Mastering Color in Lightroom using the HSL Tab

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Color in Camera

Mastering color in Lightroom occurs in two steps. The first is when you take the photo. Successful color photography requires an awareness of the colors in the scene and how they work together. If you read about the topic of color composition you will come across a lot of advice, including articles about the emotional values of color. It’s all good background knowledge, but if there’s one tip I can give that will help you compose better color images right away it is to simplify. Color is powerful, and if there are too many colors in the photo they will either clash or weaken each other. Simplify the use of color to make your images stronger. This works because the colors you choose to leave in have more impact when there are fewer other hues in the frame to distract from them.

Here’s an example below. In the photo on the left the use of color is not as good as it could be. There are too many conflicting hues. The red stripes on the flag compete with the orange flowers on the porch, and the blue and violet paintwork. It is more of a snapshot than a carefully composed image.

In comparison the photo on the right is dominated by red and yellow, and the colors are much stronger.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

An easy way to simplify color is to use a telephoto lens to simplify the composition. Another is to use a wide aperture to blur the background. Click the links to read my articles on those topics.

You can go into the topic of color in more depth by reading Mitchell Kanashkevich’s ebook Captivating Color.

Color in Lightroom

The next step, after you have taken your photo, is to get the best out of it in Lightroom. Today I’m going to focus on the first two tabs in the HSL / Color / B&W panel, and show you how to use them. If you’re a Photoshop user, you will find the same sliders in Adobe Camera Raw.

The HSL and Color tabs are essentially the same, but with the sliders arranged in a different order. In the Color tab, the sliders are grouped in eight colors.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Click on one of the colored squares at the top to show the sliders from a single color group.

The HSL tab groups the same eight color sliders into three categories: Hue, Saturation and Luminance. It is the tab I prefer to use as I find it easier to adjust by property (ie. hue, saturation or luminance) rather than color. It also has a Targeted Adjustment Tool (I will show you how to use that further on in the article), which the Color tab doesn’t.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

H=Hue, S=Saturation, L=Luminance

Now it’s time to take a look at the sliders under the HSL and Color tabs to see what they do. You can carry out most of these adjustments within either tab, but the examples I show you will all use the HSL tab.

Hue adjustment sliders

Hue is another word for color. The Hue sliders let you replace colors in your photo with neighbouring hues from the color wheel. Let’s take a look at the earlier photo again to see how it works. The image is dominated by the color red. This diagram shows you approximately where those red hues occur on the color wheel.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

When you move the Red slider under the Hue setting to +100 Lightroom replaces red with orange tones, located nearby on the color wheel.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

When you move the Red slider to -100 Lightroom replaces red with purple tones, located in the other direction on the color wheel.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

It is possible to make dramatic differences to the colors in your images using just the Hue sliders. Here, the right hand version of the image was created by setting Red to +100 and Blue to -100. Lightroom replaced the red and blue tones in the photo with other colors.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Before left – after Hues adjusted on the right.

The Targeted Adjustment Tool

The Targeted Adjustment Tool gives you an alternative way to do the same thing. It is more precise than the sliders because most of the hues within your photos will fall somewhere between the color sliders in the HSL tab. The Targeted Adjustment Tool lets you target those colors exactly.

Start by clicking on the Targeted Adjustment Tool icon. Use the mouse to lay the crosshair over the hue you want to adjust. Click and hold the left mouse button down while you move the mouse upwards to replace the hues underneath the crosshair with neighbouring colors from the color wheel in one direction, and down to replace them with colors from the other direction.

When you do this, Lightroom moves colored sliders in whatever combination is required to adjust the color you have targeted. In the following example I used the Targeted Adjustment Tool to target the red colors in the wall. Lightroom moved both the Red and Orange sliders, indicating that the targeted color was comprised almost equally of those colors.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

You can use the Targeted Adjustment Tool to target colors with precision exactly the same way when you adjust Saturation and Luminance.

