It’s not uncommon to have a photo that needs some touch up due to under eye circles, or dark circles under the client’s eye. There are several ways to edit something like this, and today I’m going to show you my favorite, quick method.


My Easy Fix

My favorite method for fixing under eye circles is to utilize the Clone Tool in Lightroom. While there are several ways to edit under eye circles, I prefer using the clone tool because it allows me to use the subject’s own skin to enhance the area, resulting in color tones that are more true to life.

When using the clone tool to correct eye circles, I always have it set to a low opacity, usually between 20-25. At times the opacity may be even lower, it just depends on how dark the eye circles are. By selecting the “source area” (the area being cloned in) just under the eye circles, I am pulling from skin tones that are already near the eye. This gives me a better chance of smooth blending and even, realistic tones under the eye.

Watch me quickly correct under eye circles in the video below!

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An Alternate Method

Another way to correct dark circles under the eyes and make those eyes pop is to use Lightroom’s adjustment brush. When I use the adjustment brush for under eye circles, I will make the following adjustments:

  • Slightly reduce contrast
  • Raise shadows
  • Reduce clarity
  • Slightly increase warmth via the Temp slider

Utilizing the adjustment brush can make it tricky to keep a realistic skin tone under the eye, which is why I prefer using the clone tool. When using the adjustment brush, just pay close attention to your subject’s coloring and make sure you’re keeping realistic tones and not overdoing your correction.

Watch me edit in this video!

Whitening Eyes

There are times when the presets or editing style will affect the whites of the eyes. Fixing this is another great way to brighten eyes and make the eyes pop in Lightroom. To improve the whites of the eyes using Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush, your new best friend.

Use the Adjustment Brush preset in Lightroom to brighten up the whites of the eyes. Click the New button, then double click on the Effect to reset the sliders back to 0. Depending on the whiteness you need, you can get away with reducing the Saturation slider only. 

If the eyes in the image are yellowish, modify the Temp slider in Lightroom to add a bit of Blue. If the whites of the eyes are too bright, they may look fake. You can select the Dodge (lighten) preset to increase the Exposure. Play around the highlights, contrast, and shadows until you achieve the level of ‘pop’ you want.  

Remember, as with all portrait retouching, subtlety is the key! You’ll want the eyes to appear as natural as possible, not look like mannequin eyes. 

Accentuating the Color

The combination of Radial Filter and Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is the solution if you’re wondering how you can brighten eyes and make the eyes pop in Lightroom CC while also enhancing the color of the iris. For this tutorial, you only have to follow this simple step-by-step guide:

Before tweaking the eye color’s clarity, be sure you’re satisfied with the preset. Select the Radial Filter tool in the Develop Module in Lightroom. Choose Iris Enhance as the Effect to enhance eyes and then click Invert Mask. 

Click and drag to form an ellipse that covers the iris. You should see the color change right away due to the default settings. Modify the ellipse’s location and size as necessary. Once you’re okay with the coverage over the iris, only then can you adjust the settings. 

Take time in adjusting the Exposure, Contrast, Clarity, Saturation, Sharpness, and Noise sliders until you make the eyes ‘pop”. After working on the first eye, you can easily copy the edits and paste another Radial Filter state. Select the Radial Filter tool, right-click on the button, and choose Duplicate. 

A duplicate state will show on top of the original. Click and drag on it to move to the other eye. Pull the handles to change the size. If you want some color deepening, use the Adjustment Brush and burn around the edges for finishing touches. 

While your goal is to enhance eyes detail and vibrancy, be cautious in adjusting Saturation in Lightroom as this can cause the colors to seem weird or plastic-like. If the catchlights appear strong, you can soften them a bit through the Highlights slider.

Enhancing Eyelashes

One great way to make eyes look bright in an image in Lightroom is by making the eyelashes richer and more prominent. For example, if you need to edit a close-up fashion portrait, you can use the smallest brush tool size and darken individual lashes.

  • Activate a new brush tool and reset the Brush sliders to 0.
  • From the Adjustment Brush’s dropdown menu, choose the Burn effect, and modify it. 
  • After darkening and enhancing the eyelashes, increase the Clarity a little bit or up to +30. 
  • Do some tweaks until you achieve the desired vibrancy.

Adding Catchlights 

May it be glare from the sun or reflection from some other light source, a small light in your subject’s eyes can add life in photos. If you want to create hints of lights in an image, you can add them to the eyes in Lightroom. 

  • Choose the Dodge tool to dodge the light from hitting the image, and consequently, enhance the eyes. 
  • Set the range in Highlights to work on the highlighted areas of the eyes. 
  • While you can adjust the exposure as low as 3%, be careful not to overdo it. 
  • Click on the brush size menu and set the Hardness to zero, so you can automatically pick the soft-edged brush. 
  • Use the brush to blend the alterations and produce a more natural look. 
  • Paint the brush over the selected portions until you see the catchlights becoming prominent.  

An image without a catchlight can sometimes make an image look lifeless. When you add catchlights, you can draw the viewers’ attention to the most important part of a portrait— the eyes.

Things to Remember

Remember that you do not want to completely remove your subject’s circles under their eyes, as this will create an unnatural look. Whenever we are altering the appearance of a client, it is imperative that we use discretion. The goal should not be to give them a makeover via our editing process. We want our clients to look like themselves!

By learning to appropriately edit under eye circles, you can make your clients look their very best, while still being true to their unique appearance. What other methods have you tried to achieve this? We love to hear what works for you! Let us know in the comments below.

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