Essential Tips For Editing Portraits In Lightroom

Essential Tips For Editing Portraits In Lightroom

Learn to edit better portraits & headshots using these essential photo editing techniques

Editing portrait photography is an art, and learning how to edit portraits inside Lightroom takes time and practice. In this free Lightroom lesson you can edit along with me as I go through editing a portrait from start to finish. Whether you’re looking for a beginner introduction to editing portraits, or you just want to see how professional photographers edit their portraits, this Lightroom tutorial goes in depth, teaching you how to edit a portrait step by step inside Adobe Lightroom Classic CC (But don’t worry, these same techniques will apply whether you’re using Lightroom CC, Lightroom CC Classic, Lightroom 5,6,7,8 or even Lightroom alternatives like CaptureOne)


Editing Portrait Photography In Lightroom Tips:

Always dial in your white balance & tint

One of the biggest mistakes I made for YEARS in Lightroom was ignoring how important white balance is to the edit of your image. Not only does white balance affect colors in your image, it also changes the way Lightroom interprets the highlights, shadows and contrast of your photo! Start every edit by dialing in the perfect white balance and you’ll immediately see great results.

Here’s a trick for getting white balance right: Don’t look for something white (like eyes or teeth) to color match – Look for something grey.

Eyes are almost never pure white – They’ll either be too blue or too yellow to get an accurate white balance. The same goes for teeth, which are almost always warmer than pure white should be. Instead, look for an area of your image that is grey, and use that to match up your white balance – You’ll get a much more accurate result.

*Remember: The most important thing is how the photo LOOKS – Not whether your settings are technically perfect or not!*


Focus on small, incremental improvements to your image – Avoid extreme effects.

The most natural editing results almost always come from small incremental improvements. Instead of taking your contrast up by +100, try adding +20 contrast, then add a little more contrast by decreasing the shadows and raising the highlights, then a little bit more by adding a slight tone curve etc… Your end result will often look much more natural and less “over edited”

100 tiny little improvements to your image soon add up to an amazing edit.


Start with your broadest global adjustments, then work your way down to more selective edits and tweaks.

Your best bet when editing a portrait (or any photo) in lightroom is to start with the general parts of your image and get those looking right before moving on to the smaller details. Things like white balance and exposure affect your ENTIRE image and are important to get right early in the editing process, whereas if you start by editing with adjustment brushes, you might find you need to go back and redo those edits later if you need to change the white balance of your image afterwards.


Add the amount of effect you THINK you need, then dial it back just a little

It is VERY easy to over edit your photos and go too far with effects. A great rule of thumb is to dial in your effect to where you like it, then roll it back just a little bit to ensure things still look natural and not overboard. This is especially important when you’re starting out in editing your photography, as your eye isn’t as practiced in noticing when you’ve gone too far.


Make sure you understand WHY you’re doing what you’re doing

When you’re new or learning Lightroom, it can be very tempting to just start pulling sliders around to see what looks good – And this is part of the process of learning to edit. But it’s important when you’re editing portraits in lightroom that you take the time to learn and understand what each of the tools inside Lightroom’s “toolbox” actually do, so that you can get the best results possible out of your editing, instead of just guessing. This will speed up your workflow and improve your edits.

Make sure to watch our other Lightroom Tutorials to understand the different Lightroom editing tools and techniques like using the tone curve, the HSL panel, and the sharpening / noise reduction panel.


Watch the video & edit along!

The best way to learn something is to take action and apply what you learn – So grab the free RAW file and edit alongside this free lightroom portrait editing tutorial.



You’re one step closer to perfecting your portrait photography editing in Adobe Lightroom!

Have questions or requests for future tutorials? Leave them in the comments below – We respond to every single one!

Now go create something awesome.