I use two types of editing. One focusing on the ultimate in control and one focused on speed. There’s probably a few in-between as well, but they’re just variations. When I want control, this Photoshop tip is something I always use to bring luminosity and color under control. You may not have realized they were out of control, but they are, kind of.

*Click images to enlarge

Why Are Luminosity And Color Out Of Control?

They’re not out of control in the sense that they do their own thing, you still control them, but, and it’s a big BUT, without implementing this simple tip they can run a little wild. Take the photo below. That’s an already edited image from a recent family session.

mother and daughter having picnic in garden. used for demonstration of blend modes photoshop tip
Photo by Max Bridge Portrait Photographer

To demonstrate my point I’ll be making some fairly extreme edits, this is only for demonstration purposes. If we add a fairly strong curve you’ll notice that while the contrast of the image has dramatically changed, so too has the color; just look at how vibrant the grass became.

mother and toddler having picnic in garden. increased contrast to demonstrate blend mode photoshop tip

Now, if I change the same curves adjustment layer to a blend mode of Luminosity, look what happens.

mother and toddler on blanket in garden. Demonstrating luminosity blend mode photoshop tip

As you can see, rather than our curve layer adjusting both the luminosity AND color of our image, it’s now restricted to only the luminosity. The nasty increase in saturation has disappeared, and we are left with only adjustments to the tones.


blend modes in photoshop

Use This Photoshop Tip To Bring Luminosity And Color Under Control

The trouble is, when we make adjustments in Photoshop we’re generally only wanting to adjust one parameter. If you want to increase the contrast, crush the blacks, adjust saturation in the reds, greens, blues and so on, you can simply use the Normal blend mode and continue as you have been, but as you can see above it begins to affect other aspects of your image. You may only want to adjust the contrast, but inadvertently you’re now also increasing the saturation.

To stop this, use blend modes. If you only want to adjust the luminosity in your image, use a blend mode of Luminosity. If you only want to adjust the color, use Color. Simple. The example I’ve given here may only be a fairly basic family photo but this tip can be used in ALL of your editing. I use it constantly throughout my product photography and whenever I’m spending a decent amount of time retouching a portrait. Use this for anything in Photoshop where you want to gain a little more control.

Another Quick Example

father and daughter on stone steps in London park. Used to demonstrate blend modes in Photoshop
Photo by Max Bridge Portrait Photographer

To demonstrate this again, I’ll be adjusting the color of this image.

You can see the original edit above, but lets say I want to increase the saturation in the trees, remove some yellow from the stone and bump up the reds. I add a Hue and Saturation layer and get the resulting photo.

father and daughter on stone steps in London park. Used to demonstrate blend modes in Photoshop. Increased saturation

The adjustments I’ve made here are far more subtle then the first example, but there has still been clear changes to the luminosity. Not only have the desired colors been altered in terms of their saturation and hue but unwanted luminosity changes have also occurred; the trees becoming slightly darker for instance. To remedy this just change the blend mode of your adjustment layer to Color.

father and daughter on steps in london park. demonstrating blend modes in photoshop

As if by magic any unwanted luminance changes are stripped away and we’re left with only the desired alterations to color.

Summary – Does This Really Matter

Yes and no. It depends how much control you want, or need, and how much time you have. As I mentioned earlier, I have two types of editing; ultimate control and speed. When I want the ultimate in control, when I’m scrutinizing every detail, every color change, luminance shift; then I do not want any changes to occur that I did not intend. It’s frustrating. On the other hand, if I need to get something done fast (it’s not paying me enough) then I will not go into this much detail. However, it’s nice to know the option is there should you need it.


In the end, most changes you make won’t be drastic enough for the unwanted shifts in Luminance or Color to really bug you (unless you’re a perfectionist like me). It all comes down to time and money, the latter being reserved for the pros amongst you.

Have you visited the SLR Lounge Store recently? If not, make sure you head over now and take a look at all the fantastic education on offer. If you’re new to photography, I’d recommend Photography 101. If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of both on camera and off camera flash, Lighting 101 and 201 are great options. Click here to take a look.