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The HSL / Color / B&W Panel in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

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Martin Evening shows you how to use the HSL / Color / B&W Panel in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 to control Hue, Saturation, and Luminance over eight color band ranges.
From the book

The HSL / Color / B&W panel is an all-in-one panel for making fine-tuned color adjustments and black-and-white conversions. The HSL component (see Figure 4.57) is kind of equivalent to the Hue/Saturation dialog found in Photoshop, except in Lightroom you can apply these types of adjustments to raw photos as well as rendered images. It should be considered a color adjustment tool for those situations where you need to target specific colors in order to fine-tune the color adjustments. Essentially, you have three color adjustment sections (with a Target Adjustment tool mode for each) that allow you to control the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance over eight color band ranges. The Color section of this panel (see Figure 4.58) provides a more simplified version of the HSL controls with button selectors at the top for choosing the desired color band to edit, with Hue, Saturation, and Luminance sliders below. The B&W section is for carrying out monochrome conversions, which I’ll discuss separately in the following chapter.

Figure 4.57 The HSL / Color / Grayscale panel with the HSL mode selected.

Figure 4.58 The HSL / Color / Grayscale panel with the Color mode selected.

The sliders in the Hue section control the hue color balance and these allow you to make subtle (or not so subtle) hue color shifts in each of the eight color band ranges. For example, if you adjust the Green Hue slider, dragging to the right makes the greens more cyan, while dragging to the left makes the greens more yellow. The sliders in the Saturation section control the color saturation. Dragging a slider to the right increases the saturation, while dragging to the left decreases the saturation to the point where if all the Saturation sliders were dragged to the left, you could convert the whole of the image to black and white. The Saturation slider controls apply a nonlinear saturation-type adjustment (similar to what the Vibrance slider does). This means that as you increase the saturation, lower saturated pixel values are increased relative to the already higher saturated pixel values in an image. The sliders in the Luminance section can be used to darken or lighten colors in the selected color ranges, and do so in a way that manages to preserve the hue and saturation. If you click the All button, the panel expands to give you access to all the sliders at once. Also, clicking on the Hue, Saturation, or Luminance buttons after you have clicked to select one of these modes toggles showing the controls for those parameters or showing All sliders.

As with the Tone Curve panel, the HSL controls can be applied using a Target Adjustment mode. Select Hue, Saturation, or Luminance and click the Target Adjustment tool button to activate it. You can then click on an image and drag up or down with the mouse to adjust the colors targeted by the cursor. You can also use the following shortcuts to enable the different HSL Target Adjustment modes: Hue: Image (Mac) or Image (PC); Saturation: Image (Mac) or Image (PC); and Luminance: Image (Mac) or Image (PC). You can turn off the Target Adjustment tool by clicking the Target Adjustment button again, pressing Image, or using the Image (Mac) or Image (PC) shortcut. Also bear in mind the new Target Adjustment tool behavior since Lightroom 3 means that the Target Adjustment tool is deactivated whenever you switch to working in a new panel.

  1. If you shoot a lot of skin tones, you might consider creating a custom camera calibration for such work (see “Camera profiles” on page 260). But if you shoot a mixture of subjects with the same camera profile, you can also use the HSL panel Hue section to compensate for reddish skin tone colors.
  2. In this example, I went to the Hue section and activated the Target Adjustment tool. I then clicked on a skin tone area in the picture and dragged the mouse upward to make the skin tones less red and more yellow.

Selective color darkening

At first glance, the HSL controls in Lightroom appear to work the same as those used in Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation dialog, but if you experiment a little further you will notice some distinct differences. For example, the Lightroom Hue slider adjustments are somewhat tamer than their Photoshop cousins. The Saturation sliders respond more or less the same as they do in Photoshop, but the most marked differences are revealed when working with the Luminance controls. You may have noticed that when you adjust the Lightness slider in the Photoshop Hue/Saturation dialog, the adjusted colors tend to lose their saturation. To selectively darken a color in Photoshop, you generally have to search for a magic combination of Saturation and Lightness in order to achieve the desired result. But the Lightroom sliders really do respond the way you would expect them to and these provide you with complete control over the luminance of any color range, as shown in the accompanying steps.

  1. The challenge here was to simulate the effect of a polarizing lens filter and darken the blue sky without affecting the tonal balance of the other colors. If working in Photoshop, it would have been tricky to find the exact Saturation and Lightness values that would have made the blue sky go darker.
  2. To darken the blue sky colors in Lightroom, I enabled the Target Adjustment mode in the Luminance section of the HSL panel, clicked on an area of blue sky, and dragged downward. As you can see, this mainly reduced the Blue slider luminance and successfully added more contrast between the sky and the clouds. I also adjusted the Yellow slider here to lighten the flowers.
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