Saturation adjustment sliders

The term saturation refers to the strength of a color. If you increase Saturation, the color becomes stronger. Decrease it and it becomes weaker. Note: My article Color Composition: Using Subtle Color goes into the topic of using subtle colors in more detail.

One way to emphasize color in Lightroom is to desaturate surrounding colors. Here’s an example. The starting point is an image of an old car I took in Alaska. The composition is simple – the red paintwork on the car contrasts against the blue wooden shingles on the house behind it and the patches of greenery.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

First I used the Targeted Adjustment Tool to reduce the saturation of the green patches. Lightroom reduced Saturation in the Yellow and Green sliders accordingly.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

This simplifies the color composition even more, leaving red and blue as the dominant hues.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Then I used the Targeted Adjustment Tool again to reduce the saturation of the blue paint. Lightroom reduced Saturation in the Aqua and Blue sliders.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

This is the result. I’ve placed the original and the final versions together so you can see the difference.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Here’s another technique you can use. I set every Saturation slider except Red to zero. This desaturated most of the colors, turning the entire image black and white with the exception of the red paintwork on the car. I added a slight vignette using the Post-Crop Vignetting tool and increased Contrast and Clarity in the Basic panel to arrive at this black and white conversion.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Luminance adjustment sliders

Luminance is the brightness of a color. You can make colors brighter to make them stand out more, or darker to subdue them. Depending on how bright the color was to start with, reducing luminance may also increase saturation, and increasing it may reduce saturation.

Here’s a example showing the difference when I used the Targeted Adjustment Tool to reduce the luminance of the blue paintwork.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Lightroom reduced luminance in the Blue and Purple sliders when I made this adjustment.

Mastering colour in Lightroom

Note that with some images the colors may go a little weird when you adjust luminance too much. Watch out for this and ease back on the luminance sliders if this happens to you.

Your turn

Now it’s your turn. How do use you use the HSL and Color tabs when processing your photos in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw? Have you come up with any interesting techniques you can share with our readers? Let us know in the comments.


Mastering Lightroom: Books One, Two and Three

Mastering Lightroom ebook bundle

My Mastering Lightroom ebooks are a complete guide to using Lightroom’s Library and Develop modules. Written for Lightroom 4 & 5 books One and Two take you through every panel in both modules and show you how to import and organise your images, use Collections and creatively edit your photos. Book Three shows you how to create stunning black and white images in Lightroom.

The post Mastering Color in Lightroom using the HSL Tab by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop

In addition to being able to send single images from Lightroom to Photoshop for editing you can also send a series of images to Photoshop to assemble into a panorama. This is a useful because the Photoshop panorama merge feature is pretty good (certainly since the improvements in Photoshop CS3 & CS4) and other Photoshop tools such as Content Aware Fill and the Lens Correction Filter are handy for finishing your panoramas. When you are done, click Save and the completed panorama will be sent back to Lightroom for further processing.

To see how this is done, begin inside Lightroom and select the images to assemble into a panorama. I like to put these into a collection so they are handy if I want to try multiple panorama options to select the best of them. I don’t typically process the images before sending them to Photoshop and, instead, I process the completed panorama when it returns to Lightroom. One exception to this is fixing the white balance if it were incorrectly set on the camera at capture time, for example.

Photoshop can assemble panoramas both vertically and horizontally and it can also take a mix of images such as I used here. This sequence is six shots horizontally across the front of a building and one extra shot to handle the building’s tower which wasn’t captured in the original sequence. If I’d been thinking, I would have captured some extra sky to use but we can solve that in Photoshop.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 1

Select the images, right click and choose Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 2

Photoshop will open with the images you sent to Photoshop listed in the Photomerge dialog. Now you need to determine the Layout to use. In most cases the Auto setting will be a good choice – when you select this, Photoshop will analyze the images and determine the best of the other layout alternatives: Perspective, Cylindrical and Spherical to use.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop  3

Check the Blend Images Together checkbox so that the images will be seamlessly blended together – then you won’t have to do it yourself. You can also click Geometric Distortion Correction to remove the effect of any barrel, pincushion or fisheye distortion in the original images. If the edges of your images have some edge vignetting click Vignette Removal. If you’re unsure what to choose, check all three checkboxes. Click Ok and wait as the images are aligned and blended.

