My Portrait “Finishing Move” in Lightroom


Hi Gang (and Happy Monday). 🙂

I’ve talked about this one before, but recently I’ve had some questions about how I finish off portraits, so I thought I’d share this technique again. It’s not  some earth-shattering Lightroom secret or anything, but it’s something that I do to most of my portraits as a finishing move once I’m done with any retouching. I simply brighten my subject’s entire face just a bit, and while it’s subtle, really does make a difference. The original image is above.


STEP ONE: Get the Adjustment Brush; double-click on the word “Effects” to reset all the sliders to zero. Now I drag the Exposure slider to the right to about +1.00 or so (doesn’t have to be exact at this point), and I paint over the subject’s entire face and the top part of their neck (as shown here).


STEP TWO: Now I drag the Exposure slider back to the left until the lighting looks realistic (usually that +1.00 is too much), and in this case, it looked about right to me at+ 0.57. This bit of brightening does three things: (1) it helps create a look of “fall off” in your lighting (2) it draws your subject’s eyes to your subject’s face, and (3) brightening the face is usually somewhat to very flattering to your subject.


Above: here’s a before (left) and after (right) to adding that little bit of extra light on the face.

OK, that’s all there is to it (told you it wasn’t an earth-shaking technique, but if you like it, and it makes your portraits look even a little better, it’s worth it, right?).

Hope you find that helpful.

Take care,


P.S. Lookout, Texas here I come! I’m there with my Lightroom full-day seminar very soon. In San Antonio on Feb 22nd, and Houston on Feb. 26th. Come on out and spend the day with me. Tickets and info here. 

Author: Scott Kelby

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Editor of "Lightroom magazine"; Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books. You can learn more about Scott at

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  1. Photos are missing. 20180205

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  2. Nice and simple!

    Thanks for all the tips you share.

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  3. I have to second the question about using the radial filter instead. Is there any difference between the two? As always, thanks for the tips.

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    • yes — after creating your radial filter, press the letter O key. This will show you what the mask will be. Notice the “fall-off” in the mask. You can adjust this with the sliders at the bottom of this tool. As for the Adj. Brush, you can adjust the flow and the feathering to do something “similar”.

      I usually drop the Highlights a bit and raise the shadows before using this trick.

      Oh, and don’t foret press the “O” again to remove the mask overlay.

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    • While technically you could use the radial filter for this, it’s faster and easier with the Adjustment Brush. 🙂

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  4. I’ve heard other photographers say they do the same thing but prefer using the radial filter. What do you think are the pros and cons of using these for face brightening?

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  5. To me the neck looks unnatural afterwards. Lighter than the décolleté…

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  6. It’s usually the simple things that make the difference. This was a classic example Scott. Thanks!

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    • You are very welcome (and it is those simple things, right?). God is in the details, as they say 🙂

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  7. Thanks! I read all of these and yes, I loved your start to finish edit video. Sorry I don’t say these things more often!

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