I think editing skin tones is the bane of most photographers’ existence. I look back at images from a few years ago where I thought I had “excellent” tones and I die a little bit inside now. The single BIGGEST help to my photography editing journey was to learn to edit skin tones BY NUMBER in Lightroom. Just a quick hover with the white balance dropper and adding up between 10 and 20 (depending on ethnicity it can go up to 30-40), and tweaking til the math is correct. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it still takes practice with those tweaks and can feel slow going at first, but once you get the hang of it, you don’t have to second guess yourself constantly and that is SO freeing. Plus, your work, as a result, becomes marvelously COHESIVE!
Today I’m going to share the top three skin mistakes I see in portfolios on a regular basis as a little checklist to watch out for in your own work.
Blown highlights that people “save”. Okay, yes, you CAN save highlights by shooting RAW, and you CAN even get the “numbers” to be correct in the red channel. HOWEVER, it’s not a true save if your skin tones are still muddy or completely washed out of colour. Would I let this go for the sake of the moment? Absolutely. Would I put an image like that in my portfolio? No.
Blown highlights turning BLUE. Can you see I have a little bit of a theme going here? I promise my other tip won’t be about highlights. When you save a highlight, either satisfactorily or semi-saved like mentioned above, it’s very easy to introduce a blue tinge to your whites. This is especially obvious in clothing like wedding dresses. A quick tip to fix this is to desaturate your blue slider. If you don’t have any other blues in the image, that’s all you need to do. If you have blues in the image that you want to preserve, a quick brush over the whites with some added temp for warmth (to counteract the blue) and pulling down on the desaturation slider should fix you up.
Temp and Tint opposites in the same portfolio. What do I mean by this? Sometimes people are warm editors and sometimes they are cool. Some people prefer peachy, magenta tones and some people prefer cooler, green tones. Even if you get the numbers “perfect” there is still room for you to add your own preferences to your editing. However, if you are a warm editor, be a warm editor in ALL situations. Don’t have one shoot be cool and the next shoot at a different location be warm. Same with the magenta and green. Every so often, pull a couple images from 5-6 different shoots together and make sure you’re being consistent. People want to know what they are purchasing and you want your work to be recognizable as yours across social media even if it is just personal.