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How do I fix skin tones? from Lightroom: Tips and Quick Fixes by Richard Harrington

How do I fix skin tones?

When working with a picture of a person, skin tones often really stand out if they don’t look correct. That’s because as a fellow human, you’re really used to looking at skin tones, and if they’re not properly balanced, you’re likely going to notice. Let’s click on this next thumbnail here, and I’ll go to the single image view. In this particular case, the lighting of the situation has got a greenish goldish cast. Partially this is because of the environment she’s in. There’s a lot of green vegetation around her, but I’m also shooting in shade.

Well, I chose the shade preset, but it’s not quite right. If we take a look at auto, that’s closer, and it’s removed all of the color cast. However, I don’t like the fact that some of the green that should be there based on the subject is gone. Now we can try the eye dropper here, but if you click on skin tones, it doesn’t really give you the results that you’d expect. So you’re going to need to look for something in the scene that’s white. What I generally find is that I’ll look at auto, and then I’ll look at the closest preset.

So in this case, I see a temperature of 5100 degrees, and 27 on the tint. Let’s go to the shade preset, and I see that the temperature’s gone up to 7500. Well, let’s split the difference between the two. And in fact, going somewhere in between the two values is likely going to be correct. That seems about right there. The color temperature looks good. And now it’s a matter of balancing the tint. More green for the scene, or more of the magenta for the skin tones? And what’s important here is that you get to the right value.

Let’s just go pretty close to the middle there. And if we look at the two side by side, I see that the skin tones look natural, still having the greenish gold glow of the subject, but removing some of the unwanted shift in the skin. Let’s take a look at the same subject, but very different lighting conditions. And in this case, between her dress, the shade for the time of day, the subject is looking very magenta. Some of this could be the time of day. We can try a different preset here like cloudy, that helps.

And one of the benefits of raw is that you never actually have to deal with how the image was shot. Rather than the native white balance that was captured by the camera, you can let Lightroom guess or evaluate other choices. In this case, it’s looking close. And as I roll the color temperature, you see that some of the values here get to be more in the right place. What I’m looking for is what’s happening in the image itself. And the side by side view is useful. While I look at the whites as a general point of reference, I’m really paying more attention to the skin tones.

I want to judge what’s happening in the subject. In fact, you might find the split view even more useful. Now as you zoom in here, you can easily look at the skin tone side by side. And I see that the purplish cast is removed, and the skin tone looks quite natural. I’m happy with this change on the right. And I find that by just really concentrating on first the temperature and then the tint, this really is a quick fix.