9 min read

How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom

9 min read

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Everybody likes to have their teeth looking nice and white in photographs. Well, not people do. In some cultures, it’s considered attractive to have black teeth. In this article, I’ll walk you through a few easy steps on how to whiten teeth in Lightroom.

But for most photographers, and especially wedding and portrait photographers, it’s important to know how to whiten teeth in Lightroom. There are other options for how to whiten teeth using Photoshop. But I find Lightroom provides the quickest and easiest ways for whitening teeth.

Karen woman with black teeth.
Karen woman in northern Thailand with black teeth. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

In this article and video, I will break down for you, step by step, how to whiten teeth in Lightroom. There are not many steps and, for users who may be more advanced in Lightroom use, I have summarized the process of whitening teeth at the beginning. For those wanting more details and options on teeth whitening, you can proceed to read through the whole article.

You can also use this method of whitening teeth to whiten eyes in Lightroom.

How to Whiten Teeth in Lightroom Summarized for Quick Reference

YouTube video

Here are the short, quick steps outlining how to whiten teeth in Lightroom.

  1. Select The Lightroom Adjustment Brush Tool For Teeth Whitening

    Whitening teeth is a task where adjustments are applied to a selective area. The best tool for this job is the Lightroom Adjustment Brush found in the right-hand sidebar.

  2. Adjust the Brush Settings for Teeth Whitening

    For the best results, when you want to whiten teeth in Lightroom, be in control of the settings you use. Pick the right amount of Feathering and Flow for the image you are working on.

  3. Paint the Teeth for Whitening

    Once your brush is adjusted for teeth whitening and the best size, paint over the area of the teeth.

  4. Tweak Teeth Whitening Levels

    Whitening teeth using the brush allows you to tweak any of the sliders manually, so you get the best-looking white teeth.

  5. Save Teeth Whitening Custom Brush Preset

    You can save all the adjustments you have made as Lightroom presets, so next time you have to whiten teeth in Lightroom, your process will be more streamlined.

I prefer to use a pen and tablet when I whiten teeth in Lightroom using a brush. The pen and tablet allow you to work with pressure sensitivity and control the look of the effect on your photo more precisely. When you edit using a pen and tablet, it is more like using a paintbrush on your photos.

teeth whitening in Lightroom - woman smiling as she takes a photo.
Pretty tourist smiling as she is taking photos at the temple. ©Kevin Landwer-Johan

Step #1: Select The Lightroom Adjustment Brush Tool For Teeth Whitening

The adjustment brush in Adobe Lightroom is a powerful editing tool when it’s used well. Like any tool, fine-tuning the settings to your preference means you can be more precise with it and achieve the results you want quickly and easily.

Using this feature for the first time may be a little frustrating if you are not aware of how to manage it. If you are already familiar with how to use it, skip forward to step #2 and make this tutorial on how to whiten teeth in Lightroom even quicker and easier!

screenshot of adjustment brush tool in Lightroom.
Lightroom Adjustment Brush.

Setting the Brush Adjustments for Beginners

Once you click the Adjustment Brush Tool to a new panel will open in the right sidebar under the brush icon. Here you will find all the slider and selection tools to manage your Adjustment Brush. How well you configure, these have a significant impact on how good the edits you make will look.

Brush size and control settings in Lightroom.
Brush size and control settings.

Brush Size

The essential adjustment to make is the size. Control the size of your tool by using the keys. Tapping the left square bracket key increases the size of the brush. If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can also use this to increase or decrease the size of a brush you have selected. There is also a slider under the Effect Panel of the Adjustment Brush.


Pay attention also to the amount of feathering your brush has. This is indicated by the outer circle on the brush when you are using it. The further from the inner brush circle it is, the more feathering will occur as you paint with the brush. More feathering means a softer edge on the effect; less feathering produces a brushstroke with a harder edge. How much feathering you set depends on the edge clarity of the areas you paint over. When the edge of your subject is soft, use more feathering.

Happy teenage boy isolated on a white background in lightroom.
Happy teenage boy isolated on a white background © Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Density and Flow

Density and Flow are two more adjustment brush options you can control for more precise editing. The further to the left these sliders are, the more intense the effect is when you paint. It’s like painting with a real brush loaded with paint. Reducing the amount of Flow and/or Density allows you to control the brush better. You can paint over the same area as many times as you need to build up the effect the brush has. This will often produce a more natural-looking result than using a brush with the Flow and Density set too heavy.

Auto Masking

There’s also an Auto Mask option. This will constrict the brush to only affect the area the center of the brush is positioned over. I prefer to leave this turned off because it is not always as accurate as I would like. The edge of where you paint will often be too hard and abrupt.

Woman wearing a straw hat.
Smiling woman wearing a straw hat with white teeth. ©Kevin Landwer-Johan

Step #2: Adjust the Brush Settings for Teeth Whitening

Once you have your Adjustment Brush set up, so it best suits the image you want to whiten the teeth on, you can select the Effect preset designed specifically for whitening teeth.

