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