Recreate a vintage Hollywood portrait using Adobe Lightroom

Recreate a vintage Hollywood portrait using Adobe Lightroom

Learn how to edit your portraits in Lightroom to produce a glamorous Hollywood portrait with a retro appeal. This easy-to-follow Adobe Lightroom tutorial from our friends at PhotoPlus will help you transform your portrait photography from this…

Hollywood portrait

To this…

Hollywood portrait

… in 8 steps. Here’s how you do it…

1. Import your image
Copy your starting image to a folder on your computer, then in Lightroom 4 go to File > Import Photos and Video, and in the Source window browse to the image and select it. By default Lightroom will add the shot to its catalogue without moving it from its original location. Tick your starting image’s thumbnail and click Import – this will bring the shot into Lightroom’s Library module.

Hollywood portrait step 1

2. Crop in close
Click the Develop icon – this opens the image in the Develop module, where you can edit it. The darkroom tools are at the top-right. In our image we’ve cropped into it. To do this click the Crop tool (or press R to select it), and drag the crop overlay’s handle in to tighten the crop around the subject. This removes some of the featureless studio backdrop, and makes our would-be starlet look more prominent in the frame. Click Done to apply the crop.

Hollywood portrait step 2

3. Boost the contrast
Click the Black & White option in the Basic panel to desaturate the shot, and push the Exposure slider up to +0.80 to brighten the skin’s highlights. Next Go to the Tone Curve panel, click the Point Curve drop-down menu, and change it from the default Linear setting to Medium Contrast, to create a curve that produces darker shadows and brighter highlights.

Hollywood portrait step 3

4. Selective tone tweaks
To fine-tune which areas are lighter or darker, scroll down to the B&W panel. We’ve dragged the Red slider down to -20; this darkens tones that are red in the start image, creating striking dark lipstick that contrasts with the skin. We’ve also set the Orange slider to +30 to lighten the skin even more, and reveal more texture in the sweater, and set Purple to +50 to lighten the studio backdrop.

Hollywood portrait step 4

5. Add a vignette
Go to the Post Crop Vignetting section of the Effects panel. Set Style to Colour Priority, then set Amount to +20, Roundness to +70 and Feather to 40. This gently lightens the corners, giving them a faded look that evokes a vintage print and helping our subject’s darker features stand out more.

Hollywood portrait step 5

6. Add some grain
Go to the Navigator window at the left of the interface, and click the 1:1 option to view the shot’s actual pixels. Go to the Grain section in the Effects panel and drag the Amount slider up to 12. Set Size to 40 for larger clumps of film-like grain, and set Roughness to 67. The cool thing about Lightroom’s Grain effects is that they’ll also be applied to areas we blur, creating a more authentic-looking film effect.

Hollywood portrait step 6

7. Enhance the hair
To add sheen to our subject’s hair, click on the Adjustment Brush icon to select it (or press K). Click to place an adjustment ‘pin’ in the hair, then set Exposure to 0.40 and Contrast to 30, and push Clarity up to 100, which will increase the ‘local’ contrast between the strands of hair. Set the brush size to 16.0, and paint over the hair to make the highlights stand out more in contrast to the darker details.

Hollywood portrait step 7

8. Selective blur
Click the New icon in the settings panel, and click to place a second pin near the edge of the hair. Set Exposure and Contrast to 0, and Sharpness and Clarity to -100. Paint around the edges of the hair, and over the lower fifth or so of the subject, to blur those areas and create a shallow depth of field effect.

Hollywood portrait step 8


If you dont have Lightroom follow our walkthrough by downloading a free 30-day trial version of Lightroom 4 from


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