How to Whiten Eyes & Teeth in Camera Raw

  • Thread starter WendyMay
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May 11, 2021
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Have you ever seen a photo of a model in a glamour magazine with yellow teeth? Me neither. What about a high end wedding photograph? Nope, not there. How about someone who’s showing off the latest clothing in a fashion shoot? Didn’t think so. The fact is, whether we’re aware of it or not, not many of us want to see those who are meant to represent the latest look or a special day with dark eyes and off-colored teeth. That’s just the way it is. Photo editors have been cleaning up these two areas (among others) forever.

Years ago, I wondered how they did it. I wondered how these magicians who hang out behind the scenes make everyone look so good. I wasn’t aware of all the intricate tools available to folks who did these types of things. Of course, I now know. I also know that it’s a snap to do what the big design companies do right in my living room. And it’s all made possible by Adobe Camera Raw. Boy, I’m starting to sound like a commercial.

In today’s post, I’m going to quickly whiten two areas of a sample photograph of a model using Camera Raw. While her eyes and teeth aren’t terribly dark or yellow originally, I think you’ll be surprised with how much better they can look after just a small amount of editing.

Original Photo​

Below is the original photo that I’ll be using for this post. If you compare it and the one above, I think you’ll see a distinct difference. Look closely at the whites and brightness of the eyes and the teeth.


When it comes to these two parts of the body, you need to primarily concern yourself with a few basic rules. First, the whites of eyes are rarely yellow. They rarely show color. What usually occurs with eyes is that they aren’t as light as they can be. They become somewhat gray. To brighten them and to make them appear more white in photographs, usually all that’s necessary is that the exposure be increased.

Second, teeth turn yellow. Not only that, but they become dark as well. Because of this, the exposure for this area of a photo needs to be increased and the saturation needs to be decreased. All color should be removed.

A while back, I read that laundry detergents actually include bluing agents to give the appearance of a brighter white with certain clothing. This makes sense because a hint of blue would certainly combat the yellow in soiled clothes. Obviously it works because it’s being done and consumers are happy. The same is true when it comes to editing the look of teeth. The yellow needs to go – not so far as to look blue, but it’ll be close.

The Adjustment Brush​

For this post, I’m going to mainly use the Adjustment Brush. If you need some background on this tool, please take a look at the post I link to below. I cover all the juicy details that are important to this specific tool.

Enhancing Photos with the Adjustment Brush in Adobe Camera Raw

Just to help out, here’s where this tool is located in the Camera Raw toolbar:


Whitening the Eyes​

I think you’re going to be surprised at how little increase of exposure is necessary to brighten up someone’s eyes. There is definitely a line you don’t want to cross while taking care of this. You can easily make someone look crazy if you go too far.

To accomplish this, I’m going to zoom into the photo quite a bit until the eyes are very large, select the Adjustment Brush tool and head over to the panel on the right side of the application. I’ll then click on the menu that’s to the right of the “Adjustment Brush” panel title and click on Reset Local Correction Settings. This will start things off with a clean slate and move all the sliders to their beginning positions.


I’ll then slightly increase the exposure by pushing that slider to the right. It doesn’t really matter how far I push at this time because I could always lower it later on. And actually, it might not be a bad idea to be somewhat extreme here because it’ll be easier to see where the edges of my edits are.

Next, I’ll resize the brush by pushing the [ and ] keys on my keyboard. Finally, I’ll set the Feather setting down towards the bottom of the panel to 20, just to keep the edges somewhat soft. When that’s done, I’ll brush over the entire area of the eyeball itself.

When I’m finished painting with the brush, I’ll click the Mask checkbox at the bottom of the panel to overlay where I painted with gray. This will give me an idea if I went outside of any edges and if I need to correct anything.


I know, it looks a little weird right now. Don’t worry, it’ll get better.

If you look at the above sreenshot closely, you’ll notice that I made a mess of the corners of the eyes. I went outside the lines. To correct this and to erase some of where I painted, I could either click the Erase radio button that’s located at the top of the Adjustment Brush panel or simply hold down the Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) key while painting. While doing this, my mouse will become an eraser, giving me the ability to quickly correct my mistakes. I’ll do this now.

Let’s take a look at the difference:


There really isn’t too much of a difference. The bottom set of eyes is slightly whiter though. I was very careful to be conservative as to not make the photo look like it was edited. I think you’ll see a more drastic change when it comes to the teeth.

Brightening the Teeth​

Keeping the photo zoomed in, I’ll hold down the Space bar on my keyboard to change my mouse to the Hand Tool. With this tool activated, I can drag the photo so the teeth are showing.

At the top of the Adjustment Brush panel, I’ll click the New radio button to set up another adjustment area and then click inside the same menu as I did earlier. I’ll select the Reset Local Correction Settings option once again to reset all the sliders. Then, I’ll increase the exposure by pushing the Exposure slider to the right a bit and then decrease the saturation by pushing the Saturation slider all the way to the left. Finally, I’ll resize my brush appropriately and begin painting the teeth, being sure to keep on only them and not the gums. Let’s take a look at how I did.


As I mentioned, this is a much bigger difference than the eyes. Notice how there is very little color in the teeth. Even though I didn’t raise the exposure that much (+1), it was the reduction of saturation that truly helped out (-99). If I were to reset the Exposure slider so it sat at a 0 value, the teeth would be gray. That’s fine because the more I raise the exposure, the brighter they get.

After I’m finished with the eyes and teeth, I can head into the Basic panel to apply some standard edits to the entire photo, such as exposure, black, whites, etc… Those types of changes will give an overall “active” appearance. If you would like to read some posts about the Basic panel, please take a look at these:

Editing a Photo Using the Basic Panel in Adobe Camera Raw

How To Make A Photo “Pop” With Adobe Camera Raw

As you can see, there isn’t much that needs to be done to color correct someone’s eyes and teeth in a photograph. All it takes is a few minutes and a good eye. If you have any questions, please leave them below. If you don’t already know, I love questions. Thanks!