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Using Lightroom's HSL / Color / Grayscale Panel

Need to make some fine-tuned color adjustments in Lightroom? Martin Evening shows the way with tips for using the HSL / Color / Grayscale panel.
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Lightroom’s HSL / Color / Grayscale panel (see Figure 1) is an all-in-one panel for fine-tuning targeted color adjustments and grayscale conversions. The HSL component is kind of equivalent to the Hue/Saturation dialog found in Photoshop, but in Lightroom you can apply these types of adjustments to raw images, not just pixel images. (You can do this in Photoshop CS3 as well.) Essentially, you have three color-adjustment sections for controlling hue, saturation, and luminance over eight color-band ranges, with target adjustment tools available for each.

Figure 1

Figure 1 The HSL / Color / Grayscale panel with the HSL mode selected.

The Color section of this panel, shown in Figure 2, provides a more simplified version of the HSL controls, with Hue, Saturation, and Luminance sliders, as well as button selectors to choose the colors.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The HSL / Color / Grayscale panel with the Color mode selected.

The sliders in the Hue section control the hue color balance and allow you to make subtle (or not so subtle) hue color shifts in each of the eight color-band ranges. For example, if you start with the Green Hue slider, dragging the slider to the right makes the greens more cyan, and dragging the slider to the left makes the greens more yellow.

The sliders in the Saturation section control the color saturation. Dragging the slider to the right increases the saturation, and dragging to the left decreases the saturation. Dragging all the Saturation sliders to the left converts the whole image to monochrome.

The sliders in the Luminance section darken or lighten the colors in the selected color ranges.

If you click the All button, the panel expands to reveal a complete list of all the sliders. The HSL controls can be applied in a Target Adjustment mode. Just click to select an HSL section such as Hue, Saturation, or Luminance, and then click the Target Adjustment tool button to switch to Target Adjustment mode. Click and drag up or down with the mouse to adjust the tones that match where you’re dragging. The HSL / Color / Grayscale panel should be considered a color adjustment tool for use in those situations where you need to target specific colors and fine-tune color adjustments. The Target Adjustment controls are specific to each section of the HSL panel; when switching between Hue, Saturation, and Luminance, take care to activate the Target mode in whichever section you’re editing. You can turn off the Target Adjustment tool by clicking the button again or by pressing Command-Alt-Shift-N (Mac) or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-N (PC).

If you shoot a lot of skin tones, consider creating a custom camera calibration. But if you’re shooting a mixture of subjects with the same calibration, you can also use the HSL Color Tuning panel to compensate for reddish skin tone colors (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3 The subject in this picture is a bit too pink.

In Figure 4, I went to the Hue section and clicked to activate the Target Adjustment tool. Then I clicked on a skin tone area in the picture and dragged the mouse upward to make the skin tones less red and more yellow.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Using the mouse and the Target Adjustment tool, I changed the skin tone of the subject without adjusting the hues in the rest of the photo.

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