HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) is a color model that is often used by graphic designers and web developers. The hue is the color itself, while saturation represents the intensity of that color. Lightness, on the other hand, refers to how light or dark the hue appears. In this article we will discuss the HSL and show you how to make changes to it in the popular photo editing software, Adobe Lightroom. The HSL/Color/B&W Panel is unique from all of the other panels in Lightroom because there are 3 sections within this panel that you can work in to adjust your images.
In the HSL section, you can adjust the Hues, Saturation and Luminance of the image, hence the name HSL. The HSL section is almost identical to the Color section of the panel except the Color section displays a different layout than the HSL section. Lastly, the B&W section in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel stands for “black and white,” where you can adjust the luminance of the colors in black and white. In this article, we will discuss how to make adjustments in each of these sections as well as explain how these adjustments affect your images overall.
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Note, while the following demonstrates the concepts of HSL, Color and Black and White using Lightroom 4, the same concepts will apply to any photo editing application, including newer versions of Lightroom.
The HSL Section in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel
First, to expand or collapse the HSL/Color/Black &W Panel, hit “Ctrl + 3.” Then, click on “HSL” in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel. As mentioned earlier, HSL stands for “Hue,” “Saturation,” and “Luminance,” which you can see when you expand the panel. Hue deals with the actual color tones of the image, like shifting color tones to a different tonal range. Saturation deals with the power or the saturation of a specific color while Luminance deals with the brightness of a certain color in the image.
To adjust Hue, Saturation or Luminance individually, simply click on whichever of those you want to adjust. We also have the option to view all 3 at once by clicking on “All.”
Adjusting the Hue in the HSL Section of the HSL/Color/B&W Panel
We have different Hues in our images and however we adjust the Hues sliders will affect the tonal range of each color. For example, if we want to affect the Blues in our image, we can drag the slider for Blue to the left or right. Dragging the slider to the left will make the Blues in our image greener, whereas dragging the slider to the right will add more purple into our image.
To adjust the sliders in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel, we can drag the slider to the left or right with a mouse. We can also hover over the slider with our mouse and use the “Up” and “Down” arrows on the keyboard to make adjustments in small increments. To make adjustments in large increments, hold down “Shift” while hitting “Up” or “Down.” You can also type in a specific number to make adjustments. To reset adjustments made, just double-click on the slider.
As you can see below, once we double-click on the slider, the setting for Blue is reset back to 0.
We can also use the Adjustment Point Tool to adjust the Hues in our image. In fact, Hue, Saturation and Luminance all have an Adjustment Point Tool. This tool can be found at the top left.
When we select this tool, we can go anywhere in our image and pick a specific color. We can click and pull the Hue Adjustment Point Tool up or down and the tool will adjust that color. For example, the ocean in our image looks more orange than anything else, so if I click on the ocean with the Hue Adjustment Point Tool and drag down, the tool will adjust the orange slider to the left. If I pull the Hue Adjustment Point Tool up, the orange slider will move to the right.
As you can see below, the Hue Adjustment Point Tool is over the ocean and we have pulled the tool down and the Hues have adjusted to the left.
As mentioned earlier, the ocean was more orange than anything else. Therefore, the orange slider in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel moved to the left when we pulled the Hue Adjustment Point Tool down in our image.
The Hue Adjustment Point Tool actually affects all of the oranges and the reds in the overall image, and not just the area that we selected. For example, if you look at our subjects’ faces in the image above, their faces are too red. Therefore, we need to be careful when adjusting the Hues that we do not go too far in either direction. To reset all of the settings made to the Hues, just hold down “Alt.” “Reset Hue” will appear in the panel. When you select “Reset Hue,” your Hues will reset back to 0.
As you can see below, all of the Hues in each color are back to 0 when we click on “Reset Hue.”
Adjusting the Saturation in the HSL Section of the HSL/Color/B&W Panel
The most effective way to adjust the saturation of each color is with the Saturation Adjustment Point Tool. When we have the Saturation Adjustment Point Tool selected, any area of the image that we are hovering over will highlight the color in the panel that will be affected.
In our image below, the Saturation Adjustment Tool is hovered over the ocean.
