How to Edit Skin Tones in Lightroom with Mastin Labs Presets

Have you ever been frustrated dialing in skin tones whilst editing? You are not alone. Don't let it get under your skin. We're here to help!

Every other week, our Founder Kirk Mastin hosts a Facebook Live Editing session to help you overcome editing challenges. In this live edit, Kirk walks you through how to dial in skin tones to perfection.

During our Live Edits, Kirk edits photos submitted by the Mastin Labs - Community on Facebook, head to our Mastin Labs Facebook Page to find out about our next edit and how to submit your photos.

How to Edit Skin Tones in Lightroom with Mastin Labs Presets

What we cover in this video:

  • The key factors of good skin tone
  • Choosing the best preset for the skin tone
  • Skin tones in the golden hour
  • Maintaining your style, and much more!

The Key Factors of skin tone. (5:05)

  • What happens in front of the camera with your subjects, location, and light, matter MORE than what preset you use for post-processing.
  • Your ability to see color. This is a learned skill that takes practice.
  • The two axes of color are warm & cool and green & magenta, these are the color building blocks of natural skin tones. (In Adobe Lightroom, these axes are represented as two sliders at the top of the toolbar; Temp and Tint.)

A Brief History of the Relationship between Film Types and Skin Tones (8:30)

Mastin Labs presets are based on film scanned with a Fuji scanner, so everything covered applies both to film and our presets.

When Kodak first developed their films, they primarily tested them on Caucasian skin. In the same way that makeup is made for different skin tones, film is suited for different skin tones. Kodak films generally have more orange and yellow in them, which makes Caucasian skin look healthy and warm.

Fujifilm made their film in a completely different environment and with different aesthetic goals in mind. Their films, in general, have a cyan-heavy base and look really well on darker skin tones as well as lighter ones.

Using Mastin Labs Kodak Portra 400 Presets on Light Skin
Using Mastin Labs Kodak Portra 400 Presets on Dark Skin

Mastin Labs Kodak Portra 400 Presets vs. Mastin Labs Fujicolor 400H Presets on Dark Skin (13:52)

Portra creates too much orange for darker skin. Dragging the temp down might help the skin but would discolor the rest of the image. The Fujicolor Original pack works perfectly

Tips for Maintaining Your Style While Using Different Presets (18:55)

If your predominant market is light-skinned/Caucasian people, you can easily use any of the Portra packs or the Fujicolor packs.

If you're shooting mostly people of color or Asian skin tones, we recommend sticking with the Fujicolor packs and films.


Another point on your style: The moment that you decide to shoot film or use our presets, you're already on your way to becoming consistent, even if there are slight variations.


If you mix the film look with other looks, then, yes, your consistency is going to be in trouble.

Just sticking with Mastin Labs and/or film will make you consistent because it all emulates real film.

Education
“Too much green [in skin tone] is bad. Green is the color of sickness unless it's a beautiful palm tree or a frog.”
- Kirk Mastin
How to Edit Skin Tones in Lightroom with Mastin Labs Presets
Editing Skin Tones in Poor Lighting

Here's the real deal: There is no good solution to terrible light inside of a venue unless you're using flash to create your own light.

If you're shooting in a dark, tungsten-lit reception or wedding hall, nothing you do will give you good skin tones. Back in the day, when you were shooting film, and there was no digital, you would shoot those scenes in black and white.

If you are not using flash, and you have even a kind-of usable light, you might be able to use color, but you'll most likely have to pull the temperature slider really far toward the cool end. Don't be afraid to do this!

Tips for Using The Tint Slider in Lightroom

When balancing tint, the color in the hair can be a great indicator to see if there is too much green or magenta. You can also use anything that you know is gray, such as concrete.

Tips for Editing Multiple Skin Tones in One Photo

Portra can be used on this occasion, and as a last resort, you can bring down the orange saturation is the HSL panel. At this point, this will no longer be Portra 400.

That is also fine! You don't have to stay true to a film. You can adjust it and even save it as a modified preset to use later on.

A better alternative is to get the Fujicolor Original pack. Using 400H, you can see immediately that his skin tone looks fantastic.

Tips for Editing Skin Tone During the Golden Hour
  • Have a light touch. Don't go crazy and use the Original, non-pushed presets.
  • Focus on keeping detail in the sky. You can use Highlight Soft and even a graduated ND filter.
  • Use minor temperature and tint adjustments so that you retain that golden hour look.

Be sure to watch the full video for all the details, and if you have questions you can leave a comment below or talk to us on the Mastin Labs Community Page.

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