10 Second Lightroom Skin Tone Fix

"10 Second Lightroom Skin Tone Fix" is part of my Lightroom Tutorials series on PhotoTraces. You can find the rest of the tutorials here: Lightroom Tutorials.

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

10 Seconds Lightroom Skin Tone Fix

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.

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

Lightroom Skin Tone Fix Technique

This portrait was taken in the middle of the day in the desert with a reflective metal structure very close to the subject. As the result, the skin color of the model is shifted toward the red hues.

In Lightroom Develop Module locate HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance) Panel.

In the Hue section, click on 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.​

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.

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

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.

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

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

  • Susie in Sarasota says:

    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!

    • wartybliggens says:

      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.

      • Susie in Sarasota says:

        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?

        • 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

          • wartybliggens says:

            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.

      • Susie in Sarasota says:

        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!

        • heitordelima says:

          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.

  • heitordelima says:

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

    • it has to be done after applying the presets, otherwise they (presets) will overwrite skin tone adjustments

  • Antonio Baiano says:

    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.

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