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Boosting (or Reducing) Individual Colors

Since Photoshop Lightroom doesn’t have selection tools (like Adobe Photoshop has), how do you tweak or change just one individual color? You do it using the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel, which lets you adjust individual colors within your image. This is great for removing obvious color casts, repairing skin tone problems, or just changing the color of an object within your photo. Don’t let all the sliders throw you off—this is much easier than it looks.

  • Step One. When you want to adjust an area of color (for example, let’s say we didn’t like the color of the bouquet the bride is holding in the photo shown here), the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel (shown here, in the right side Panels area) is the place to go. By the way, those words in the panel header (HSL/Color/Grayscale) aren’t just a description, they’re clickable. So, to adjust the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance of your photo, click once directly on HSL to display the HSL section of the panel. In that section, the four words that appear across the top of the panel are clickable as well. So, if you want to adjust the Hue of your photo, click the Hue link and Hue controls appear (as seen here).
  • Step Two. There are two other sections that are hidden (Saturation and Luminance), and if you click on their names, their sections replace the Hue section that’s currently visible. If you click on All (as shown here), it displays all three sections—one on top of the other (as seen here). If this sounds complicated, don’t worry, it really isn’t—especially if you’re familiar with Adobe Photoshop’s standard Hue/Saturation dialog (as you’ll soon see).
  • Step Three. The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Hue/Saturation dialog is shown here. You’ll notice that you can adjust the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness settings using these three sliders, and you can do that for six different colors by choosing which colors you want to edit from a pop-up menu. So, if it weren’t for the pop-up menu, which lets you choose individual colors (seen in the bottom capture here), you’d have 18 individual sliders, right? (Each of the six colors would have one slider for Hue, one for Saturation, and one for Lightness, which totals 18 sliders.) Well, that’s what you’ve got in Photoshop Lightroom—pretty much the same functionality as Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation dialog, but with three minor differences. They are: (1) Lightroom calls it Luminance, not Lightness, (2) Lightroom calls cyan “Aqua,” and (3) instead of just being able to edit six colors, Lightroom adds two more—purple and orange.
  • Step Four. So, that’s what those sliders all do—the same thing that Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation adjustment does, but Lightroom gives you two more colors (which is nice). For example, look at the Hue sliders. Without having to choose from a pop-up menu, you can instantly adjust the reds, oranges, yellows, greens, aquas, blues, purples, and magentas. If you want to adjust how intense and vibrant these colors are, use the Saturation sliders (if you look at the color bars inside the sliders themselves, you’ll see that dragging these to the right will make the colors that slider controls more vibrant and colorful). The bottom set of sliders, Luminance, acts like Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation Lightness slider—they control the overall lightness or darkness of the colors you’re adjusting.
  • Step Five. Okay, so let’s start tweaking the color of the bouquet. If you wanted to change the color of the flowers in the bouquet, which section would do that? It would be the Hue section—because that’s where you change colors. You wouldn’t choose the Saturation section, because that only controls how vivid (or pale) each color will be. And the Luminance section only controls the overall brightness of each color. So, try dragging the Orange Hue slider to the left (as shown here) to see how that affects the flowers. They are more orange for sure, but so are her flesh tones, too. That’s because when you drag a slider, it affects all the orange in the photo—not just in the flowers. Since that looks bad, click the Reset button at the bottom of the right side panels.
  • Step Six. Rather than just dragging sliders and hoping for the best, instead click on the little target icon in the top-left corner of the Hue section (when you roll over it with your cursor, two arrows pointing up and down will show. It’s circled in red here, and its official name is the Targeted Adjustment tool). This tool lets you interactively adjust color areas in your photo by clicking-and-dragging. So, once you have the tool, go over to the bouquet, click directly on the flowers (as shown here), and drag downward. As you drag, the sliders that affect the colors your cursor is over will start moving. If you drag downward, the Red and Orange Hue sliders move toward being more red and more orange. If you drag upward, it drags away from those colors and more toward yellow (give it a try and you’ll see what I mean).
