Of all the edits that get requested by client, teeth whitening remains one of the most common. Everyone wants to look their best in their photos, no matter what the occasion! Some people may be self-conscious about the way their teeth look in photos, so they may specifically request that you whiten their teeth when you edit their photos, but even if the client does not request it, whitening teeth is an important step in achieving a natural looking portrait every time!
The natural white/ivory colour of teeth can be affected and become yellow after colour correction is applied to the photo, and this spoils the appearance of the image. Another reason to whiten teeth is so that one person’s teeth don’t stand out more than anyone else’s. Your primary goal when whitening teeth should be to make them a shade that appears natural, but does not distract from the subject’s eyes or stand out too much in the photo.
How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom
Before you start whitening the teeth in a portrait, make sure you set the white balance (which sets the overall temperature and tint of the image) and have done some basic adjustments.
Once you have the white balance set, you are ready to start whitening teeth!
Step 1: Select the Adjustment Brush Tool from the panel on the right side of the Develop module.
Step 2: Click on the words to the right of “Effect”, which will open a drop-down menu containing a list of preset brushes. Select the “Teeth Whiten” preset. You will likely need to adjust the settings of this brush to get the right results for your photo, but this will give you a great starting point!
Step 3: Teeth are small, defined areas to edit, so you will want to reduce the size and feather of the brush so that it is more precise. Feather is how much the edit will blend with the pixels around it, so reducing the feather will give you a brush that allows you to be much more accurate in your editing. The feather slider can be found just above the flow slider at the bottom of the adjustment brush panel.
Step 4: Turn on “Auto-Mask” and “Show Selected Mask Overlay”. Auto-Mask will make your life much easier as you edit because it will create a border around the teeth and not allow you to edit outside of that border. You will be able to paint much faster without worrying about messing up the rest of your photo! The “Show Selected Mask Overlay” feature will highlight all the areas you have already edited in red. This will help you keep track of what you’ve done and what you still need to do! If you want to see the colour changes as you edit, simply toggle this feature off.
Step 5: If you changed the brush settings and created your own custom teeth whitening brush, you will want to save it so you can use it again next time! To do that, open the same drop down menu next to “Effect” that you selected the original brush from. Scroll all the way down and select “Save Current Settings as New Preset”, name your brush, and click “Create”.
As you edit, you will likely have to adjust your brush settings to fit with the different highlights and shadows in the person’s teeth! It can also be tempting to use the same brush settings on each person, as this seems like a more efficient way to edit, but everyone has different skin tones and different shades in their teeth, so take the time to edit each one individually. Your photo will look much better in the end!
BONUS: How to Whiten Eyes in Lightroom
The whites of subjects eyes can become discoloured by colour correction and other adjustments you make during the editing process. Therefore, you may need to edit them as well in order to get the best looking portrait possible!
To whiten eyes, you can follow essentially the same procedure you did when you whitened their teeth. Use the Adjustment Brush tool, but instead of selecting the “Teeth Whiten” brush, you can select the “Dodge (Lighten)” brush instead. The settings may appear to be a bit muted at first, but turn the exposure up a bit and play with other settings to get the edit you are hoping for! Make sure you don’t make them too bright and white, or they will appear unnatural!
Having white, natural-looking teeth and eyes will take your portraits to the next level and make sure they are stunning every time! Take your time and adjust the brush settings and size for each person and for different teeth to make sure the effect is as natural as possible. Continually play with the settings on the brush or try downloading other preset ones to achieve the final result you are looking for!