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Day 2 of “I’m Giving Up Photoshop” Month

Hey folks! Welcome to Day 2 in my self-project-ish, month-long postings of images I’m only using Lightroom to edit. If you’re just coming in to reading this and haven’t read the original post where I wrote why I’m doing this, then make sure you check that out too. Okay, here goes:

The Photo
This photo was taken at a nearby park of a woman and her daughter. It’s a natural light portrait. No reflectors. No flash. The first place I missed Photoshop is when choosing the right photo. In this photo, I think the woman looks great, but her daughter isn’t smiling like I’d like her to.

(click to see the image larger)

However, in the photo below, her daughter is smiling better than the first photo, but I like the smile on the mom in the other photo better. Since they didn’t move much between the two photos, I could have easily have used Layers in Photoshop and combined the best of both photos. But since I can’t, I’ll just have to pick my favorite so I’m going with the first one since I think the mom looks great and the girl still has a nice smile.


Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 70-200mm VRII
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/350 second
ISO: 100

Like most photos, I started with the Basic panel and adjusted the overall Exposure and tone. After the Exposure, I adjusted the Whites and Blacks sliders by holding down the Option/Alt key and dragging each slider until I had a white/black point. There’s not much detail lost in the Shadows so I left that slider alone, but I did pull back on the Highlights just a little bit to tone down the left side of the image.

I do think it has a good warm feel to it so I adjusted the Temp slider to the right a bit.

(click to see the image larger)

Camera Calibration Presets
Like yesterday’s photo, I went to the Calibration panel and changed the Profile setting. This one sounds like a no-brainer, but I really like the Portrait one for portraits. It tends to give a nice color to the skin tones in the photo.


Clarity and Vibrance
While I love Clarity for my landscapes and travel photos, it doesn’t work too well on portraits. It tends to make the skin look harsh and textured so I’ll leave that at 0. I did increase the Vibrance setting though, because it’ll add a little more color without making the skin look sun-burned.


Lens Corrections
In the Lens Corrections panel I turned on the Enable Profile Corrections checkbox to automatically fix any distortion or unwanted vignetting.


The photo is sharp, but we’re going to add some more. I used the Detail panel and increased the Amount, Radius and Detail settings. This sharpens the whole photo though, including the skin. That’s where the Masking slider comes in handy. Just hold down the Option/Alt key when moving it and you can see a black/white view that it hides the sharpening from the skin, and just keeps it over the eyes and detailed areas we want to look sharper.





I’ve come to rely on onOne’s Perfect Portrait plug-in for retouching but since I only have Lightroom I’ll do it here. Truth be told, it’s not that what I can do in Lightroom isn’t good enough. It’s just that Perfect Portrait is so fast, because it automatically finds facial features and does the retouching for you, that I’ve been using it a lot lately to get the job done quick. Anyway, the first thing I did is use the Adjustment Brush with negative Clarity setting to smooth the skin a little.


Next, I added another adjustment with some extra Exposure to whiten the eyes on the mom (the girl’s eyes looked ok as is).


Finally, I used the Spot Healing Brush in Heal mode and painted over the veins on the mom’s forehead and any blemishes. I didn’t want it too look too fake though, so I set the Opacity of the brush to 50% to help blend the adjustments in with her original skin.


She also has a name tattoo’d on her arm. Now, while she probably wouldn’t want it removed because it’s her son’s name, let’s hypothetically say this is for a client who doesn’t want tattoos in the image. As you can see, it’s really easy to remove with the Healing brush.


Just about everything gets a vignette. However, unlike yesterday’s photo where I used the Vignetting setting, today I’m going to use something else. See, the Vignette effect assumes that your point of interest is in the middle of the photo. But in this example, they’re off to the left. So I’m using the Radial Filter instead. I just reduced the Exposure setting and dragged a circle over the mom and daughter. It has the effect of putting a spotlight on them and really making them stand out.



Before and After
Here’s a quick before and after so you can see what was done.

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What Else?
I gotta tell ya’, with the exception of what I mentioned about the smiles in the beginning of this post (about wanted to combine two photos together), there’s not too much Photoshop stuff I missed here. Again, I’ve become accustomed to onOne’s Perfect Portrait plug-in, but Lightroom does a really good job at retouching for what we needed here. Perfect Portrait is just a little faster because it automatically finds facial features, but I was able to do what I wanted here in Lightroom as well.

Thanks for stopping by today!



  1. globaldata 3 June, 2015 at 05:31 Reply

    Great post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I’m inspired!
    Extremely helpful info particularly the last section 🙂 I maintain such information a lot.
    I was looking for this certain info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  2. Adernliebhaber 1 February, 2015 at 08:53 Reply

    Ich mag das original Foto mehr, denn die Adern auf der Stirn der Mutter sehen doch richtig geil aus. Anstatt diese weg zu machen, hättest du sie noch mehr hervorheben müssen und mit Abzweigungen versehen sollen, sodass ihre Stirn noch mehr mit Adern bedeckt ist.

  3. Trung Del 25 June, 2014 at 01:12 Reply

    I’m very new in photography and Lightroom as well. Lucky me I found this.

    Thank you very much, Matt!

  4. Http://S.Coop/ 1 February, 2014 at 17:50 Reply

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It’s always helpful to read content from other authors and practice a little something from their websites.

  5. Herb 27 January, 2014 at 22:02 Reply

    2 questions:
    I’m following your tutorial with great interest and trying to follow along. These tutorials are really great, especially for an amateur like myself.
    OK, my questions:
    1. Why do you say to use the Option/Alt key? I’m using LR 5 on Win 8 and all I have to do is grab the sliders and whatever I’m trying to adjust, adjusts?