At the top of the Adjustment Brush options panel, there is a drop-down menu next to the word Effects. It may have the word Custom, Temp, or any of the other presets in the list you have used previously. 

Click on the word to reveal the drop-down menu. Near the bottom, you will find the Teeth Whitening brush prest option. When you click this, Lightroom automatically adjusts the Exposure slider and the Saturation slider. The exposure is increased slightly, and the saturation is bought down significantly.

These preset levels are often just the right amount to attractively whiten teeth in Lightroom. This will depend on how discolored your subject’s teeth are, so you may still need to make further adjustments to some of the adjustment brush sliders. I will address these in step #4.

preset for teeth whitening brush in Lightroom.
Teeth Whitening brush preset location.

Step #3: Paint the Teeth for Whitening

In this step in how to whiten teeth in Lightroom, you will apply the brush to the teeth. You may need to zoom into the photo, so it’s easier to use the brush precisely on only the teeth. Use the Z key to zoom. Hold down the spacebar to reposition the photo if you need to.

Paint over the teeth. To easily see how much of the teeth you are painting over, press the O key. You can also select the check box under the photo called “Show selected mask overlay”. Holding down the Shift key as you press O will scroll through the various colored overlays you have to choose from.

As you begin to paint over the teeth, you may discover you need to make further adjustments to your brush. You can easily do this using the sliders or speed keys. If your feathering is too hard or too soft, change the levels to better suit the photo you are working on.

You may find it easier to work with a smaller brush size or that the auto mask is not working so well. Go back to the brush panel and make sure to change the settings in a way that works better for you.

Any of the settings you change can be adjusted at any time. Brush panel adjustments in Lightroom are easy to configure as you work on your photo. Any edit you make is non-destructive and which means editing can be altered or reversed if you don’t love any edit you have made.

painted areas using lightroom.
Showing the painted areas when using the teeth whitening brush preset with mask overlay turned on.

Step #4: Tweak Teeth Whitening Levels

How to whiten teeth in Lightroom is made easy by editing with the Lightroom presets. But sometimes, you’ll want to adjust the process when the presets don’t perform editing the way you want them to.

Lightroom presets are great, but they are best when you customize them. Learning to apply riding to presets is easier than starting from scratch. Lightroom presets get you partway to the goals you have for editing your images, and then you can improve them manually. It’s quicker and easier to use Lightroom presets than editing totally manually.

Most of the time, you’ll need to make only minor edits to the Lightroom presets to get your photos looking the way you want them to.

When you are editing a photo and applying the teeth whitening preset, it may be too intense or not have enough of an effect to make teeth as white as you’d like them. You can use a number of sliders in Lightroom to reduce the color of teeth and make them look naturally white.

The white balance slider will sometimes help teeth to look more white. Dragging this slider towards the left increases the blue and reduces the yellow color in teeth. The White slider can be pulled to the right to increase the intensity of the white areas. Even the Dehaze tool will have a positive effect when you want to whiten teeth in Lightroom.

screen capture of resulting effect of teeth whitening in Lightroom.
White teeth after applying Lightroom brush preset tool.

Tweak the Default Lightroom Brushes Settings

By default, the teeth whitening Lightroom preset adjusts the Exposure and Saturation levels when you apply the brushes. You may want to tweak one or the other of these settings if you are not happy with how it’s showing the teeth to look. Sometimes they will look too white and unnatural if either of these slides is poorly adjusts. It will be best to manually control them for the best-looking teeth in portraits.

Step #5: Save Teeth Whitening Custom Brush Preset

Once you are satisfied with your editing, you can save your Lightroom brush as a preset you can use again later. Saving brushes in this manner can save you a lot of time when you have many portraits to edit that are similar. 

The process of editing your images is made easier because you won’t have to make manual adjustments each time. Your portraits will all be consistent in the amount of teeth whitening in each photo. This is particularly helpful for wedding photographers who have to make sure each portrait is consistent throughout all of their photographs from the big day.

When you are happy with how you have been able to whiten teeth in Lightroom, you can click on the Effect name again and then “Save current settings as new preset”. This will open a new dialog box where you can name your preset something like Whitening Teeth. This will then save all the slider adjustments that you have made. It will not save your brush size or other brush adjustments you have made, as these are more universal in Lightroom.

Once you have your brush saved as a Lightroom preset, you can simply choose to use this option next time you need to whiten teeth in Lightroom.

saving the current settings as a new preset in Lightroom.
Saving your teeth whitening brush preset in Lightroom.


There are not many steps in this process, but like any photography portrait editing, the more care you take, the better your photos will turn out. Take your time to be precise, and you will produce great portraits with natural-looking white teeth.

How do you whiten teeth in Lightroom? Let us know in the comments below.

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Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.
Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.

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