The Business of Boudoir »

Don’t Brush Me Off – Part 1

(aka Everything you ever wanted to know about the Brush Tool in Lightroom and Photoshop)

What is the one goal of all boudoir photographers? Making our clients look their best. Now I’m not talking about the dreaded over-Photoshopping that we see so rampant in the fashion magazine industry. I’m talking about making our clients look as good as possible but still look like themselves.

While we all have the ability to get things right on camera, it’s not always possible. Maybe their makeup was not as good as it could have been, or their hair was just misbehaving. Things happen. We can definitely control a lot with lighting and posing but even with all that, sometimes we need to do some post processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.

What tool to use? Lightroom? Photoshop?

We have a plethora of tools in our arsenal. Deciding which one to use in with situation comes down to your own experience. One thing is for sure….you’re going to have to use the Brush. Whether its the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom or the Brush Tool in Photoshop, you’re going to need it.


In Part 1 I’m going to focus on Lightroom. Many newer photographers are starting here and have no need to going on to it’s big brother Photoshop.

A few things to remember about Lightroom:

  1. It does not edit pixels
  2. For the most part you are making global changes to your entire image
  3. There are a few tools for doing selective adjustments and they are getting better with each version
  4. There are no Layers in Lightroom

The Adjustment Brush

This is the main tool in Lightroom for doing selective adjustments. There is also the Spot Removal tool and the Gradient/Radial Filters. While these do some selective work they are still more global. The Adjustment Brush lets you make very selective adjustments. As I mentioned there are no layers but you do have the ability to emulate some layering by using multiple adjustments. Let’s look at what you can and cannot do with the Adjustment Brush Tool. The shortcut key (K) will take you to the Adjustment Brush or you can click on the icon.

dave-doeppel-adjustment-tool-panelPINHere we see the Adjustment Tool panel in its default state. At this point in time the brush is visible, however no matter what you paint, there will be no adjustment as none of the sliders have been changed. If you have changed sliders but have not painted a mask then you will see no changes either. So you need to make some adjustment and paint.

Now there are two keystrokes that will help you out when using this brush. The (H) key and the (O) key. The (H) key hides or unhides the pins. The pins are created with each new Mask that you paint and will be located where you start painting. If you don’t like a particular adjustment you can click on the pin to select it and hit the Delete key. The (O) key hides or shows the mask itself so you can see where you are painting.

Brush Settings

At the bottom of the panel you’ll find the brush settings. You can set two different brushes and toggle between them. For example you could have a hard edged 0 Feather brush in Brush A, or a soft edged 100 Feather brush in Brush B. You can also click on Erase to erase portions of the mask.

dave-doeppel-adjustment-tool-itemsPINThe settings are fairly similar to Photoshop as far as Size and Feather and Flow.

Flow controls how much of the mask gets painted in one stroke. 100 will create a 100% Mask. A flow of 50 will paint at 50% until you go back over an area and then it will paint another 50%. So if you really want to work in small amounts and build up over time, set the flow down to a low number.

Auto Mask will attempt to confine the mask to a particular area. It looks for contrast in edges. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I tend not to use it.

The last setting is Density. This is an overall limiter of whatever you are setting your brush settings to. Example if you increased the Exposure to +5, and set Density to 50, then the Exposure will never increase more than 2.5. It’s kind of like Opacity in a Photoshop Brush.

There is one last overall setting that is kind of hidden. If you click the dark grey triangle that is pointing down in the upper right corner of the panel, it will change.  It is now an overall Amount adjustment that will increase or reduce all of the adjustments. So you may have increased Exposure and also decreased the Blacks and Shadows, this Amount adjustment will adjust each one up or down. Think of it as adjusting the Opacity of a layer. dave-doeppel-adjustment-tool-overallPIN

What about Layers?

Like I mentioned earlier, there are no Layers in Lightroom. But you can create multiple masks.

Simply click New in the Mask section, and you will now be working with a completely new mask. This is useful if you have moved an adjustment slider as far as it can go and you need more— just click New and paint another mask.

Using a new mask is great for building up effects slowly. Maybe you want to do some skin smoothing. So you start out with a low Flow and low Density with the Clarity or Sharpness slider. Paint the area, then click New and paint again. You can always hit the (H) key to show the pins, select a Pin and then adjust its overall amount or individual sliders, or even delete it without losing the other masks.

You can also use multiple masks to isolate adjustments. Maybe one mask for highlights, one for shadows etc.


Using these tools takes some practice. The nice thing about Lightroom is that it is non-destructive, so you can play and play and play and if you don’t like it, reset it and start over. Speaking of resetting, you can double click on Effect to reset all the sliders, or you can double click on the name of an individual slider and reset it to its default.

Part 2 will focus on the Brush tool in Photoshop.

Dave Doeppel

Dave is the owner of LA Pinups, specializing in Pinup and Boudoir Portraits in Los Angeles. He has always been a fan of Pinup and Burlesque. He is also an Adobe Certified Expert in Lightroom 4/5 and Photoshop CC and loves teaching photographers how to manage their images efficiently from ingesting through export.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - Pinterest - Google Plus

  • July 31, 2014 - 3:17 PM

    Petra Herrmann - That hidden gem of the ‘amount adjustment’ will be soooo useful. I’ve used Lightroom since it came out and never knew it was there! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *