Portrait Retouching Tips for Amateur Photographers

If you decided to start taking portrait photos, these 15 portrait retouching tricks in Photoshop and Lightroom will be very useful for you. Mind them while retouching your photos to make them pop and beautiful.

15 MUST-HAVE Portrait Retouching Steps

1. Start with Photo Culling

After taking dozens of photos while shooting, do not try to retouch them all. Look carefully at the images you received and delete those which contain things or people distracting attention from the subject, blurred ones or with funny faces, etc.

Use Adobe Bridge, Photo Mechanic, Capture One or Adobe Lightroom. The last has a good photo rating system by stars and marks or offers a Face recognition tool that is especially useful for wedding and event photos. This step will allow you to save time and get really high-quality material for later Photoshop or Lightroom portrait retouching.

2. Correct White Balance

Equally important is the correction of colors, where you should start with choosing the right balance of white. This moment is especially critical for interior portraits taken under the artificial lighting. Find the correct balance for the faded and vivid shades that appear when you use the light sources of various color temperatures.

3.  Improve the Smile and Teeth

A beautiful smile can influence the photograph in the best way, at the same time even a slight yellowness of the teeth will have a negative effect. Use Lightroom or Photoshop face retouching to whiten teeth and eliminate the yellow tint from the light. However, be careful and do not ruin everything with unnaturally white color.

4. Focus on the Eyes

Simple and easy actions can be used to highlight the eyes and make them more expressive. Play with their color, lighten this part of the face and customize the white tones. When lightening the eyes, you should brighten the area that is in front of the catch light. In this way, you will avoid the unnatural look. You can cope with the task on your own or use portrait retouching service.

5. Skin Retouching with Frequency Separation

Using this tool of portrait retouching, you will have two layers of images that you can enhance separately. One layer is used for tonal characteristics (low-frequency) and the other for details (high-frequency). With this option, you can delete minor flaws without causing any damage to the colors and shades. Also after burning out, you can return the temporarily deleted parts back.

6. Adjust Skin Tones

One more essential part of portrait retouching is connected with skin tones. To get an attractive portrait photograph you must fix all the differences between the skin colors of the face and the rest of the body.

7. Improve the Area under the Eyes

It doesn’t matter what is the cause of the bags under the eyes, you must necessarily eliminate this flaw. You are able to use ready-made LR presets or do everything yourself.

8. Retouch Red Skin Areas

Problematic areas with red skin are often found in children and newborn portraits. However, getting rid of these defects around the eyes, nose and on cheeks is easy enough and you can manage this task very fast.

9. Dodge & Burn

These tools are used in portrait retouching if the visual contrast of the photograph requires some corrections. Lightening the dark places and darkening the light ones, you level the skin tone and reduce some of the flaws. This effect is frequently used for fashion portrait photography.

10. Edit the Hair

Learning how to edit portraits in Photoshop CC, you will discover various ways of hair improvement. First, you can work with its color. Also, an important stage of portrait editing is the removal of the interfering strays of hair. Adding the right volume to the hair and giving them a natural shine, you will make the pictures more interesting and attractive.

11. Healing Brush Tool

Quite frequent phenomena are scars, moles, pimples and various spots that reduce the attractiveness of the person in a close portrait. The perfect way out of how to eliminate all these problems is to use the Spot Healing Tool. Moreover, you can easily smooth wrinkles on the face with it. However, remember that if you use this option too much, the face will acquire an artificial doll appearance.

12. Enhance a Digital Makeup

Using the right makeup, you may accentuate the beauty and hide small flaws. Several important manipulations will help you improve makeup. They make the face more expressive and attractive. The only thing you should mind is avoiding the unnatural makeup.

13. Delete the Hotspots

Flashing or incorrect lighting can cause the appearance of glistening spots that spoil the image. Skin seems sweaty and unattractive, so they should be edited as well.

14. Sharpen the Portraits

After selecting each separate element you must apply the Sharpening Tool. Using this option you will significantly improve the quality of the shots by adjusting the light, composition and changing the contrast indicators. Having carefully studied the photo, you should highlight those details that can improve the model’s image. It can be any accessories or details of clothes. Also, attention can be focused on some body parts. For example, you can make the eyes or the lips more distinct. The main thing in this kind of portrait retouching is that the selected element should emphasize the person’s pluses, instead of drawing attention to his/her flaws.

15. Remove Glasses’ Reflections

Sisters having fun while traveling with tramcar


If the model wears glasses, glare from them can create additional difficulties for you. To solve this problem, you will need extra time and knowledge of several important Photoshop face retouching tricks. Ask your model to put off the glasses and take a few photos without them too. These shots will be useful while editing, as the process will speed up greatly.

Carefully study all the recommendations for portrait retouching, watch lots of useful videos and take advantage of the best 25 professional photo editing services  to address when you want a high -end photography. Eliminating the blemishes, regulating different image settings, focusing on some elements and blurring others, you will be able to create beautiful portraits that surely appeal to your customers.


Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (www.reggaepostercontest.com)