Skip to main content

photo & video

How to Retouch Portraits Using Lightroom CC

Lesson 2 of 10

Getting Started: Setting Up Lightroom

Kristina Sherk

How to Retouch Portraits Using Lightroom CC

Kristina Sherk

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

2. Getting Started: Setting Up Lightroom

Lesson Info

Getting Started: Setting Up Lightroom

Let's start with a couple of housekeeping things. So in order to have Lightroom Classic run as fast as possible, there are a couple settings that are important to have set in your Lightroom. So the first one is going to be in your Preferences menu, so we're going to come to Lightroom, and then we're going to go to Preferences, and then we're going to come to our Performance sub-tab, and as you can come in here and see, we have a Camera Raw Cache Settings little area. So this, by default, is set to 10 gigabytes, and so what I like to do is I like to bump that up to 30. It gives the computer more, it sets aside more area of the computer's memory to remember the images that you have worked on recently. So that's kind of how I describe that. So obviously having more space here for you guys to, for Lightroom to use in that capacity is going to be good. I don't do a lot of video work, so my video cache is pretty low. So that's the first thing. That's the first setting. The second setting is ...

going to be in our Catalog settings, so we come to Lightroom, and choose Catalog settings, and then we are going to go to Metadata, and we've got the option here of "Automatically write changes" to XMPs. So I'm going to just talk a little bit about what that is, so that we can make up our own minds about whether or not we keep this item checked or not checked. What I would, so when you are photographing raw images, that file that's created in the camera is protected, so meaning it cannot be modified by any outside source. And so when that's the case, if there are changes that you want to make, say you want to turn an image black and white, or you want to increase the exposure or decrease the exposure, any of those tweaks or modifications are not going to be saved to the native file, meaning the raw file. They're going to be saved to a partner file, and that partner file or 'sidecar file,' is called the XMP file. So it basically is, if you open up a raw image on your computer, it looks for an XMP file and says, "Are there any changes or modifications that need to be made to this image?" And then it looks for that file, and if it finds something, it's going to add those changes. So if you have this option checked, and you're working in Lightroom, what's going to happen is in the background, every single time you make a change, Lightroom is going to take some of its processing power away from being responsive to you, and it's going to be working in the background, and it's going to be writing down those notes. "She changed the exposure by 0.1 percent. She changed the contrast by point--like, to 25. Okay, she decreased the contrast to -10." You know, all, every single one of those notes, or breadcrumbs, is going to be written to that XMP in real time. So you can see how that mental processing power of Lightroom can be taken away from you working with it, and it's going to be devoted to writing in real-time that data that's going into the XMP file. So you can see that this might be a problem because it's going to slow down your Lightroom. What I would love to see the Adobe gods do is make an option for 'Write Changes to XMP Upon Quit' of Lightroom. So you're not sucking that processing power away in real-time, away from what you're trying to do in Lightroom, but you're also not completely turning it off, in the case where you could easily lose those changes if, for some reason, you forget to manually save those changes to the XMP. So that's the real importance with this little check mark. It's a very little check mark; it has very big implications. Because what happens is if you forget to save your XMPs manually, and this check mark is off, if you go ahead and open that up into any other program out there, you're not going to see those changes that you have spent that time doing, which is not okay. It sucks. I'm sure we've all been in that boat, so what is nice is that Adobe has made this, given us this little warning, and the warning is in pretty plain, understandable English, which I'm thankful for, so it says, "Warning: Changes made in Lightroom will not automatically be visible in other applications unless written to XMP." So while I have this off, it may, you may not want to run that risk of having that check mark off. You may say, "I'm going to make that sacrifice of having Lightroom run a little bit slower because I know that every single time I make a change, it's going to be recorded outside of the program." So that's your own choice, but I feel like I need to definitely take the time to explain this in a lot of detail because I never want to tell you to just turn it off, and then have you be like, "Where are all my changes?" Like, "What did I just do!" Like, "Don't ever listen to Kristina Sherk ever again!" (laughs) Because we definitely don't want that to happen. So it is your choice. For me, personally, I turn it off, and then I have a sticky note next to my computer at home that says, "Have you saved your XMPs?" And that's how I remember, okay? So that is, that's a little bit about XMPs. Sorry it's not, it's definitely not the sexiest subject, but it's important. It is an 'importante' one. So let's talk about our third kind of thing that's going to bog down our memory. If we take this image into our Develop module by hitting the D key, we have, if we go down to History, we have a very long list of all of the changes that have been made to this photo since it was imported into this catalog. So as we start really pushing Lightroom to its limit, as we move forward in this class, we're going to be making a lot of local adjustments. We're going to be making a lot of detailed changes to our image, and what that's going to do is every single time we do that, that step is going to be recorded over here on the left in our History area. And so sometimes when I'm working, especially on a smaller processor, what ends up happening is I start to hear my computer fan. If I start to hear my computer fan working overdrive, that means that I'm just pushing it a little bit too far. And so what I do in that situation is I come up here, and I go ahead and just clear all of my History states, because that's a lot for Lightroom to remember. It's a lot of stuff that Lightroom has to remember. And because we are in a non-destructive program, Lightroom is a completely non-destructive program, it's, you're not going to lose any of your data because it's all changeable. It's all still recorded within your sliders, okay? So just because you're losing your History states does not mean you're losing any of the work. It's not the equivalent to flattening an image in Photoshop, nothing like that. Nothing's going to happen, other than you can't step back, step back, step back, step back. So that's your choice. It's your prerogative if you want to remove that or not, but it will free up a lot of memory to let Lightroom focus back on what you're doing, and it's going to help Lightroom run a little bit faster. So, again, that's kind of our optimal Lightroom settings. So, of course, not super sexy, but important still.

Class Description


  • Retouch portraits using Adobe Lightroom.
  • Use frequency separation and dodge and burn to adjust images.


Let’s be honest, who has two spare hours to spend retouching a single image in Adobe® Photoshop®. Fortunately, there’s Adobe® Lightroom®, which offers so many amazing tools you can skip Photoshop altogether. In this class, Kristina Sherk will show you all the incredible portrait retouching techniques you can achieve in Lightroom in just seconds, including topics like frequency separation and dodge and burn. She will translate all the high-level retouching techniques once thought to be only feasible in Photoshop into super-fast Lightroom brushes to save you tons of time.


  • All Levels of photographers and retouchers


Photoshop CC 2019


For the past 10 years, Kristina Sherk has been a high-end photo retoucher based out of Washington, D.C. She specializes in beauty retouching and has done work for many clients such as Time Inc., Hasselblad, Merz Aesthetic, and Cotton Incorporated. She loves “translating Photoshop” for people and subsequently, she’s a contributing author for educational publications like Shutter Magazine, Photoshop User Magazine and Lightroom Magazine. She is well-known for her online teaching, and you can find out more at

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Great class, good, clear, easy-to-follow instructions. This is going to have a big impact on my workflow and save me a LOT of time - thank you!


As fast as Lightroom is growing and improving, it's a hard to keep up with everything it is capable of. Kristina did a great job of showing how to speed up workflow by retouching in ways that I though you could only do well in Photoshop. This class is super informative and well worth it!

Robin Spencer

Excellent! This program was short and sweet but packed with lots of very useful tips and tricks. I have been using Lightroom for years and still learned so much. All of her time saving tips especially "Sync" were really appreciated. Highly recommend.