Luminance = Lovely!

Today’s blog is about getting your client’s skin looking vibrant and having it pop, without having to do much in the way of post production. When I (Zach) first started out, a friend of mine named Evan Baines from showed me this awesome editing technique that really helped make our brides and groom’s look their best. So, what is the great trick to getting that life breathed into the skin tones? It’s called Luminance!

We use the luminance adjustment in Adobe Lightroom 3 anytime that there is a person in the shot. The luminance sliders are located in the HSL/Color/B & W section on the right hand panel of the Develop module in Lightroom. You have to first select “HSL” then you can click on the Luminance section just below that as highlighted in the image shown here.

The skin tones that effect most people are the Red, Orange and Yellow tones with most of the skin tones located on the Orange slider. Now, if you were to just pull up the saturation of those colors, then you would have an image that looks like a Disney Channel cartoon. Not cool. You NEVER want to pull up the saturation of an image with a person in it (or any other image IMHO) because then the shot starts to look very unnatural. The really cool thing about the Luminance sliders, is that they only effect the Brightness of those colors, but do not alter the colors themselves. So, if you slide up the orange channel, then your clients skin will get brighter. Cool!

The trick here is to keep it subtle and never go beyond 25 or 35% at the most. This will give the skin a nice glow, without making it look blown out. Below we have two versions of an image from our recent Miami Beach wedding. The first shot is our RAW capture which has great color, a perfect exposure, the lighting is in the exact right position and so forth.

**Now remember, RAW images are flattened out when opened in Lightroom and are not the same as JPG images. So what we actually shot was much closer to the final image shown 2nd with the exception of the luminance adjustment and two other small adjustments that we do in post (more blogs to come on those!).

Raw flattend image straight out of Lightroom with no adjustments and no skin retouching.

Photography Tips and Tricks

Now here is the image after bumping the orange channel to 30%.

Photography Tips and Tricks

What a HUGE difference a small adjustment can make on the skin tones! They are bright and vibrant and have tons of life in them as compared to the previous shot. The other adjustments done on this shot were some brightness and vibrance tweaks and I also added contrast until the image looked like my original JPG I saw on the back of my camera – we will get into those in another post.

So the really cool thing about this is, once we have a general idea of how much we like to bump the skin tones, then we can save that into a simple pre-set in Lightroom and then apply that to every single portrait shot we do. This adjustment takes about 1 second for the first shot, then we apply that to all shots in the series and we are done! That is how we can get the images to look this way in next to no time. Now, if you apply this technique to a poorly lit shot, you will see little results in the final image. But if your shot was captured correctly, then you can fly through your post and go out on a date with your wife. :)

Do you have questions about post, business, shooting techniques or anything else? Shoot us an email at and we will answer them in a blog post like this!

Rock On!