How to Fake a Tan in Lightroom – Photo Editing

Summer is in full force, so it is no surprise that Instagram is booming with pictures of friends, family, co-workers and your exes sunbathing on some beach. If you’re like me and want your tan to glow and stand out I have good news for you: in this post I will share my little guide to proper summer photo-editing in Lightroom!

I’ll use a regular holiday pic of me as the sample image for this post:

It’s a neat picture and that is already the most crucial step: Use a good picture! Just because you buy the best preset doesn’t mean it will automatically fix everything. I recommend using natural lighting and some angles that will make you look and feel good.
What I don’t like about my sample image though is how there’s a lot of shadows and yellow tones in it. I feel like it has to be a lot brighter and have more warm tones in it for me to post it on the gram.

When I’m done editing, this is about what it will look like:

Lightroom Editing

Lightroom CC has been one of my favorite photo editing apps for years now, as it works super fast and does not screw up the quality of the pictures. You really don’t have to have any knowledge on photo-editing to use it, because it works very intuitively. If you don’t have Lightroom yet get it for free in the app store!


I try to go for a brighter look with less harsh shadows. See the values below for exact numbers. Oh yeah, and the pic on top is already the finished version because I was too lazy to recreate each step. After all, that’s the main thought behind using a preset.

Color: Saturation, Temperature and Co.

First of all, I desaturate the image just a little. This may sound a little counterproductive, but in order to make your tan pop you want to strip away color from the rest of the image.

Color Mix

Then I get into the color mix. This step very much depends on what exactly your background is, because according to this you might have to change it up a little. I get into the red and orange section of the color mix and do the following:

This really makes your tan pop, as skin tones mostly consist of orange and red tones.
Then, I desaturate the yellow a lot and just do a little bit about the green and blue.

I don’t do anything to the aquatics, purples and pinks as I want to keep them rather neutral.

Final Product

Ok, this seems like a lot to do but I highly recommend just doing it once and saving it as a preset so you can just apply it to any image in a split-second.
Here’s a comparison of the before and after:

As you can (hopefully) see I cancelled out all the yellow and instead made the oranges and reds pop. Generally, the final version looks a lot brighter and more crisp, which is exactly the look I was going for.
I really recommend just playing around with the app and trying whether my preset works for you or just improve some bits to suit your style better. It takes a while to find a preset you really enjoy using, but it is so worth it. Once you have it, it is super easy to stay consistent with your editing and save a lot of time.

I really hope this was helpful to some of you. I’m definitely not a professional but I just like editing my pictures to get the most out of them.
If you have any more recommendations and ideas for some more editing just let me know and I’ll update this post as soon as possible.