  • Step Seven. Get the flowers where they look good to you, and then we’re going to bring out the greens in the leaves of the bouquet. Click with the crosshair directly on the leaves (the target and arrows icon simply shows you which directions you can drag) and drag upward to make the leaves greener and richer. Now, how did I know to drag upward this time, rather than down? By looking at the color bars under the sliders. As soon as you start dragging in either direction, you’ll see which sliders move (in this case, it was the Yellow and Green Hue sliders), and the color bars show that if you move the sliders to the right, those colors will become darker and more green. So, initially I dragged downward, but one glance at the color bars within the sliders showed me I was dragging in the wrong direction. That’s the trick. So give it a try—click on the green leaves and drag upward until the leaves look greener, but as always, keep an eye on the rest of the photo so the bride doesn’t turn green.
  • Step Eight. Greening up the leaves did make the ribbon on the bouquet a bit greenish, so to adjust just that area, move your cursor over the ribbon (as shown here) and drag downward, which moves just the Yellow Hue slider back to the left, away from the greenish end of the slider. That’s all it takes to get the ribbon looking right again, and if you look at the leaves, they still look nice and green. Now, click on the word Saturation at the top of the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel to reveal just the Saturation sliders.
  • Step Nine. Now that you’re in the Saturation section (remember, this controls how vivid the colors will appear), we can make her skin tone warmer (without changing the Hue), by clicking on her arm (as shown here) and dragging upward. This moves the Orange and Yellow Saturation sliders to the right (as shown here), increasing the saturation of those two colors. Now, click on the word Luminance at the top of the panel to bring up that section. (Note: When you’re working with the Targeted Adjustment tool, you can also change sections using a special pop-up menu to the right of Target Group in the toolbar.)
  • Step Ten. The Luminance section controls the brightness of the colors, and in this case, we want to bring back some of the highlights in her face. So click on a highlight area of her face (as shown here) and drag upward. As you do, you’ll see those areas become significantly lighter (don’t drag too far or you could wind up blowing out some highlights, so as always, keep an eye on the photo as you use this tool). That gives you a pretty good overview of what the three sections of the HSL part of the panel do, and how to use the all-important Targeted Adjustment tool (by the way, since Adobe added this tool to Lightroom, I pretty much use it exclusively for adjusting the hue, saturation, or luminance of colors in my photos, because it helps you target just the area of color you want to adjust). Dragging the sliders is just too much of a guessing game, unless it’s really obvious where the color you want to adjust is (i.e., you want to make a blue sky bluer, so you can pretty much figure that you’d use the Aqua and Blue sliders).
  • Step Eleven. If you’re from the old school and prefer Photoshop’s way of adjusting Hue/Saturation (using the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness sliders grouped together for each color), then in the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel’s header, click on the word Color. This brings up the panel you see here, which is more like Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation control. At the top, you click on the color swatch you want to adjust and a Hue, Saturation, and Luminance slider appears for that color, just like in Photoshop (as shown here).
  • Step Twelve. If you click the All button at the end of the row of swatches (as shown here), it displays each individual color and the three sliders (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) for each of the colors. This makes for quite a long scrolling list of sliders, and it’s probably rare that you’d need to adjust nearly each and every color, so I think it’s easier just to click on the swatch for the color you want to adjust. Of course, I prefer the HSL panel over this Color panel all the way around, but I did want to show you this just in case you feel it fits your workflow better. (Note: If you totally mess up with the sliders in any of these sections [Hue, Saturation, or Luminance], just press-and-hold the Option [PC: Alt] key and the section’s name changes to a Reset button [i.e., Reset Saturation].) Lastly, in the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel’s header, you can also click on Grayscale. We’ll cover that in the chapter on converting to black and white, because...well...that’s where it belongs.
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