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Make Your Portraits Pop With This Lightroom Trick

Use masks to make your portraits stand out

A flat looking portrait or lifestyle image tends to get ignored. Having an image that pops is important in securing photo clients and making sales. Thankfully it has never been easier to get those portraits to pop. In a new tutorial Anthony Morganti shares his tips on how he quickly makes his portraits stand out using Lightroom’s masking tools. Although Morganti uses an engagement photo for his demo, he notes that this technique works well for any sort of lifestyle image. 

#1 Shoot With a Wide Aperture

This technique works best if you are starting with a portrait where the subjects are clearly separated from the background. Morganti chose a portrait where he was shooting with his lenses aperture wide open. Doing so meant that his background is out of focus and his portrait subjects are able to stand out. He didn’t have a speed light at this particular shoot, which led to a final image that’s a bit flat looking. 

#2 Mask the Background

Morganti begins by selecting the background using masks. Lightroom’s new AI powered features make it easy to do so with one click.  After selecting the background he uses the exposure slider to make that part of the image slightly darker. They key here is to keep it subtle. Morganti sets the exposure on the background about one third of a stop down. 

#3 Mask the People 

After making the background of the image slightly darker, Morganti selects the people in the image. He creates a new mask and uses the select people option. The AI powered features inside Lightroom can see that there are two people in the frame and makes it easy to select both of them and create the mask. Using the exposure slider Morganti makes the happy couple a bit brighter. Once again, they key is to keep it subtle. For this particular image Morganti increases the exposure by approximately a half stop. The simple technique mimics the effect that using a speed light to brighten the subjects would have. 


#4 Avoid Highlight Clipping 

If your subjects happen to be wearing light colored clothing you can avoid clipping highlights by manually creating a mask with the brush tool. Using this technique rather than the AI powered features will make your selections a bit more refined. If you are manually selecting your portrait subjects make sure that flow, density and feather are all set to 100 percent. Then simply go in and paint a mask over their faces and necks.


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