5 Tips for Editing Portraits

woman leaning against wall

Do you take photos of your friends, family, and pets? Or maybe you’re an aspiring photographer who wants to create stunning images for personal use or for sharing with friends. Regardless of your reason for snapping pictures, it’s important to know how to properly edit a portrait so that it looks its best. If you’ve ever wondered what makes a good portrait look more authentic or a poor one look stilted and artificial, we’ve got answers that will help you choose the best photographs possible. Read on to discover five easy tips for editing portraits.

Focus on learning to use Lightroom first

New to Lightroom? If you’re not already familiar with the editing program, you can start by reading our basic introduction. The program also has a free trial period that allows you to try it out with no limitations (though it’s probably best to sign up for the full version if you’re serious about working with photos). You may be surprised to learn that there are many editing techniques that can be done in Lightroom. While it’s true that Photoshop is the industry standard for professional photographers, Lightroom is a powerful editing tool that can be used for basic image correction. Lightroom is an editing program that’s ideal for beginners because it’s so easy to use. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can advance to more advanced editing techniques using Lightroom.

Edit colors and tones in Lightroom

For a portrait that is soft and muted, try using a blue/green filter in Lightroom. This will turn your portrait into a blue sky, which will soften the skin tones. If you want to make the skin look more tan, try using a filter that gives away the blue color of the sky. Similarly, if your portrait is bright and colorful, try curbing the saturation of these colors. This will make the subject look more natural while also reducing the amount of contrast in the photograph, which is useful for softening the edges of objects. There are many more editing options available in Lightroom. To find out more, explore the tutorials available on the program’s learning center.

Don’t forget about the basics: exposure, composition, and lighting

Here are a few basic things to keep in mind when editing a portrait. First and foremost, focus on the lighting in the photograph. If the subject is in the shadow of an object, the photograph will look dark. If there is no natural light coming into the frame, the photograph will look too bright. Secondly, check the composition of the photograph. Your subject should not be too far from the center of the frame. People in portraits should be about three-quarters of the way into the frame, and if you have multiple subjects, they should be evenly spaced. And finally, adjust the exposure of the photograph so that the darker areas of the image are not all black but rather a range of tones, similar to what you would see in natural light.

Keep editing with more advanced editing software

If you’ve tried the above editing techniques, but they haven’t produced the desired results, it may be time to consider more advanced editing software. The best part about this is that more advanced editing software is not expensive, so you don’t need to spend a lot of money to achieve the results you want. There are many free, advanced image-editing software programs that are suitable for basic edits. Popular options include GIMP, Silkypix, and Paint.net. If you’d like to use an editing program that is more geared toward photographers and has more advanced features, consider Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom.


Finding the best way to edit a portrait is an art form, and there are no hard-and-fast rules for doing it. The best approach is usually trial and error, but if you follow these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating stunning images.