Have you ever had a portrait session where your client seemed to come straight out of bed? In this article, you’ll learn how to efficiently and naturally get rid of the early morning look in your headshots.

NATURAL is the key

I work with athletes all the time. The last thing I want — or try — to do is to make them look like something they are not. If there’s sweat, messy hair or chalk on their face, I want it to be there. It tells a story, it adds to my image. Same with freckles and fine lines: It tells a story, it’s part of them. I don’t want to take that away.

What I DO want is to enhance their natural beauty. I want the eyes to be more clear and the skin to be smoother without being totally blurry so everyone looking at the picture says “Ohhhh, there’s been Photoshop done in there!”. My goal is to make my subject look better in such a natural way that nobody will ever know if I don’t tell them. I want people to look at themselves, looking like themselves and saying “Wow, I was looking so great that day!”.

Early morning look: Headshot 1

Let’s have a look at my self-portrait (taken by my husband). This is a real early morning look in all its glory. (Writing this article turned out to be a humbling experience …!) If you switch between the before and after view, you’ll notice that I still look like myself … but in a nicer way. The edit has been made with the new Luminar 4.2 AI Portrait Tools.

Early morning look: Headshot 2

This second photo is my husband (once again as an unwilling model). We were getting up and I needed to do my settings for my portrait (the one above). Unfortunately for him, this test image turned out to somehow make it into this article. Perhaps someday I’ll write a “How to get rid of bad hair day” if Skylum ever comes up with an AI Hairdresser tool. #SorryPhil

I’ve applied the exact same look I used to edit my headshot on this one. You’ll notice even though the skin is smoother, it hasn’t affected his beard at all. Wrinkles are diminished but still slightly visible. Masculine features remain totally untouched — which is very important.

My favorite tools

I want to let you be creative and pick the tool YOU like for your style. Still, I also wanted to share which ones I’ve used and I prefer to enhance portraits.

AI Skin Enhancer

I’ve increased the amount and added the Shine Removal tool as well (which did a GREAT job in these two images).


AI Portrait Enhancer

I utilized three sliders as a part of Luminar’s AI Portrait Enhancer tool:

  • Face Light: It’s like adding a reflector. It’s great to bring back light to faces. It works for images with a single subject and with multiple persons in it as well!
  • Eye Enhancer: Great to make the eyes pop. It adds saturation and clarity, and increases catchlights.
  • Dark Circles Removal: Works wonders to make everyone look like they’ve had 10 hours of sleep a night for a week.

AI Portrait Enhancer Luminar 4

The worst-case scenario

I’ll admit it, this example shown here is pretty much the worst-case scenario that could ever happen. I mean … if you have a portrait session planned with a client, they will most likely show up decently dressed with minimal makeup on. They would never come in the studio straight out of bed still in their pajamas like I did. It is just a fun way to demonstrate that if it works with real “early morning looks,” imagine what it will do with minimally prepared models. All that’s missing is an AI Hairdresser tool!

Using a powerful AI Portrait tool in your early morning look headshots (or any kind of headshots really) allows for a few things:

Easy and flexible editing

No complicated workflow or intricate layers and masks to pile on top of another. You just move sliders, watch the result and decide what effect you like best.

Huge time savings

Full editing could be executed in a matter of seconds. Even more, batch processing is possible with your saved looks.


People will still look like themselves.

Hopefully, this will give you inspiration when you’ll find yourself with a challenging portrait session! If you’re alone at home and would like to take your early morning look headshot, have a look at this article to learn how to do a self-portrait!

Be sure to check out Luminar 4. You can download the free trial from Skylum, or if you’re ready to buy, click here and get our Photofocus bundle of extras!