10 Second Lightroom Skin Tone Fix

Today, I want to share my favorite technique for Lightroom skin tone adjustments when editing portraits.

For years, I used photoshop for editing all my photos. The process of fixing skin tone in Photoshop is complex and time-consuming. First, I had to evaluate the RGB values for each color channel and after I would adjust each color channel separately.

I never liked the Photoshop skin color adjustment workflow.

In Lightroom, the process of adjusting the skin color takes 10 seconds at most. And it is fun.

As a travel photographer, 99% of my portraits are taken outdoors. And because it is not a controlled environment, there are a number of factors that affect the skin color of my subjects.

The sun is the most obvious factor. Plus, reflections of the environment contribute to the color shifts.

It means that pretty much every portrait I take requires skin tone adjustment.

Here is the outline of my 2 favorite techniques.

1. Lightroom Skin Tone Fix Technique

This portrait was taken in the middle of the day on the Atlantic coast of Canada with the sun shining high in the sky. As a result, the skin color of the model is shifted toward the red hues.

Lightroom Skin Tone Fix Technique

In the Hue section, click on the rounded icon with two arrows pointing up and down. When you mouse over the icon you will see the text “Adjust Hue by dragging in the photo“.

Next, locate the skin area which is properly lit and click on it.

Without releasing the mouse, start dragging it up or down.

Lightroom Skin Tone Fix: Step 1

If you drag mouse too far UP the skin color becomes unnatural yellow. At the same time, you can see how the values of Red and Orange hues will change.

Lightroom Skin Tone Fix: Step 2

And if you drag the mouse down, the skin color tone will be shifted towards red.

Lightroom Skin Tone Fix: Step 3

The goal here is to find the right balance between Yellow and Red to achieve the natural skin tone.

By dragging the mouse UP and DOWN I managed to find the sweet spot. The Hue values of Red +14 and Orange +42, give me the right skin tone.

Lightroom Skin Tone Fix: Step 4

Extra tip. If you see that the skin color of your subject is over saturated you can use exactly the same technique in the Saturation section of the HSL Panel. By dragging the mouse UP and DOWN you can increase or reduce the saturation of the selected colors.

See also: How to Soften Skin in Lightroom

2. Preset Based Skin Tone Fix Technique

Locate the TOOLKIT for Landscapes preset collection and open it.

The TOOLKIT for Landscapes is the collection of adjustment presets that help us to preserve people’s skin as naturally as possible.

Most of the portrait adjustment presets (01-34) are dedicated to treating areas of the skin. You can separately target Color, Saturation, Brightness, and Smoothness

Since we are trying to adjust the skin tone, we need to use the Skin Color Shift presets (1-9).

It is a process of trials and errors. Simply click through the Skin Color Shift presets and select the one that produces the best result.

01. Skin Color Shift (Yellow) + adjustment preset works the best for this particular photo.

And here is the Before & After transformation. It took me 10 seconds at most.

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by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

12 thoughts on “10 Second Lightroom Skin Tone Fix”

  1. When I do as directed here (click and drag on the best area of skin tone with the click & drag tool in the Hue panel), the color shift occurs to the entire photo, not just to the skin tones. That means that, while I may get the skin tones more appropriate, that fix might make the color in the rest of the photo inappropriate (for instance, if the skin needed more yellow, my pretty blue sky might now look aqua and the model’s hair takes on an unnatural color). Am I doing something wrong? Is it supposed to only affect the tones of the area I’m dragging in? I’m using Lr 6.8 stand-alone on Win 10. Thanks!

    Reply
    • It sounds maybe like your image may lean toward a monotone? This method affects like colors, so if the overall image shares the same hues, of course the other areass will shift as well.

      It takes more work, but your other option in this case is to draw a mask for the skin tone areas and apply the changes in hue to that.

      Reply
      • Can you draw a mask in LR that allows changes in the HSL panel? I thought masks (e.g., Radial filter, etc.) only applied to sliders in the Basic Panel?

        Reply
        • unfortunately not, this is the feature I’ve been waiting for a long time from Adobe. Capture One has it Photo RAW has it but not Lightroom

          Reply
          • Couldn’t you use the temperature and tint settings? At least to some extent?

    • when you adjust skin tones the changes you apply are very small and even though they affect the entire image, they are not noticeable. Also, when adjusting skin tone, in 99% of cases you modify Yellow and Red and they are not suppose to affect Blue and Cyan of the sky. This quick method works for me in 90% of cases but in some extreme 10% ones you still need Photoshop.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the clarification! Question, why do we click where skin tone is best, instead of just anywhere on the skin or, for that matter, where skin tone is worst? Thanks!

        Reply
        • You have to pick a place where the skin is properly exposed. Not too bright or too dark, so you can have a reliable parameter. If your model skin has a uneven cast, maybe you should go to photoshop.

          Reply
  2. Would you do this before or after applying one of yours presets?

    Reply
  3. Best way IMO should be to make a shot of the model with a white/grey reference card in order to pick the white balance in post processing. Your method seems to me too subjective to be reliable.

    Reply

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