Want Portrait Photos with Stunning Tones? Try This Lightroom Technique (VIDEO)

Unless you shoot portraits in b&w, the tones you apply to an image can make or break a photo—even with a beautiful subject. That's because the color values you use are a very important component of visual storytelling and help convey a variety of compelling moods and feelings.

Instructor Gerard Needham is a professional photographer whose popular YouTube channel offers expert advice on shooting and editing landscape, actions sports, and portrait imagery. This episode concentrates on the latter, by demonstrating five Lightroom processing techniques for achieving perfect color and retouching less-than-perfect skin.

This lesson deals with enhancing portraits captured outdoors, and also includes some valuable tips for posing and composition. Needham's stunning work has often been described as very clean, with flattering colors and tones. His portraits often have a unique "film look" and never appear overedited.

The discussion begins with the critical aspects of nailing exposure and adjusting White Balance for the specific task and hand. In some cases you may want to imbue a portrait with a moody, sensual look, while other times the goal is entirely different. Regardless of the specific feel you're after, Needham illustrates how simple White Balance adjustments to your subject, her skin tones, and background help get the job done.

Needham then moves on to the aforementioned soft film look that he applies to many of his portraits, and it's very straightforward to accomplish. The method he recommends not only achieves a somewhat vintage effect, but "it also kind of increases the dynamic range of a Raw file to render highlights and shadows in a way we all loved with film photography. All this takes are a few tweaks with Lightroom's Tone Curve and sliders.

Another critical aspect of all great portraits is flattering and realistic skin tones, and that's the next topic of conversation. Here Needham uses Lightroom's HSL panel while focusing on his model's skin. As you'll see, these tones in his original image lean a bit too far toward the reds, but this important enhancement is also easy to get right.

Once you achieve attractive tonal balance, a bit of skin retouching is often necessary because even professional models rarely have a perfect complexion. Here Needham demonstrates how a simple mask or two is all that's required for this particular task.

The video concludes with some great advice for getting the composition of your portraits just right. After watching this tutorial head over to Needham's instructional YouTube channel where you'll find many more helpful tips and techniques.

And on a related note, we also suggest watching the tutorial we posted from another versatile pro who demonstrates a variety of shooting and editing solutions for fixing color mistakes in all of the photos you capture.