We often have to take “normal” photos; senior, couple, and family sessions all require simplicity from time to time. Though beautifully composed headshots are fun to make, they’re not always easy to edit. Not having full creative freedom can make you feel restricted and encourage you to completely avoid simple portraits.
It’s possible to satisfy your clients’ needs and spark your own creativity at the same time. Just because a photo looks like a typical headshot doesn’t mean you can’t enhance it to look more like your own work. Editing programs like Lightroom have features that can transform the simplest images into ones that perfectly express your style. Here is how you can achieve this.
(All you’ll need for this tutorial is any version of Lightroom.)
1. This is a very simple portrait I took a few years ago. What I’d like to do is enhance the subject’s features, make the foreground stand out, and strengthen the colors.
2. The Basic panel, along with the Tone Curve, is your best friend. Even a few changes made here can have a great impact on any photograph. Subtlety is important, unless there’s a part of your image that needs a lot of enhancement. For example, the lighting in this photo is quite dull (I had this photoshoot on a cloudy day) so I had to significantly increase the highlights. The other changes weren’t too dramatic. If I dramatically increased the whites, my photo would look too overexposed. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with both subtle and dramatic changes. The sliders make it easy to fix any mistakes!
3. Now that the photo looks more eye-catching, I can work on its clarity. Be very careful when you experiment with the clarity slider. If you slowly drag it to the right, you might not notice how unappealing your photo has become. Instead of dragging, click on one point and see if you like the effects. Alternatively, preview your photo in Before & After mode (the Y|Y button under your image).
4. The Tone Curve tool is ideal for adding more contrast and altering the colors in a photo. Curves may look intimidating, but the key to mastering them is subtlety, as always. If you want your colors to complement each other, work on every channel – red, green, and blue. Carefully play with the curves until the results look appealing. And remember: a little goes a long way. If you get discouraged by your results, don’t worry. It took me some time to get used to this tool. Now it’s a very helpful part of my editing life.
5. My favorite panel is Color, located right under Tone Curve. Here, I have the chance to experiment with very specific colors, shades, and saturations. This is ideal for enhancing details like lip color, skin tones, and more. It’s also perfect for highlight and removing certain colors; if your subject is wearing a green shirt that clashes with the background, you could make it look less dramatic by dragging the Green saturation slider to the left. There are many options when it comes to color correction, so let yourself have fun here!
6. Camera Calibration is the final tool you need to give your photos that pleasant boost. This panel is something that many Instagram users take advantage of. Prioritizing certain primary colors can result in visually appealing compositions. There’s no special rule for this section. Just experiment and don’t give up when certain combinations look strange.
7. Here is the final version. Using just a few panels, you can transform your simple photos into stunning works of art. Once you’re happy with your photograph, you can start retouching it in Lightroom or Photoshop. I usually retouch in Photoshop, but that’s just my preference. Lightroom has great retouching tools, too. 🙂
Keep experimenting, practicing, and learning. Happy editing!