4 Key Lightroom Tips For Sharper Eyes In Portraits


The eyes of the subject are usually the first thing we notice when we look at portraits. If the eyes of your subject don’t look expressive enough, the portrait can’t be truly memorable. Because of this, it’s really important to learn how to enhance eyes using the Adjustment Brush tool in Lightroom.

To enhance your subject’s eyes,  you should do the following things –  enhance the eye color and iris clarity, emphasize a dark line around iris (limbal ring), lighten the white of the eye and add some definition to the eyelashes.

We’ll explain these four editing strategies step by step!

1. Enhancing The Iris Color And Clarity

In case the eyes are lacking the detail and vibrancy, that’s the first thing you should work on.

Every eye will require the sliders of the Adjustment Brush to be somewhat different – there is no universal remedy!  Sometimes it helps to add a bit of sharpness and clarity, while in other cases adding a little saturation can work great.  Be careful not to overdo saturation, because it can make eyes appear really weird and plasticky.

If the catch lights look too prominent, you can also decrease the highlights to make them softer.

In case you don’t know how to position the sliders properly, you can start from the Iris Enhance effect. You can find it in the Effect dropdown of the Adjustment Brush.  It’s quite easy to use and alter this preset effect.

Enhancing iris in Lightroom

2. Making The Limbal Ring Darker

Adding a dark ring to the outside of the iris can make the eyes much more dramatic and alluring. We naturally have this dark ring around the iris – it’s called the limbal ring. We usually correlate limbal ring thickness with health or youthfulness and it may contribute to facial attractiveness.

In order to enhance the limbal ring, you can choose and adjust the Burn effect in the Effect dropdown of the Adjustment Brush. You should use a very small brush so that you can darken the limbal ring in a precise way.

Darkening limbal ring in Lightroom

3. Fixing The Whites Of The Eyes

This isn't a necessary edit, but it can be quite important if the whites of the eyes aren't looking good.  You certainly don’t want your subject to look tired in photos.

You should grab a small brush and choose the Dodge effect in the Effect dropdown of the Adjustment Brush – bear in mind that you might need to increase or decrease the exposure! You should definitely stay away from lightening the whites of the eyes too much.

In case the whites of the eyes of your subject appear yellowish, you can change their color temperature (make it more bluish) and decrease the saturation if necessary.

Fixing the whites of the eyes in Lightroom

4. Adding Definition To The Eyelashes

The final step in enhancing your subject’s eyes is making the lashes and lash line more prominent, darker and richer. If you’re editing fashion portraits, you can use the smallest brush size and darken individual lashes – this is quite important for close-up images.

You can start by choosing and adjusting the Burn effect in the Effect dropdown of the Adjustment Brush. After you’re done with darkening, you can also increase the Clarity a little bit – not more than +30. The eyelashes of your model will look much more vibrant after this edit.

Adding definition to the lashes in Lightroom

Once everything is done, you should compare your ’’before and after’’ images and add some additional tweaks if necessary. If your model has some visible blood vessels in the eyes, you can remove them with the Healing Brush tool in Photoshop!

Before and after

Just be careful not to cross the boundary between editing the eyes to make them look better, and editing them so much that they start to look bad.

If you want to learn more about capturing and editing eyes in portraits, feel free to check out the following links!

Further Reading:

Take a look at our fantastic Portrait Photography page where we've brought together every portrait photography tutorial and tip on the site (and several other sites) that we think will round out your skills as a portrait photographer.

Just a friendly reminder that this page is also a living document for portrait photographers who want a single online reference for the craft. It will change and be updated often, so bookmark it and come back as you need to.

Further Resources:

  1. 6 Tips To Capturing Better Eyes In Portrait Photography
  2. Bite Size Tips: 3 Easy Tips For Sharper Eyes In Portraits
  3. How To Get Sharper Eyes In Your Portraits
  4. How To Enhance Eyes Using Lightroom
  5. How to Edit Eyes In Lightroom
  6. How To Retouch Eyes In Adobe Lightroom In 5 Minutes

Further Learning:

The Art Of Portrait Photography is your chance to truly master portrait photography, and produce your own inspiring, memorable images that convey real meaning and emotion. In The Art Of Portrait Photography, you will discover the insider secrets used by professionals to take your portrait photography to the next level.

In this guide you'll learn:

  • Where to find the best natural light
  • How to get great shots with minimal equipment
  • How to make your own lighting gear from stuff that’s lying around your house
  • How to bend, squeeze, and alter light for dramatic effects
  • How to pose a single subject and groups of subjects
  • What are the best lenses to use
  • How good of a camera do you need
  • What steps to take for razor-sharp photos
  • What f/stop should you use
  • And much more…

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About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

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