How To Get Perfect Skin Tones In Lightroom

  • One of the most daunting challenges any photographer faces is getting the skin tone correct – or close to correct – in a portrait. There is no need to fret, though, because you can correct skin tone in post-production through Lightroom. 
Woman in White Shirt and Brown Coat

That perfect skin tone in an image is what can set a professional portrait apart from a snapshot. Look at a professionally taken picture alongside a snapshot, and the results speak for themselves. With some minor adjustments and a little practice perhaps, Lightroom users can achieve those types of professional results to yield a more professional look to any portrait. 

how to adjust skin tones in lightroom

Here are a few tips you can follow to achieve better skin tone in your portraits and get that professional look for your work.

White Balance:

Before you do anything else, it’s important to consider and start with the White Balance. It is the basis of great skin tone and setting it correctly is critical to achieving the correct skin tone in your pictures. When the White Balance is too warm, the skin tone will appear too orange or yellow. But, if the White Balance is to be too cold, you can expect a blue or grayish tint to your images. Unless that’s the effect, you are working toward, neither will work and changes will be necessary.

In Lightroom, you can correct your white balance fairly quickly using the adjustment tool. Click on it (looks like a dropper) then click on any white area of your photo. You can then use the temperature slider to adjust the tone further if it remains too warm or too cool. Sometimes, you might also need to adjust the tint as well. There’s a reason it’s called the White Balance. You’ll likely need to work with the dropper, the slider, and even the tint to find the correct skin tone balance.

white balance in lightroom

Exposure:

Another step toward good skin tone in your photographs is to ensure proper exposure. Exposure alone can make all the difference necessary for that professional look. You can do this by checking the histogram and checking its curve. Ideally, the peak should be in the center of the bell curve. If your curve’s peak is too far to the left or the right, you will likely need to make some adjustments to your exposure. Incorrect exposure will alter the skin tones to be too dark and gray or too blown-out. 

You can use the exposure’s slider to make the necessary adjustment. Just slide to the right or left on the slider to adjust the exposure. While using the sliders, you can watch the curve in the histogram to arrive at the correct exposure and balance. The curve’s peak should now be centered. One important thing to keep in mind is that when you have sharp differences in the image’s exposure – for example, a very bright background compared to darker foreground – the curve will reflect that disparity with spikes on parts of the curve. You will need to just focus on the overall curve as you make your adjustments.

exposure in lightroom

Luminance:

A good way to adjust skin tone is to work on the Luminance and increase the skin’s brightness. To adjust the luminance, you’ll use the Luminance slider found through the HSL panel under the HSL/Grayscale. In your HSL/Grayscale, click on the Luminance tab. Select the orange slider and begin to slide toward the right. By adjusting the orange, you only change the skin tone and not the entire image. The further to the right you move the orange slider, the more you increase the skin’s brightness. 

luminance in lightroom

Once you have made any necessary adjustments to your subject’s skin tone in a photograph, you’re now free to make any further post-production edits in Lightroom or Photoshop. You can always return to adjust skin tone further as you work your way through your edits. 

7 Ways To Ensure You Get Sharp Images When Photographing People

Any photographer knows that sooner or later there is a challenge with obtaining sharp images. Novice photographers, especially, will find it the greatest challenge, often stumped by why they get blurry pictures. The bottom line is that, if you have ever taken pictures, you’ve likely taken a blurry one at some point – especially if you’re photographing people. Groups of people are the most challenging when it comes to getting that crisp, sharp pictures we all strive for! 

There are numerous reasons for blurry pictures, unfortunately, but there are some steps you can take to get the sharpest images possible. It might take a little experimenting to establish what is behind blurry pictures. The effort is well worth it. Sharp images – mean better pictures!

1. Steady:

If you want sharp pictures, the first step is to ensure you’re maintaining the camera steady. If you’re not holding the camera firmly, you’re probably not going to get sharp pictures. It’s important to keep the camera properly and steadily to avoid any movement. If it is difficult for you, to maintain the camera steady, be sure to use a tripod. In high winds or cold temperatures (where your hands might tremble), we recommend a tripod.

2. Your Lens & Equipment:

What equipment you use will matter to the sharpness of your pictures. Quality helps, but it isn’t the dealbreaker when it comes to obtaining good crisp clear pictures. A 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8 or a 85mm f/1.8 are all good lenses for getting sharper images. Experimenting with various lens lengths will give you good practice and experience. You’ll get better versed in identifying which lenses to pull out when, depending on the photograph and subjects. Don’t forget to keep your equipment clean! You can’t get a sharp picture if your lenses are dirty. We recommend occasional professional cleaning of both your camera and your lenses. You might find that a professional cleaning resolves an ongoing issue with blurry photos if you’ve tried everything else!

3. Shutter Speed:

Your shutter speed needs to be correct, or your photos won’t turn out as sharp as they could. Ideally, you should set your shutter speed to the same length as the focal length of your lens. To be safe, a good rule of thumb is to adjust the speed to double the focal length of your lens. So if you are using your zoom lens set at 200mm, you should use a shutter speed of at least 1/300 or 1/400 of a second and if you are using a 50mm zoom lens you will get a sharp image at 1/100th of a second.

