Monday, March 10

Lightroom Tutorial: Pretty Eyes in Lightroom 4 and up!

It is really easy to "pop" or enhance eyes in LightRoom 4 (and up).  It takes just a few seconds to sharpen and enhance the iris and lashes, whiten the whites of the eye, and even change the eye color. I overdid my samples below to make sure you could see what I was doing in each step, so please don't be scared off by his glassy doll-looking eyes.

Sharpen Iris and Lashes:  Click to select (or press K) your adjustment brush. In the image above you can see it under the histogram, and over "New". Then look for the "Effects" menu (under "Mask") and select "Clarity" (this will sharpen the eyes and lashes) and set it to 100%. You can always dial it down later. I keep flow, feather and density on 100 in these steps. Click on Auto Mask if you want to "stay in the lines", but I actually turned it off on this step because I wanted to sharpen the iris AND the lashes.

Adjust your brush to size (use the [ and ] on your keyboard, or adjust the "Size" slider) and paint over the iris and lashes to define them. You can adjust the amount of clarity to taste, but I usually use 75-100 on this step.

A nifty trick to see if you did paint ever the entire area is to hold your mouse over the active "black" little circle that shows where you have started editing and then click on Alt on your keyboard. The red areas are where you have painted.

Now click "New" under "Mask" because we are going to use the adjustment brush for another enhancement and don't want to adjust the Clarity setting we already made.  The great thing about these adjustment layers is you can go back and edit them later!

Add a Sparkle to the Iris:  Select "Exposure" under "Effect" and dial this up to taste. Again, I usually start higher and then move it down after painting over the eyes. I used the Auto Mask this time because I am only going to paint over the iris.

Whiten Eye-Whites:  Click on "New" under "Mask" and make sure "Auto Mask" is checked and paint over your eye whites with a higher exposure. Don't overdo this step, make sure to dial it down until your whites are whiter but not glaringly white.  This screenshot has been overdone just so you can see where I was painting.

Increase Iris Color Saturation:  Select "New" then "Saturation" under "Effect" and paint over the iris. Don't overdo this step either.  Start high and then dial it down.

Change or Enhance Iris Color: If you want to actually change or enhance the color of the eyes, it is easy. Click on "New" then "Color" and pick an eye color.

Paint over the iris with this new color (I removed Auto Mask on this step because I was having problems adding green to the highlights in the Iris) and then adjust the slider to taste. I completely overdid this step for this example. Freaky green eyes! But this can be done with a very subtle hand, just dial it down.

Here is little Imp with his enhanced (and for the purposes of this tutorial, overdone and perhaps a bit scary) eyes. This sounded time-consuming, but it is actually a very quick edit. I often skip the saturation and color steps, but I love to add clarity and adjust the exposure a bit to every close-up portrait. Again, be restrained with eye enhancements. You don't want your portrait to look like a glass-eyed doll. :-) Dial down the settings until you don't notice much of a difference. Subtlety is key.

If you want to go back and make additional adjustments, just click on the little marker on the eyes to open up the Effect menu for that adjustment.

I hope this was helpful!

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  1. What a GREAT tutorial! Thank you for including all the screenshots--it made it very easy to see what you were describing.

  2. Fantastic tutorial!!!! Thank you very much for this post and for freely giving back


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