Editing Natural Skin Tones In Lightroom
Lightroom tips & tricks for better natural skin tones.
When it comes to editing photos in Lightroom with people in them, nothing is as important as nailing the skin tones! Everything else in the edit can be right, but if your skin tones don’t look natural, your photo is going to feel wrong. Over the years I’ve come across several tips and tricks for editing natural skin tones inside Adobe Lightroom. Here are editing the tips and techniques for better, more natural skin tones I wish someone had shown me when I first got started:
Natural Skin Tones Tip #1 – Get it right in camera.
The most overlooked thing when it comes to editing better skin tones in Lightroom is that you need to get the look you want IN CAMERA first. Think of editing like baking a cake. Your RAW unedited photo is like the ingredients. If something is missing or not right in the raw photo, you’re going to be limited in what you’re able to bake up inside Lightroom.
The best way to improve your editing is to improve your photography.
Study photographers whose work you love and dissect their images. What kind of lens choice did they use? What time of day were they shooting? What was the direction of the lighting? How about their framing and composition? What was their color scheme? All of these little details are what separate amateur photographers from pros. Learn to emulate these techniques and you’ll have a vastly easier time getting beautiful natural skin tones in Lightroom.
Skin Tones Tip #2 – Be aware of your subjects natural skin shade
When you’re trying to figure out how to get your skin tones looking more natural in Lightroom, one of the most common mistakes photographers make is trying to make their subject more tan / light / bright / dark than they naturally were to begin with. While you have some wiggle room and can add a little saturation or tweak the tone of the skin slightly, for the most natural results make sure to keep track of what the skin would look like in real life and stick close to that.
Natural Skin Tones Tip #3 – Set the right white balance
Once you’re editing in Lightroom, the most important setting in your entire toolkit is the white balance. But don’t be deceived – Just because white balance SEEMS simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Getting this right will make more of a difference in the skin tones than any other technique there is! Developing a good eye for what white balance should actually be takes time and practice. Luckily you can make use of the reference view in Lightroom to compare your edit to the photo you’re trying to emulate. This will save you TONS of time and help you improve far more quickly.
Skin Tones Tips #4 – Use the HSL panel strategically
The HSL panel is another powerful skin tone editing tool inside Lightroom, but it takes time to master. Make sure to check out our in depth HSL panel tutorial.
For skin tones, the most important colors are the oranges and reds. You can adjust your skin tone saturation, hue and luminance up and down depending on the look you’re going for. As with everything, practice makes perfect when it comes to editing skin tones and using the HSL panel effectively!
Editing Skin Tip #5 – Camera Calibration
The last major tool for dialing in skin tones in Lightroom is the camera calibration at the bottom of the develop module. This is a powerful and underused tool in Lightroom, but can be very effective for adding saturation to skin and changing its hue in a subtle, natural way.
Definitely worth taking a look!
Wrapping it all up
Mastering editing skin tones and really nailing that natural look in Lightroom is a total art form that you never totally stop working on. These are the top tips and tricks I WISH someone had told me when I started editing in Lightroom – Using these tools and strategies will help you considerably along the way in your quest for perfect skin tones in Lightroom.
Remember, the most effective way to improve your editing is by improving your photography!
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Have a favorite tip for editing skin tones? Share in the comments below!
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