To improve or not to improve?

What I mean by that is: in portraits, do I “photoshop” (usually, “Lightroom”) the images to make people look better? So that everyone can look like Kim, my model here in yesterday’s shoot?

Kim Gorenko (Photo: Michael Willems)

Well, it depends, but in general, my strategy is this.

  • Light well. This is very important… post-production is not needed as much if you light well in the forst place. For smooth skin, soft, straight, bright lighting de-emphasises facial features such as wrinkles.
  • First, I do edit out any temporary issues (like pimples or bruises) with the healing tool.
  • As for permanent issues, I typically do not remove those, but I de-emphasize them (healing tool with, say, 25% opacity).
  • I do a general very slight Clarity decrease (in the Presence section of the Basic pane). Maybe -15. This is a wonderful control, if used well (it decreases contrast in skin tones, using what I imagine is very complex math).
  • Using the HSL pane, I sometimes increase the luminance of red and orange: this de-blotches blotchy skin.
  • And finally, I may consider going to black and white – which is more forgiving. There too, I increase red and orange brightness levels.

So while I shy away from making people into what they are not, I do try to de-emphasize minor blemishes and in general make people look as good as possible.

In the picture above, do you see the photographer – that would be me – and how he is holding his flash?


1 thought on “To improve or not to improve?

  1. As a woman who has gained some unwanted poundage in the past 2-3 years I have come to accept the good with the bad; good push-up bra, great set of eyes, and a beautiful smile makes me feel confident! I work with what I have and it works for me and no amount of photoshop would ever give me that!!

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