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How To Colour Pop Using Lightroom

We show you how to use the HSL sliders in Lightroom to colour pop your photos.

|  Adobe Lightroom in Lightroom
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Colour popping is a popular technique that's often done with image editing programs sometimes with complicated routes using layers and masks, but you can also use Adobe Lightroom and it's dead easy to do.

Colour popping is where you make one object in a black & white photograph colour so that it stands out. It's popular for wedding photography where a bouquet of flowers is turned to colour, and the most famous example of the technique is keeping a London Red bus in colour while its street surroundings are in black & white. These scenes have been selling well for years via poster and frame companies.

The Colour Popping technique used to be achieved by hand colouring a black & white photograph, but things have moved on with digital. All you need to do now is convert one of your colour photos into black & white, leaving the element you want to colour pop in its original state.

And here's how:

Choosing a suitable photo to colour pop

Find a suitable photo - ideally one where the colour you want to pop isn't present in any other areas of the scene.

I've selected this lifebuoy at the side of a pond in woodland surroundings. There's a small amount of red in the autumn leaves, but not enough to affect anything.

Choosing a photo for colour popping

Desaturating unwanted colours

With most image editing programs you would create a new layer and convert the photo to black & white, but with Lightroom there's a useful HSL control set. H is Hue ( we don't need it here), S is Saturation (the main option for this technique) and L is Luminance (can also help here, but not essential).

In this photo the main colour is red. So, with the Saturation Tab selected, slide each other colour across to the left. Notice how the colour starts to disappear in all the surrounding areas.

Take your time on the first go so you can see the colour drain and how each colour affects the elements in the scene. The yellow and green have an affect on the foliage and grass, the blue would normally desaturate the sky, but in this photograph it was white anyway. The purple and magenta hardly have any influence.

Don't worry at this stage that the Orange slider has made the lifebuoy look less colourful. You should now have a photo with just one colour, but we need to enhance the lifebuoy.

Desaturating colours in Lightroom

Increase saturation of the required colour

Move the Red slider across to the right and you'll see the colour come back to the lifebuoy. If we'd left the orange in to gain a stronger ring of colour you'd see that some of the orange would also be in many areas of the autumn background, so it wouldn't be true black & white.

Saturating colours in Lightroom

Make final adjustments

You may want to make final tweaks to the brightness and contrast using the Basic or Tone Curve Lightroom sliders. And that's all there is to it - a quick and easy two minute fix that can make eye catching results from your colour photos.

Colour popped photo

Notice there are a few small strands of red that have been picked up in the ground. This would have been far worse if the orange slider had been left in the centre. These strands can easily be painted out using Lightroom's Adjustment Brush with its saturation slider set to the left.

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