4. Your Aperture: 

When you are trying to get the entire picture into focus as when you’re photographing a group of people not evenly lined up, the tighter your aperture, the more focused the picture. The wider you set your aperture, the less focused your periphery or outer edges will be.

5. Focus On The Eyes & Face:

Use the camera’s built-in center focal point to the subject’s eyes. If there’s more than one subject, pick the one closest to the center of the picture for the clearest picture. Remember that you can move the focal point around while trying to establish the most clarity. A good trick is to set your camera’s focal point on your subject’s face but, in particular, their eyes. It’s usually the best place to check for sharpness using the focal point of your camera. 


Group Focus:

It can be tricky to get crisp, sharp pictures when it's a group shot filled with various people standing around - unless you are setting your aperture manually. The simplest, albeit most mundane, a solution to a group shot is to create an even plane by evenly lining up everyone in the group. Shooting a staggered group of people means you will have to play around with your aperture by going tighter on your aperture setting (rather than wider) to get everyone into sharper focus. An even line makes it easier, and there's no need to adjust the aperture.
Family with cute little child. Father in a gray sweater. Sunset background.

Pick The Center Of A Group:

Another trick with group photos is to focus on the person closest to you or the center of the photograph. Ideally, the person is both close to you and the center! Keep in mind that focusing strictly on them without adjusting the aperture means that only those people behind them and closest to them will be in focus. You could find that group members closer to the edges of the group are not in sharp focus unless you adjust the aperture.

It takes a bit of skill, experience, practice, and, yes, patience to get sharp photographs. Obviously, the results are always well worth it. We recommend you keep these steps in mind if you are having a challenging time with sharp pictures, especially group photos.

Family with cute little child. Father in a gray sweater. Sunset background.

3. Camera Blur

Camera blur simply means that the camera moved while the image was being taken, resulting in a blurry photo.  The most common cause of this is when a photographer mashes down the shutter button because they are excited.  Pushing the shutter button too forcefully moves the camera and will always reduce the sharpness of the photo.

Another common cause of camera blur is when the photographer uses too low of a shutter speed, so that the natural shaking of one’s hands causes blur in the photo.  No one, not even brain surgeons, can hold their hands perfectly steady.  We all shake just slightly, and that can often be enough to cause a blurry photo if the photographer’s shutter speed is too low.

How to fix it: To fix camera blur, try to keep your shutter speed at 1/the focal length of the lens.  So if you’re using a 100mm lens, then your shutter speed should be 1/100.  This is a general rule, and obviously only works when the subject that you’re shooting is still.

Also, using lenses with image stabilization (Canon) or Vibration Reduction (Nikon) will help reduce camera blur.  This technology compensates for camera shake by moving the lens around to steady the shot.

4. Motion Blur

Motion blur is simple.  It means that the photographer used too slow of a shutter speed for the movement in a scene.  If you’re shooting a sports game, you would almost always want a shutter speed around 1/1000 of a second in order to freeze the motion in the scene.  For more on this, check out this article on shutter speed.

How to fix it: Use a fast enough shutter speed to match your situation.  For general portraits, you’ll want a shutter speed of at least 1/100.  For slight movement (a walking model, for example), a shutter speed of 1/320 will often be sufficient.  For fast motion like sports, 1/1000 is generally enough to freeze the motion.

 5.  Poor Lens Design

The fact is that most photographers start out learning photography on inexpensive lenses.  Obviously, it would be nice if all photographers could use expensive pro lenses that capture crystal clear images… the fact of the matter is that most photographers can’t afford the pro lenses.  That’s okay!  You can still capture tack sharp photos if you learn to take advantage of the lenses you already own.

How to fix it: Two quick tips for achieving sharp images from inexpensive lenses are (1) do not use the lens at either extreme of the aperture range.  So if your lens goes down to f/5.6, then consider shooting at f/7.1 when possible.  This will generally be a sharper aperture on that lens.  (2) Try not to shoot the lens at either extreme of the focal range.  So if you have a lens that goes from 18mm to 55mm, consider shooting at the middle of the focal range for better results.  Each lens is different in this way and has different sweet spots, but these general rules will often produce sharper images.

6. Too Shallow Depth-of-Field

Portrait photographers are often taught to use shallow depth-of-field to achieve a creamy blur in the background of the image.  While this is a great technique, I often find that photographers go too far.

If you use a very low aperture such as f/2.8, and you use a long lens and stand close to the subject, then your depth-of-field will be razor thin.  Often, this means that the photo will show the subject’s eyes in focus, but her nose or the back of her head will be out of the plane of focus.  In general, it is advisable to increase your depth-of-field just slightly in these situations so that the entire head or body of the subject is in focus.

This is especially true when shooting engagement, wedding, or family photography.  We often find that photographers who shoot couples or groups use too shallow a depth-of-field and this results in only some of the people in the photo being in focus.

How to fix it: 

Always focus on the front person in the group, or for couples, focus on the closest person to the camera, and increase your aperture just slightly to give more depth of field.

Posted by

A Natural Light and Pro Light Photographer who enjoys Photography and the world around it.

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