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Scott Kelby on Photoshop for Lightroom Users: Retouching Portraits

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In this chapter from Photoshop for Lightroom Users, Scott Kelby shows you how to do simple photo retouching in Lightroom, and then shows you more advanced retouching techniques in Photoshop.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

I had it made when it came to naming this chapter because when I typed the word “retouch” into the iTunes Store’s Search Store field, I not only found songs named “Retouch,” but it brought up an artist named “Re-touch,” as well. So, I decided to go with that one, since it wasn’t so obvious. Plus, once I previewed a few of his tracks, I realized there was no way he was paying his mortgage with income from his music career, so maybe this mention will give him some kind of boost. Okay, I’m just kidding, his music is actually pretty good—especially if you like bass drum. I mean, really, really like bass drum for long extended periods of time, and you like it followed by layering weird synthesizer sounds. If that sounds like a dig, it’s not because there are a lot of remixes of Re-touch’s tunes by everybody from Tom Novy to Goldie-Lox to Overnoise, which alone is pretty impressive (I have no idea who those people are, but it’s only because I am very old and these tunes are probably played well after the Early Bird Special ends at Denny’s, so I would’ve missed them, but I’m sure if they played these def tracks at Denny’s around my dinner time [around 4:30 p.m.], there would be plenty of dentures just a-clackin’ away. We call that “crack-a-lackin’,” but that’s just because we’re so “street.” Ball ‘til ya fall, homies!). Anyway, just to circle back around for a moment, you can actually do some minor retouching right within Lightroom itself, and I cover that here at the start of this chapter, but for more serious stuff, you’ve got to jump over to Photoshop because it was born for this stuff. Now, Adobe has done a number of studies, using select focus groups across a wide range of demographics, and these studies have revealed that high-end professional retouchers using Photoshop can increase not only their productivity, but the realism of their retouching by putting on noise-canceling headphones and listening to a long bass drum track followed by layered weird synthesizer sounds, and then mentally picturing themselves at Denny’s. I am not making this up. Google it. You’ll see.

Retouching in Lightroom

There are a lot of simple retouches we can do in Lightroom’s Develop module, but they are usually about making something lighter or darker (like darkening your subject’s eyebrows by painting over them with the Adjustment Brush with just the Exposure lowered) or removing something simple. I cover some of the most popular Lightroom retouches right here (including reducing wrinkles and slimming), but there’s only so much you can do in Lightroom. That’s okay, that’s why there’s Photoshop. But, first, a little Lightroom.


For example, to brighten the whites of the eyes right within Lightroom, we click on the Adjustment Brush (K) in the toolbar at the top of the right-side panels, double-click on the word “Effect” to reset all the sliders to zero, then click-and-drag the Exposure slider to the right a little bit. Now, we zoom in tight on the eyes, and then paint over the whites to brighten them. Just be careful not to make them too white or it looks very obvious that they’ve been retouched.


Another nice retouch to the eyes uses the same settings you just applied to the whites of eyes, but this time you’re going to add a little “kicker” to the bottom of the iris. Click on the New button at the top of the Adjustment Brush options, and paint over just the bottom of each iris, avoiding the dark ring around the outside of them. Once you’re done, you can decide how bright you want your subject’s irises to be using the Exposure slider (it won’t affect the whites of the eyes because you clicked the New button first).


Granted, it’s not great skin softening because it pretty much blurs any skin texture, but it does help. Here’s how it’s done: Get the Adjustment Brush, double-click on the word “Effect” to reset all the sliders to zero, then click-and-drag the Clarity slider all the way to the left to –100. Now, paint over just the skin, avoiding any detail areas (like the eyes, eyebrows, lips, hair, nostrils, edges of the face, clothes, etc.), and those areas become very soft. Of course, we can do much better in Photoshop, but at least you can do some quick softening right in Lightroom, as long as your goal is speed over quality.


If your subject is a little bit older, then you don’t want to remove their wrinkles (it’ll be a dead giveaway it was retouched, especially to their friends). Instead, you want to reduce their wrinkles, so they look 10 years younger (not 40 years younger). Get the Spot Removal tool (Q) from the toolbar and paint a stroke over an individual wrinkle, so it’s totally gone. Then, go to the Spot Removal tool’s options and lower the Opacity to bring back most, but not all, of the original wrinkle. That way, you reduce it, rather than remove it.


In Lightroom 5, Adobe added a lens correction feature we can use to instantly slim your subject, so they look 10 to 15 lbs. lighter. Go to the Lens Corrections panel, click on the Manual tab, and you’ll see the last Transform slider is Aspect. Click-and-drag this slider to the right a little bit (here I dragged it over to +38) and, as you do, it squeezes the photo in from the sides proportionally, and—voilà—your subject is thinner (the farther you drag, the thinner they get). Now, just crop the photo, so the white areas on both sides are gone.


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