We live in a fast-paced, coffee-fueled world, and our teeth suffer for it. There’s no shame in having teeth that aren’t pearly white, but that doesn’t mean photographers can’t make our portrait subject’s teeth sparkle. No matter what software you use to process your raw files, there’s a fast and easy way to whiten your subject’s teeth.
First, apply your base edits. For a workflow with Mastin Labs presets, that means using your preset and adjusting exposure and white balance. Once you like your overall image, you can zoom in on the teeth to work on them with the adjustment brush tool. The keyboard shortcut “Z” is a fast way to zoom to a set level.
In the upper left corner of the Lightroom window is the Navigator panel, which contains a thumbnail of your image and numerical zoom presets. The “Z” keyboard shortcut toggles between “Fit” and “1:1” by default, but if you select a closer zoom ratio, the “Z” key will toggle to that instead. 3:1 works well for head-and-shoulder portraits, but if you need to go even closer, you can find more zoom levels if you click the double arrow icon to the right of the numbers.
When you’re zoomed in, make sure you’re in the Develop panel using the tabs on the top right of Lightroom, or the “D” keyboard shortcut. Then, using the icons below Lightroom’s histogram, select the farthest right icon that looks like a brush to access the adjustment brush panel. You can also toggle in and out of the adjustment brush panel with the “K” keyboard shortcut.
The adjustment brush panel is where you can apply local edits to small parts of your image, which is perfect for whitening teeth. Lightroom even has a built-in teeth whitening effect preset for precisely that. You can access it by clicking the double arrow icon to open the list of effect presets and selecting “Teeth Whitening” from the drop-down menu. It’s a very simple preset that boosts exposure by +.4 and brings down saturation -60.
Once you’ve selected the teeth whitening effect, paint it onto your subject’s teeth. Make sure to paint onto the teeth and not the gums or lips, as any errant brushstrokes will be visible. If you make a mistake, find the brush settings at the bottom of the adjustment brush panel and click “erase” to switch to the eraser brush.
Lightroom’s teeth whitening adjustment can be overly aggressive, making your subject’s teeth the blazing-white focal point of your image, but it’s easy to tame. Just bring the exposure down and the saturation up until it doesn’t look overdone.
Just like in Lightroom, you’ll begin by editing your raw file to taste before moving to local adjustments. You can find your Mastin Labs styles in the Adjustments tab, which has an icon that looks like a clipboard with a checkmark on it. Or, if you’ve installed the optional Mastin Labs Capture One workspace, you can apply the styles from the Mastin tab, which has an icon that looks like Capture One’s icon.
To whiten teeth in Capture One, you’ll need tools you can find in the “Exposure” tab using the icons on the top left of the screen in the default workspace. The exposure tab icon looks like a histogram. Once you’re in the exposure tab, open the “Layers” tool and click the “+” button to create a new layer.
Use the zoom tool at the top center of Capture One’s window (the icon looks like a magnifying glass) or use the “Z” keyboard shortcut to zoom in on the subject’s teeth. A quick way to do this is to click and drag a rectangle around their mouth.
With the new layer highlighted, click the brush icon at the bottom of the layers tool or use the “B” keyboard shortcut to activate the brush. While you’re painting, a red overlay appears to show where you’ve brushed your mask.
If you make a mistake, you can erase it by clicking and holding the brush icon until a drop-down appears and choosing “erase,” or using the “E” keyboard shortcut. You can easily toggle between brushing and erasing with the “B” and “E” shortcuts.
With your mask painted and your layer selected, you can adjust exposure and saturation sliders just like Lightroom. Start by reducing saturation, and then bring up exposure until your subject’s teeth look great, but not over-processed.
It sounds like a lot of steps, but once you’ve done it a few times, it’s super fast and easy! Just make sure you don’t make your subject’s teeth look unnaturally bright or colorless, and you’re good to go!