What happens when you take a shot and you just love the expression of your subject, but the light lets you down? You take it into Lightroom and sprinkle some magic dust all over it, and in this tutorial, I'll show you exactly how I do that.
Facial expressions and poses in portraits can make or break an image, so it can be so frustrating when you get a brilliant shot but are either let down by your camera settings or the lighting. The best method is to get things right at the source. Reset, check your levels, dial in the right camera settings, meter your light, and go again. But for those of us that don't have that luxury, perhaps that one rare snap of your partner you got before they realized you had a camera in your hand or that candid moment between mother and daughter, it might not be possible to repeat it.
That's where post-production image editing comes in to help. With the aid of Adobe Lightroom Classic, you can save even the worst photos from the brink and breathe new life into your images. This is exactly what I had to do when I just couldn't let go of a test shot I captured at the beginning of a portrait session I had last year. There was something special about the shot that resonated with me, so it was time to get to work.
What's Wrong With the Shot?
Make a Profile Treatment
Correct the White Balance
Boost the Exposure
Make Tonal Adjustments
Correct Lens Distortions
Brighten the Face
Not wanting to remove the shadows entirely from the photo (I think the chiaroscuro in this shot is actually one of its selling points), I decided to use the adjustment brush to boost the exposure on my subject's face. I painted only over the shadow area of his face and turned on the mask overlay (O) to show where I was affecting. If I turned up the exposure too high, it would look unrealistic, so I kept it subtle at +0.56.
See the Difference
As you can see above, the edited version of my portrait is much more palatable than the original. The highlights are tamed, there's more detail in the shadows, and the warmth from the altered white balance helps draw you into the subject, as it feels more friendly and inviting. The only other thing to change about this image would be to extend the backdrop, but in terms of exposure and color, I think it's pretty much there.