You can argue and argue in favor of new soft­ware, third-par­ty devel­op­ers, or even be cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly against it, there are those too. But the main pro­grams for pho­to pro­cess­ing were and remain the time-test­ed Light­room and Pho­to­shop. Good work­ing rela­tion­ship. For my needs, I often open the first of them: this is my main tool. Work out the light, col­or palette and tem­per­a­ture of the image, bend the curves. I open Pho­to­shop if I need to remove some extra ele­ment in a pho­to, to con­jure over the skin struc­ture in a por­trait, or to cov­er up some­thing. But if I can lim­it myself to Light­room, I do it. It also has sev­er­al non-obvi­ous tools that solve these prob­lems!

Here are some.

The dif­fer­ence is clear­ly vis­i­ble: on the left is a rough source, on the right the back­ground is aligned with soft­en skin

soft skin

This tool has helped me many times. Even in those cas­es when it was not at all about smooth­ing the skin in the por­trait. Soft­en skin is opened through the appro­pri­ate brush. In fact, this is a brush that smoothes, soft­ens the sharp­ness, removes excess grain and exces­sive tex­ture. The tool is con­fig­ured auto­mat­i­cal­ly, but as always, you can move addi­tion­al slid­ers on a case-by-case basis (per­haps if you need less con­trast).

Both Soft­en skin and sub­se­quent tools are select­ed in the upper right cor­ner of the Light­room pan­el. Soft­en skin and Dodge/Burn via brush drop­down

I often use it when I don’t need full por­trait retouch­ing. But that same ‘light touch’ or ‘extra gloss’ is need­ed. This makes the task much eas­i­er than run­ning the image around the next cir­cle through the FS. In the mat­ter of retouch­ing, the soft­en skin brush is much less func­tion­al than a full-fledged Pho­to­shop study, how­ev­er, it should also be used for sim­pler and uncom­pli­cat­ed cas­es.

It’s not just for the skin! For exam­ple, I used a brush to smooth out the back­ground on one of the prod­uct shoots: the clien­t’s back­ground was tex­tured, made of thick card­board, with rough­ness, and an even pas­tel was required at the out­put. The soft­en skin brush did the job per­fect­ly. The same goes for shots tak­en at night, when the dark areas are rip­pling, or if you need to smooth out some objects in the pic­ture.

With the help of Spot removal, the extra wire in the pic­ture is smeared

Spot removal

The tool is ambigu­ous, but I will high­light it: in spe­cif­ic cas­es, it is much more con­ve­nient than sec­ondary devel­op­ment. Smot removal is like a strange sym­bio­sis of Pho­to­shop’s heal­ing brush and the heal­ing tool in Google’s Snapseed. Spot removal, in short, real­ly removes stains. Only it can be used in dif­fer­ent ways. First of all, we are talk­ing about ran­dom specks on the back­ground, small objects or spots direct­ly. In the prod­uct pho­to, I clean the back­ground with it (imme­di­ate­ly after the soft­en skin). You need to under­stand: the back­grounds are dif­fer­ent, the cus­tomers are dif­fer­ent, and the planes also have a dif­fer­ent struc­ture. Some­times, it hap­pens to work with not the fresh­est and in per­fect con­di­tion. And that’s okay! In post-pro­duc­tion, using spot removal, the issue is solved. Small spots, specks, chips — all this is at the right place.

The sec­ond rec­om­men­da­tion, which should be used with cau­tion, is to use the tool for more seri­ous objects. It all depends a lot. This applies, for exam­ple, to a pim­ple that has popped up on a per­son, a part of an object that can dis­rupt the com­po­si­tion of the frame (for exam­ple, a wire stick­ing out in the sky dur­ing street shoot­ing). Yes, even the objects them­selves, if we are talk­ing about some­thing mod­est or aux­il­iary. Like, for exam­ple, a translu­cent fish­ing line for sub­ject pho­tographs, which was sup­posed to be cov­ered up any­way.

Why with cau­tion? This tool is not always suit­able for such needs and jus­ti­fies expec­ta­tions. Need to try. Some­times the result is not sat­is­fac­to­ry or the solu­tion will take too long. In such cas­es, it makes more sense to turn to the Heal­ing Brush in Pho­to­shop. How­ev­er, in small sit­u­a­tions like a mote on a plain back­ground, this is an absolute must-have. Pro­cess­ing will be faster and eas­i­er.

In the exam­ple pic­ture, sim­ply rais­ing the expo­sure would not have solved the prob­lem, so a lay­er of addi­tion­al clar­i­fi­ca­tion went on top of all the objects (flasks) to high­light them with­out los­ing the over­all con­trast image

Burn/Dodge Brush

In fact, an ana­logue of the dim­mer / clar­i­fi­er tool in Pho­to­shop. Burn and Dodge are also called by select­ing the cor­re­spond­ing brush in the drop-down list. I use them on an equal foot­ing: over the years of pro­cess­ing, I have not noticed a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the behav­ior or qual­i­ty of the result between these tools in Light­room and Flash. “Clar­i­fi­er” and “Dim­mer” are well suit­ed to dark­en the back­ground if it is too out of place (or remove unnec­es­sary vignetting) or vice ver­sa to high­light some object if it was deprived of light when shoot­ing. This is very sim­i­lar to the push and pull process­es in film devel­op­ment, where you need to raise or low­er the expo­sure by sev­er­al stops. Only in this case point­wise. And after that, as always in Light­room: the rest of the set of slid­ers and set­tings is avail­able if you need to do some­thing else.