aging. If you want to keep your photo retouching realistic, don’t overdo it. Consider that a younger model should probably have whiter teeth than an older one (this is one of the reasons you can’t use the same settings for every photo).
4. Take a break
This advice is useful for any type of retouching – whenever you’re done, take a break and come back later.
Sometimes you’re so focused on a specific part of the image that you lose track of the bigger picture. So close the computer for a while or go outside to get some natural light and rest your eyes. Then come back and see the photo again. If you’re satisfied, that’s great – but if you’re not, then just make some more adjustments!
5. Download presets
If you don’t love post-processing, or if you want to improve your post-processing without extra work, remember that you can always buy presets or download freebies from professional photo retouchers and fellow photographers!
How to whiten teeth in Lightroom: conclusion
Okay, now you know how to whiten teeth in Lightroom – and I hope you agree that it’s super easy!
So practice your teeth whitening. Improve your photos. And if you run into any problems while adjusting your pictures, don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments section.
Now over to you:
Do you have any tips for teeth whitening? Have you tried to whiten teeth before? How did it turn out? Share your thoughts in the comments below!