As mentioned before, the ocean looks more orange than anything else, so the orange is highlighted in the panel below.
To adjust the saturation, click on an area of the image with the Saturation Adjustment Point Tool and drag up or down. To add more saturation, drag the Saturation Adjustment Point Tool up, and to decrease the saturation, drag the tool down. When we adjust the saturation, only the area we select will change. For example, in the image above, there is too much color in her face. To fix the saturation, click on her face with the Saturation Adjustment Point Tool and pull down.
In our image below, we have pulled down the saturation in her face with the Saturation Adjustment Point Tool. This adjustment has nicely toned down the colors in the face only.
As you can see in the panel below, the reds and oranges in her face have been pulled down. The Saturation Adjustment Point Tool adjusted both the reds and oranges because although there were more oranges than reds in her face, there were still some reds in her face.
When adding saturation to an area of the image, do not pull the saturation up too high as this will create grainy artifacts in the colors of your image. The Saturation Adjustment Point Tool is a great way of adjusting the different colors in your image because it amplifies certain colors in an image while pulling down other colors.
Adjusting the Luminance in the HSL Section of the HSL/Color/B&W Panel
As mentioned before, Luminance deals with the actual brightness levels of the different colors. Once again, when we select the Luminance Adjustment Point Tool, we can see which color we are affecting in the panel.
In our image below, we have selected the sky with the Luminance Adjustment Point Tool.
As you can see in the panel below, Blue is highlighted since there are mostly blues in the sky in our image.
Now, with the Luminance Adjustment Point Tool, we can click up or down to brighten or darken the area we have selected. Although we have specific Luminance controls over the individual colors, the tool will affect all of the colors in the image and not just the area you selected. To darken the image, pull the tool down and to brighten the image, pull the tool up.
In our image below, we have darkened the sky in our image by pulling down with the Luminance Adjustment Point Tool.
As you can see in the panel below, our Blue and Aqua sliders have moved to the left since we pulled the Luminance Adjustment Point Tool down.
To reset all of the adjustments made to the Hue, Saturation and Luminance, just click on the “Reset” button. The “Reset” button can be found on the bottom right of Lightroom, under the panels. As you can see below, our adjustments are all set back to 0 when we click on “Reset.”
The Color Section in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel
Now, we are going to move onto the next section in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel. To switch to the Color section in the panel, simply click on “Color” in the panel.
The Color section is almost the exact same as the HSL section, except the layout is different in the Color section. We are essentially viewing the HSL by color as opposed to viewing them all together. We recommend adjusting in the HSL section since it is more effective as we have the Adjustment Point Tools to adjust specific points in the image rather than guessing in the Color section. However, the HSL section and the Color Section do the same exact thing.
In the Color section, we can select each color and view them individually. For example, we can click on red to only display the Hue, Saturation and Luminance settings for the reds in our image.
We can also view all of the colors at once by selecting “All.”
The B&W Section in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel
The last section we have in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel is the B&W, which stands for black and white. The Black and White Mix allows you to shift luminance levels because we cannot shift colors or saturation when we are in black and white simply because there are no colors or saturation in black and white. However, we can still affect the actual luminance levels of the colors. This allows you to dial in a more specific look of a black and white effect for your images. For example, we can create certain effects, such as infrared effects or green effects, which have more of an emphasis on certain colors.
In the B&W section of the HSL/Color/B&W Panel, we also have the Adjustment Point Tool. We can select this tool and go over a certain area and adjust to get the balance we need for our black and white mix.
In our image below, we have selected the Adjustment Point Tool and pulled it down on her face since the skin is too bright.
In the B&W Section, we also have the Auto button. However, we do not recommend using the Auto button since this feature will try and guess the correct black and white mix, which does not always yield good results.
Conclusion & Learn More!
Hopefully this article has helped you understand how to make adjustments in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel as well as understand how those adjustments affect your images overall. When adjusting the Hue, Saturation and Luminance levels of the colors in your images, we highly recommend that you work in the HSL section as opposed to the Color section in the HSL/Color/B&W Panel since you can use the Adjustment Point Tools in the HSL section.
We hope you enjoyed this article and video excerpt from the Lightroom A to Z Workshop on DVD. Stay tuned for our next article and episode!
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