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Lightroom HSL Filters

Lightroom has incredibly good image processing power and one of the star features is its HSL filtering for Hue, Saturation and Luminance in eight different colour ranges.

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As a Lightroom user you may be bewildered by the range of adjustments that increase with each upgrade. One of the features that's been around for a while, and possibly overlooked for the fancier options, is the HSL filter found in the Develop module.

Here you can fine tune colours in your photo by dragging sliders left or right to decrease or increase hue, saturation or luminance.

The main part of the filter is split into three elements: HSL (that we're looking at here) Color and B&W (to be reviewed in a later tutorial). Each element provides a set of sliders that adjust the colour or tonal range. HSL and Color are connected. In the color area sliders are grouped by colour so the Red slider has the adjustments for hue, saturation and luminance directly under it, and this is followed by another colour. In HSL sliders are group by the type of adjustment, so hue is first with sliders for each colours under it.

As HSL and Color do the same job use whichever is the easiest, but I find HSL is better because it's a little more flexible, which I'll explain later.

Lightroom HSL menu

Click on HSL in the menu tab at the top of the module. This brings up three grouped sets of sliders for hue, saturation and luminance. Just below the main menu tab are individual tabs for hue, saturation, luminance and ALL. You can click on either hue, saturation or luminance to remove the other options and concentrate on one aspect.

Lightroom Hue menu tab

The Hue control lets you change the colour of specific items in the photo. In this photo we have made the blue tennis balls look purple by dragging the blue slide to 100%. Note that adjusting these sliders affects the colour of other objects in the photo with similar colours. This happens with all the controls so you have to be aware of the overall affect and not just the specific elements.

Lightroom HSL blue slider

Next is Saturation which you can change, as the name suggests, the saturation of colour of specific items in the photo. The slider goes from -100, which is a totally desaturated grey scale, through 0 natural colour up to +100 maximum vividly saturated colours. You can use this option to make your photo either more pastel coloured, maybe recreating an old fashioned look, or make colours incredibly vivid.

It's also easy using saturation to recreate spot colour effects. In the illustration below I've desaturated all but the blue elements by dragging all sliders to the left, apart from blue which has been dragged to the right to increase blue saturation.

Lightroom desaturate apart from blue

Finally we have luminance. This affects the brightness of the colours and, in this example, I've over exaggerated the effect by increasing yellow and red to show how you can separate colours. Compare the orange flowers in first screengrab at the top of the page with the one below.

Lightroom Luminence slider

You can use a combination of one or or more of the hue, saturation and luminance sliders to fine tune the colour of your photographs.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that the HSL menu is more versatile and that's because there's an extra way to adjust that you may not have noticed. To the left of each group of sliders is a small bullseye (target) icon. Click this to turn on (indicated by an up and down arrow above and below the icon). Then click on the colour in the photo you want to adjust and hold down the mouse while dragging up or down to increase or decrease the slider.

The advantage with this is the correct colour sliders are automatically selected when you click on an object in the photo. In the example below I selected Saturation and clicked on the green leaves and dragged down to desaturate. The target automatically realised that the yellow and green values should be adjusted.

Lightroom HSL target

Finally here's an example of what we can do with a typical landscape, that has already been fine tuned in the Basic and Tone Curve sections of Lightroom to lighten up the shadows and reduce highlights.

Lightroom landscape unprocessed

You may consider this a finished photo. But the HSL filter can make a few more subtle enhancements.
Below the green hues and luminance have been reduced slightly to give a less vivid tone, and the blue that was in the shadow areas of the water has been desaturated so the water looks cleaner. This has also resulted in the bue sky being desaturated, but as it was such an insignificant part of the photo we can live with that.

Lightroom landscape processed

Small changes, but worth doing for an even more natural photo. You could, of course, go the opposite way and make everything zing!

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