Once the panorama is assembled you can straighten the image if desired. To do this select all the layers and target the Ruler tool. Now drag along a line in the image which should be perfectly horizontal – you won’t be able to click the Straighten Layer button to rotate the image because you will have multiple layers selected. Instead, choose Image > Image Rotation > Arbitrary and click Ok to straighten the entire image to the angle of the Ruler line.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop  4

Most panoramas will then need to be cropped to a rectangle to eliminate uneven areas around the edge of the image. However, before you do this you may want to fill in some of the empty areas of the image using the Content Aware Fill tool so you can crop larger than you would otherwise be able to do. To do this you’ll either need to flatten the image to a single layer or you will need to create a new layer with the entire image on it to use. To flatten the image choose Layer > Flatten Image. To make a new layer with the image on it (but still retain the individual layers below) click the topmost layer and press Control + Alt + Shift + E (Command + Option + Shift + E on the Mac).

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop  5

Select the area that you want to fill and then choose Edit > Fill, from the Use list choose Content Aware and click Ok. Photoshop will attempt to fill the missing area with details from the image around it. If the image contains sufficient detail you should be able to build up missing areas of sky and foreground, for example.

If you encounter problems with the Content Aware Fill feature this post will show you how to mask a layer to get better results when using it: http://digital-photography-school.com/smarter-content-aware-fill-in-photoshop. Crop the image when you have filled the edge area.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 6

To fix unwanted distortion in an image you can use the Lens Correction tool. This tool works on a single layer and you run it by choosing Filter > Lens Correction > Manual. Adjust the Horizontal Perspective slider to fix problems with an image which has not been captured face onto the point of interest. Use the Vertical Perspective slider to adjust for keystoning – generally you will drag this slider to the left. Use the Geometric Distortion slider to remove barrel and pincushion distortion.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop 7

Once you have finished assembling the panorama choose File > Save to save the image and return to Lightroom where your panorama will be ready for further editing.

LR PS panoramaMerge 8

If you are not using Lightroom you can assemble a panorama from Bridge or from inside Photoshop. In Bridge select the panorama sequence and choose Tools > Photoshop > Photomerge in Bridge. In Photoshop, first open the images to use then choose File > Automate > Photomerge and click the Add Open Files button. In either case you will probably want to fix the image in Photoshop once the panorama is complete. If you are using Lightroom you may prefer to finish processing the panorama in Lightroom.

Layout Options

Each of the panorama Layout options in Photoshop results in a different looking panorama. Choosing Auto tells Photoshop to select the best of the options Perspective, Spherical and Cylindrical for your particular sequence of images.

Here is the result of each of the other Layout options used with our image sequence, these results haven’t been edited except to straighten the image and brighten it a little. You may want to experiment with any given sequence of images to see which of these options gives you the most pleasing result:

Perspective Layout

The panorama is assembled in relation to the middle image of your sequence of images. The middle image is placed in position and the other images arranged either side of it and skewed and repositioned as needed. This often results in edges which are taller than the middle giving rise to the term ‘bow-tie” distortion.

LR PS panoramaMerge perspective

Cylindrical Layout

This layout avoids the bow-tie distortion by showing the images as they might look if placed on an unwrapped cylinder.

LR PS panoramaMerge cylindrical

Spherical Layout

This layout arranges the images as if to cover the inside of a sphere. It is a good choice for 360 degree panoramas and can also give good results with other shorter panorama sequences.

LR PS panoramaMerge spherical

Collage Layout

This layout aligns the images matching overlapping content. If necessary, image layers are transformed and rotated.

LR PS panoramaMerge collage

Reposition Layout

This layout aligns the images matching overlapping content but without transforming or rotated the images.

LR PS panoramaMerge reposition

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop

The post Sending Panorama Sequences from Lightroom to Photoshop by Helen Bradley appeared first on Digital Photography School.