Lately I've got a lot of messages from photographers all over the world (!) asking me about the editing technique I'm using for my Peaky Blinders series. This is how I do it.
I'll dive straight into it. My starting point (in Lightroom or Camera raw, I use the latter) is to pull down the highlights and increase the shadows. I then apply a fair amount of clarity and decrease the texture on the skin. If needed I repeat this procedure several times, in small steps. This is where the basic underlying tonality is coming from. In between these steps, I do some skin smoothening.
I then start color grading, using both the color/saturation slider in photoshop and the temperature slider in Camera raw. There are also standard filters in the latest edition of Photoshop you could experiment with to get different tones. In the end I go back in Camera Raw and gently increase the whites to my liking, and I may even increase the highlights and lower the blacks.
Now, how much you reduce the highlights and lift the shadows, would of course depend on the image. I use soft light (a large octa box), but directed to create a little contrast on my model. So from that starting point I often pull the highlights half way down, and lift the shadows a 100% the first time.
I have found that the results varies from model to model, as different types of skin reacts different to the procedure. It has to be said that this editing technique isn't very kind to the skin in general, but I'm willing to sacrifice a few pixels if I like the effect. For skin softening, I have a plug-in called Imagenomic, which I use with the standard settings.
I see other photographers out there which I suspect are using editing procedures a little bit similar to mine, but with less image noise, so my technique is far from perfect. You're more than welcome to improve it!
Hope this was helpful :-)
Ps. When playing with highlights and clarity the way I do, it's very easy to get unwanted noise, such as banding, especially if you have a plain background. Raw handles this much better than jpg, of course, so I wouldn't recommend trying this with a jpg.