Hidden Gems In Adobe Lightroom: Skin Smoothing

I’m going to be writing a few posts in a series that feature some of the more unique and hidden features of both Adobe Lightroom & Aperture. I call them my ‘holy grail’ adjustments or my ‘hidden gems’ because not many professional photographers I know that use Lightroom on a daily basis even consider using these adjustments in their workflow.

For this first part I’d like to concentrate on SKIN SMOOTHING for portraits in Adobe Lightroom 4.

Before:
Adobe Lightroom

After:
Adobe Lightroom

I know, I know… there isn’t any skin smoothing in either program. Well, YES there is!

Adobe Lightroom

Step 1: Go into your brushes.

Adobe Lightroom

Step 2: Adjust the CLARITY of your brush. In this case, we don’t want to add clarity, rather, take away clarity or smooth out the skin of your subject.

Adobe Lightroom

Clarity is somewhat similar to sharpening in that it adds mid-tone contrast to the photograph, which results in an emphasis on textures and details. If you take away clarity from an image, you are doing just the opposite: taking away texture and details!

Step 3: Adjust the size, feather, and flow of your brush (directly below the effect).

Depending on how much you are zoomed into your image (I like to zoom in to at least 100% to see the subjects face really big), adjust the size. For my example, my size is 19. To be honest, the size doesn’t matter. Just don’t make it too big so that you’ll start painting in the eyes or lips/teeth and lips/hair.

* Bonus tip: To zoom in and out of your image: press the + button or the – button while holding down the command key.

Feather: Determines how fine of a brush you are using. I set my feather to 30 and have left it there 95% of the time.

Flow: Set to 100%. You can later adjust how much (or lack thereof) clarity you want later.

Adobe Lightroom

Step 4: Start ‘painting’ on your subject’s face. As a general rule, don’t paint over the eyes, teeth (sometimes lips are okay), and hair. For the most part, portraits should be focused on their eyes – not center focus on their chest. If you’re a Canon user, you need to start experimenting with AI Servo and AI Focus. 95% of the time I use AI Focus to focus on the subject eyes or eye that is closest to the camera.

Adobe Lightroom

I cranked up my clarity slider to -88 so you can see more of an example. The left side of her face (right side of your monitor) has had the negative clarity applied to her face, while the right side of her face is untouched.

* Tip: Hover of the small black dot (that indicates you added a brush) and you can see the area where you applied that brush:

Adobe Lightroom

If you made a mistake a got into the eyes or teeth area, then you’ll have to ‘erase’ that area. To do that, just go back to the Erase button (you’ll see that your brush now has a – sign in the middle of it.

Adobe Lightroom

Step 5: When you’re done brushing out the parts of your image that you want smoothed, then adjust your clarity slider accordingly. The more you take the slider to the left into the negative area, the more smoothing you are applying.

Then click back on your brush to exit the brushes.

Adobe Lightroom

As you might think, applying a brush to your image is a non-destructive edit and you can always go back and change the settings of your slider as well as erase areas that you don’t want effect.

A few rules:

* Being a guy, I definitely don’t want my skin smoothed to the moon and back. Leave it for the females and be gentle. Only add just enough so that it smoothes the skin, not takes away from the subject.

* To see the before and after, just press the \ key on your keyboard.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

 

If you enjoyed this article please let me know in the comments section!

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