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Portrait Tips: Retouch portraits in a batch

Batch retouching is the holy grail of portrait finishing. You’ve shot a lot of good pictures you want to share, but you know your client will only buy a few. How do you prepare all the best pictures without spending hours retouching pictures that won’t be chosen? Let me show you how to do some things with Lightroom and then allow Perfectly Clear to finish them off automatically.

Batching in Lightroom

In Lightroom, you can adjust all the pictures at the same time very easily. Start by adjusting one of the pictures you want to work on. Make any adjustments — get the tone and colors looking great.

Next, make sure you’re in the Develop module and select the other pictures you want to apply those adjustments to using the Shift+mouse click or Cmnd/Ctrl+mouse click. Now right click on one of the pictures and choose Settings > Sync Settings… Then choose all the settings you want to apply to the others and click Synchronize.

Lightroom caveats

The thing to remember about doing this in Lightroom is that local adjustments will appear in the exact same x/y location on the picture. That means that if you used the Spot Removal tool to touch up blemishes on a face, those touchups won’t be in the same place on the face if the face moves in the frame. You’ll end up with spot removal spots over the eyes, or in the ears, or in the trees in the background. Be sure to uncheck the Spot Removal and Adjustment Brush settings when you synchronize.

Secondly, Lightroom applies the same value to each slider on every picture. That means if you moved the exposure to .33 on the first, then it will be set to .33 on all the rest. If your exposure or lighting changed during your shoot (and when does it ever not change?) then you’ll need to do sub-batches of similar setups for synchronization using all the pictures at the same settings before doing it again for the next set of pictures at different settings.

Batching in Perfectly Clear

You’ll have a better experience batch retouching with Perfectly Clear. Start in Lightroom by setting the camera profile and white balance and syncing those settings to all of your pictures. Then, open one picture in Perfectly Clear (Photo > Edit In > Perfectly Clear v3) and set all the adjustments to make your picture look its best. Save these settings as a new preset and remember which folder of presets you chose to keep it in. Save this picture.

There are no caveats for the Perfectly Clear settings. All the eye, face and skin settings will be applied to your other pictures properly. Perfectly Clear will analyze each photo and find the faces and eyes and touch them up automatically without your input. In fact, even if the exposure changes, it’ll intelligently apply the proper exposure settings based on your preset. I’ve been using it for about four years, and I’m still amazed every time I use it.

Back in Lightroom, select all the other pictures you need to retouch and then enter the Export dialogue (File > Export). At the very top of the export dialogue, switch the Export To option to Perfectly Clear v3. This adds a new panel to the top of the export dialogue where you can choose the preset folder and preset you want to use in Perfectly Clear. Choose to Hide Perfectly Clear Window so that the batch runs in the background; if you don’t check that box then you’ll have to click Save in Perfectly Clear for each portrait, which gets tedious when you send a few hundred portraits through at once.

Then just choose the other export settings you want from the dialogue. Personally, I usually choose to export as a 16 bit Tif file, then I’ll export jpegs from Lightroom later for print and sharing and I’ll apply a watermark at that time.

Get ready to share

Perfectly Clear will finish your pictures in the background while you keep editing other pictures or while you take a snack break. It takes longer for more pictures, but it’s remarkably quick. The pictures will end up in the folder where you told them to export to and they’ll be ready for any finishing touches, like watermarks and resizing. Then you’re ready to share them with your client. They’ll be impressed that you have all these pictures ready and retouched, and you’ll be relieved you didn’t have to retouch them all by hand. Batch processing is the best way to present many pictures to your clients, and Lightroom and Perfectly Clear help you do it quickly.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.

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