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Selective Color

Sometimes I like to add a little selective color back to my black-and-whites to help breathe some life back into the image. While I don't do this often, it's still a popular style of photography, especially with portraits. First we're going to create a new preset we can use in the future that will trick Lightroom into desaturating an image but still allow us to paint color into it.

  1. Create an HSL B&W Preset.
  2. Locate the HSL panel in the Develop module.
  3. Move all the color sliders to -100 (Figure 4.25).
    Figure 4.25

    Figure 4.25 Move all color sliders to the left so they read -100.

  4. Head to the Presets panel and click the plus sign to add a preset.
  5. Name the new preset HSL B&W.
  6. Click Treatment (Color) and Color Adjustments. This way only these changes will be affected by this preset.
  7. Click Create (Figure 4.26).
    Figure 4.26

    Figure 4.26 Now we've created a new preset we can use anytime.

Now that we've used our HSL preset to create a monochrome image, it's time to explore the benefits of this technique. We can add color back into an image using either the Targeted Adjustment tool or the adjustment brush. Let's review the pros and cons of both approaches.

Targeted Adjustment or Slider

Let's say I want to add color to the eyes of this elephant to bring a little life into the image. I can select the Targeted Adjustment tool, click on the pupil, and use the up arrow key to add color back to the image. You'll notice that the red and orange sliders are both increasing in saturation, and color is being added back into the entire image (Figure 4.27). This is not what we want.

Figure 4.27

Figure 4.27 The Trageted Adjustment tool added too much color globally.

Essentially, using the Targeted Adjustment tool to add color is a quick process that often only works if you have isolated colors in the image (such as an extreme close-up portrait where the subject has blue eyes). Because there probably isn't any other blue within the frame, you can just increase the sliders. But if your subject's blue shirt is also in the frame, you'll reintroduce color there as well. Let's try a more direct approach.

Painting With Color

Our other option is to use the adjustment brush to paint in the areas where we want to bring the color back. While we have more control with this method, the downside is that it takes a little extra time. However, it's worth it if it lets us achieve the effects we want. Let's go through how we would do this, step by step.

  1. Zoom in on the elephant's eye by clicking in the screen or using the Navigator window to locate the elephant's pupil.
  2. Select the adjustment brush and create a smaller brush by decreasing the Size slider. We want a small slider since we'll be painting in around the eyes. I like to do most of my painting using the Mask Overlay tool so that I can see what I'm doing. Check the Show Selected Mask Overlay box. Now we use our tool to paint in the eyes. Once we've finished, increase the Saturation slider to 100 percent. We press the letter O (not zero) on the keyboard to toggle our mask on and off so we can see the changes. If you missed a few spots, just fill them in, or if you went outside the lines click on erase and brush away your overspray.
  3. Now, we'll zoom back out of the image and make some final adjustments using Tone Curve. We're going to place a gentle S in the tone curve, something I do quite often, but this time we're going to compress the Tone Range sliders, as we learned earlier in the chapter, so that we get more contrast in the midtones (Figure 4.28).
    Figure 4.28

    Figure 4.28 We increase midtone contrast by moving all three sliders to the center.

  4. We are almost there. Since there's a lot of texture in this image, I'm going to add a little clarity by increasing the Clarity slider (Figure 4.29) and finish the image with a very small vignette using the Highlight Priority slider (Figures 4.30 and 4.31). Voilà!
    Figure 4.29

    Figure 4.29 We increase the Clarity slider to bring out the texture and lines.

    Figure 4.30

    Figure 4.30 This is my preferred method for adding a vignette.

    Figure 4.31

    Figure 4.31 Here you can see how all of these adjustments came together in the final product.

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