Recently, I’ve been doing a lot more post-processing of portraits that I’ve taken over the years. There are some finishing touches easily applied in Lightroom that can be very helpful in making a portrait look great. Here are some of my favorites…
Converting to Black and White – in the Treatment area in Lightroom click on Black and White to do a neutral black and white conversion. The V shortcut key also does this quickly. In fact, the V key is a great way to quickly evaluating an image between the color and black and one versions.
Adjust Tonality – Once you’ve made the decision to stick with black and white, it’s important to adjust the tonality of the color portions of the image so that there’s good separation of the tones in the image. To accomplish this, use the color sliders in the B&W panel to adjust the luminosity of the respective colors. You can try clicking Auto to get a quick start although I find that, for portraits especially, the Auto setting tends to set the red and orange luminosity too low for my taste.
You may also want to try adjusting the white balance and tone sliders as doing so will sometimes also enhance the overall tonality of the image. It seems odd to adjust these in black and white but you might be pleasantly surprised by the result!
Negative Texture (or Clarity) – for smoothing of facial skin. For many years, using negative clarity has been a popular technique for smoothing skin in portraits. Recently Adobe added a new Texture adjust which is subtler than Clarity and should be tried first for smoothing. This is best done using one of the selective adjustments (radial filter or brush tool) so that only the desired skin area is affected and details aren’t lost in other portions of the image.
Slight negative Dehaze – to add a subtle glow around the face. I learned this from Cira Crowell recently – adding a radial filter, inverting it and then applying just a few points of negative Dehaze adds a subtle glow to what’s inside the radial filter.
Vignette – Vignettes always help to keep the viewer’s eyes inside the image and not wandering off the edge. If the focal point of the image is in the center of the image, Lightroom’s Post-Crop Vignette tool works well for adding a vignette. If the focal point is off center and you need a different vignette placement, the Lightroom tool just doesn’t work. You can either use the Gradient tool to add a couple of gradients in from the sides – or use the Vignette tool in Snapseed which allows you to move the vignette’s placement around within the image. Snapseed’s vignette also includes an inner brightness adjustment which sometimes comes in handy.
Framing – I do this in Snapseed if this is an image I want to share on social media. For my Instagram posts I prefer my images to have a thin frame around the image. You’d think Lightroom would offer a simple capability for adding a frame but it’s an extended process that’s too cumbersome for my workflow! It’s much easier to import an image from Camera Roll on one of my iOS devices into Snapseed and to use the excellent Frame tool there. I usually choose thin black frame (frame style 12 with thickness of -20). Sometimes, for more of a post card look, I’ll use the white frame (frame style 1) with a thicker frame.
That’s it for now! I hope these techniques are useful to you. Let me know if you have other ideas to share by leaving a comment below!