    2. Regarding the Camera Calibration Profiles, no matter what I do (Preferences->Presets) I can get the drop down box to show anything but “embedded,” and the pictures I’m developing are my own originals, not scanned images.

    Herb Lippe

  6. Khürt Williams 8 January, 2014 at 14:36 Reply

    I’ve had Lightroom since version 3 but I don’t think I’ve ever fully realized it’s value. Wow! With just a few tweaks you transformed that image. I am looking forward to the next article in the series.

  7. Bill Bentley 8 January, 2014 at 14:10 Reply

    Thanks for the alt/option tip when using the masking slider in the sharpening panel Matt. You turned me onto using the alt key for determining the white and black points in an earlier blog post, but I hadn’t considered it for this tool. In fact the masking tool is something I don’t think I’ve ever used in LR. I’ve always just used the adjustment brush if I wanted to sharpen specific areas. Your method makes much more sense for the majority of cases I think.

  8. Ken Claussen 8 January, 2014 at 10:07 Reply

    I recently purchased Lightroom 5 to help my workflow. Your site has been extremely helpful in hitting the ground running, especially the comments about using the Alt key and other keyboard shortcuts I would never have known about otherwise. Like others, I am enthralled with this month’s project and have found it very enlightening. I am not always sure what some of the sliders do, so your brief yet informative descriptions have really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Keep it up. I also see you are coming to Covington KY on Jan 31st, that is only 2 hours from me, do you know what the hours of the Seminar are, I did not see them listed?

  9. Terri Jones 7 January, 2014 at 21:24 Reply

    I was wondering if there were ways to edit the background of an image. For example, I shot a family by pond and there is a house in the background, any way to take that out? Thanks for your feedback.

  10. Amy 7 January, 2014 at 16:11 Reply

    Hi Matt!

    I just wanted to reiterate what everyone else has said: this blog series of yours is fascinating, and it’s only Day 2! The insight into your workflow, the little tips and tricks you integrate into each step, plus hearing what you miss from not using Photoshop and your plug-ins in really invaluable. Thanks for sharing!!

    P.S. I can’t get your website to come up either, it’s just a blank page.

  11. Nina 7 January, 2014 at 15:58 Reply

    Sorry if I was unclear Matt. I’ve been trying to view your blog at but it comes up as a blank screen. Tried several times with the same result. No way to see or post a comment on your blog site so thought I’d mention it here.

  12. Nina 7 January, 2014 at 14:45 Reply

    Love seeing your workflow, Matt.
    What is going on with your blog? It no longer comes up when trying to access the site.

  13. John Van't Land 7 January, 2014 at 11:55 Reply

    I appreciate hearing about the things you would have liked to use, so I can learn more about them. I wouldn’t mind it if you’d be even more specific. For example, if you say you’d like to use OnOne’s Perfect Effects 8, specifically which of the filters in Perfect Effects 8 would you have been tempted to use? I’m addicted, too. I’m glad January has 31 days!

    • Matt K 7 January, 2014 at 15:01 Reply

      Hey John. Thanks 🙂
      I did mention which one I use. When I mentioned it under Day 1 (under Clarity), I said I use the Dynamic Contrast setting. On Day 2, I said I use Perfect Portrait, but there’s really no specific presets under PP that I could mention.

  14. Bob M 7 January, 2014 at 10:53 Reply

    Matt, when I use the adjustment brush everything is gray. Is there a setting that is incorrectly set or am I doing something wrong?

  15. Dennis Zito 7 January, 2014 at 08:56 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Nice job! Hey, back in version 2 I think it was, you came out with some adjustment brush presets for skin, lips, eyes and etc. I used those all the time, have you thought about updating those for LR 5? You even have them in three different modes like light, medium, and dark. It really help me on a Wedding I did for a friend. All I did was change one photo and them syc the rest, only using the Adj brush settings however.

    Looking forward to tomorrows tip!


      • Mike P 7 January, 2014 at 21:01 Reply

        I’m really enjoying this topic for the month. I use Lightroom exclusively, and while I enjoy post-processing, I wouldn’t want to spend more time using Photoshop. I’m and enthusiast/ hobbyist, and Lightroom is all I need.

        I use your portrait presets a lot (skin smoothing, iris enhancing, teeth whitening, etc.), and I don’t know why you wouldn’t have used them for this photo.

        Also, why aren’t you using the onOne plug-ins for Lightroom?

        • Matt K 7 January, 2014 at 22:26 Reply

          Hey Mike – Good idea on the presets. I released them so long ago that I forgot to update them and sometimes it’s just as fast for me to move the sliders.
          As for plug-ins, you have to read the original post where I talk about why I’m not using plug-ins. Basically, I’m not looking for a Photoshop replacement (which some of onOne’s plug-ins are). I’m simply trying to see how much I can do with Lightroom only.
          Thanks 🙂

  16. John Havord 7 January, 2014 at 08:40 Reply

    I know it’s only day 2, but I’m already enjoying these short, but informative LR tutorials.
    I have Photoshop, with the Photographer’s cc bundle, but not very confident with it. That will of course change once I get around to buying Scott’s new book.

  17. Chris 7 January, 2014 at 06:26 Reply

    Matt, this series of posts is fascinating, not only as a demonstration of how powerful LR has now become but also as a fascinating insight into your day to day editing process.

    Thank you!

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