How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom

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Most portraits look aesthetically pleasing when you smile, and a section of the teeth shows. Even if your teeth might not be as white, you can still make the portrait flattering by learning how to whiten teeth in Lightroom during the post-production photo-editing phase.

How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom

Even if you brush your teeth twice a day, the teeth might still develop an unflattering tint due to dental issues, age, or water quality. Since you might be unconscious of this condition, the tint might be captured in your portraits, especially when posing with a smile.

A person wearing a brown long sleeves is using a laptop

However, with an advanced photo manipulation application such as Lightroom, you don’t have to shoot portraits with a dull face and your mouth shut to avoid exposing the unpleasing color of your teeth. Simply take a well-posed, focused, bright and sharp picture and then use the following tips to whiten the teeth in Lightroom.

Import the Photo in Lightroom

The first step is to open the photo you want to edit in Lightroom using the Lightroom import option. Launch Lightroom and then navigate to File and choose Import Photos and Video. You can also click the Import button above the filmstrip below the panels on the left-hand side.

Once the import dialog opens, choose the file location of your photo on the hard drive and then click Add. Typically, this will allow you to edit the image in Lightroom without changing its hard drive location. You can then complete the rest of the import steps using the default settings.

Pick the Adjustment Brush Tool

An adjustment tool is an advanced tool in Lightroom that allows you selectively apply edits such as brightness, clarity, and exposure by painting. That means you can use this tool to edit a section of your image, such as the teeth, without affecting the rest of the photo.

Keeping in mind that photo importation happens in the Library Module, switch to the Develop Module for editing by hitting the D key on your keyboard.

You can then select the Adjust Brush tool by hitting the K key on your keyboard or selecting the icon on the right-hand side corner of the interface right below the histogram. If you had previously used the brush, it’s advisable to reset its settings by double-clicking on the Effect word on the slider panel that opens.

Choose the Teeth Whitening Preset

Keeping in mind that teeth whitening is one of the most common edits done in Lightroom, Lightroom includes built-in teeth whitening preset to make the overall procedure easier. Typically, this preset is just a set of settings for the Adjustment Brush tool, and you can opt to make the settings yourself instead of using the preset.

Open the preset by selecting the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the Effect word, and then scroll down and pick the Teeth Whitening preset. Generally, this will populate the brush with settings for basic teeth whitening, making it a good starting point, especially if you’re a beginner.

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Adjust the Brush Settings

In most cases, the tints of the teeth will vary, with some being yellow and others gray. Usually, the photos are shot using different cameras, lenses, composition, and lighting conditions. Some teeth might even be brown or darkish due to dental issues or salty water.

That means the standard teeth whitening preset might not be effective in all cases. For the best teeth whitening results, you can consider adjusting the following parameters depending on the condition of the teeth.

  • Reduce the exposure to -45
  • Increase the shadows to +50
  • Increase the exposure to +0.2
  • Reduce the color temperature (Temp) to -30

You can also play around with the above settings until you get the right combination for teeth whitening. However, remember to make the resulting whitening look natural and realistic.

Adjust the Brush Style and Size

Usually, the teeth size will vary across photos due to the different poses and compositions. It’s therefore advisable to adjust the following brush style and size settings depending on the photo you are editing.

  • Size: The size of the brush determines the area it will paint in a single stroke. Consider setting a brush size that allows you to paint the teeth in several strokes rather than a single stroke.
  • Feather: The amount of feathering determines how defined or soft the brush edges are. Since you want the entire teeth to be white without the edges looking dull, consider reducing the feather.
  • Auto Mask: The Auto Mask allows you to work selectively on an area without affecting a well-defined bordering area. Consider enabling this option by ticking the checkbox so you can whiten the teeth without affecting the gum.
  • Density: The density determines the flow of the brush. Reducing the density allows you to paint over the teeth multiple times before the effect significantly builds up, giving you a more realistic and natural look.

Paint the Teeth

Since the teeth will only occupy a small part of the image, consider zooming in so you can paint more accurately. Simply set the zoom ratio to Fill on the zoom options right above the navigator panel or increase the zoom using the zoom slider in the toolbar.

Alternatively, you can zoom in by hitting the keyboard keys Command and + on your Mac or Ctrl and + on your PC. With the teeth well visible and the brush tool selected, hold the left mouse button and then move the cursor over the teeth to paint.

A person using a laptop

Keeping in mind that you will be altering the original color and tint of the teeth, you can use the following tips to ensure the resulting look looks natural and realistic.

  • After several brush strokes, enable the Show Selected Mask Overlay option by ticking the box. Typically, this will highlight the areas you have painted in red, and you can see whether you have painted past the borders.
  • In cases of an error such as painting on the gums, select the Erase option in the panel and then paint back to delete the effect.
  • Match the whiteness of the teeth to the lighting of the photo, such that the teeth are not super bright in a darkish photo

Export the Photo

After painting, zoom out the image by hitting the keyboard keys Command and – on your Mac or Ctrl and – on your PC so you can check the overall look of the photo. Once satisfied with the results, export the image by navigating to File and choosing Export.

In the export dialog box, select Export To and choose Hard Drive. Enter the image’s name and specify the image’s destination in the hard drive. You can leave the rest of the export settings to their default and click on Export.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the Teeth Look Natural After Whitening in Lightroom?

In most cases, the teeth will look natural after whitening in Lightroom. However, you will need to match the teeth’ whiteness with the overall color grade of the photo. Also, consider the person’s age due to the natural discoloration of teeth as a person ages.

Can I Keep My Lightroom Teeth Whitening Settings?

You can keep the Lightroom teeth whitening settings by saving them a custom brush preset. Click on the Effect word and then choose Save Current Settings as New Preset. Enter the name of the new preset in the dialog box that pops up and then save.

Final Thoughts

Whether your teeth are discolored due to dental issues, salty water, or age, knowing how to whiten teeth in Lightroom can help you improve the overall looks of your portraits. You can use the Lightroom built-in teeth whitening preset for basic whitening or the above tips for more complex whitening.