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What's HSL please?

HSL in Lightroom stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. They sound scary but they're not. Hue is simply color. What color is that? Blue? Yellow? Red? That's Hue.

Saturation is density, how saturated a certain color is. I like to think of Saturation as Color + White. So if we have Red with zero white, it's very red. Now, you add a little white; it's not that red anymore. Add more white until it becomes pink, and more white until it becomes very pale red. That's Saturation.

Luminance, on the other hand, is simply how bright or how dark a color is and I like to imagine it as Color + Black. For example, the same Red above plus zero Black equals very bright red. Now add a bit of black and it becomes darker. More black and it gets to be even darker red. That's Luminance.

So don't let HSL throw you off, take full control because it's your friend. No, make that your slave--the HSL panel does your bidding when you want to enhance colors and tones in your images. Want that sky more subdued and detailed? It's just a click away. Does that color distract you? It's easy. Black and white? It's there, too.

You do it all in the HSL panel.

The HSL panel is actually a 3-in-1 panel. First, you have HSL [Fig.2-1], for controlling color, then you have the Color panel [Fig.2-2] also for controlling color but done another way, and finally you have the B&W panel [Fig. 2-3] where you have full control for all the color channels when you want to make a black-and-white or monochrome photograph. There are sliders that you can move--left or right--to control color.

One great tip here is if you want to create monochrome or black-and-white images, capture them in color first, then in Lightroom, switch to B&W and don't settle for the default B&W mix offered by the software. Move those color sliders right or left and see what happens. Stop when you like what you see. This is how you achieve better contrast and tonality for your B&W images. The color channels are available because you shot your picture in original color

Look at our example in Fig. 1. The distracting green background in the Before image was desaturated to make it less distracting. This is done by going to the HSL panel and clicking on Saturation. See that little round thing on Fig. 1-1? That's the Targeted Adjustment tool. Click on it to make it active, then go to your image and click and drag down on the green patch to desaturate.

Try this technique, too, if you have a landscape photo with blue sky in it, but this time be in the Luminance panel and use the Targeted Adjustment tool. Click and drag down anywhere in the blue sky and you see magic happens. The sky will have deeper color and the clouds will be more detailed, because you actually toned down exposure here, in the sky only. It's like using a Neutral Density filter without the fuss.

Bonus tip: those little things enclosed in the red rectangle at Fig. 1-2 are switches, On-Off switches. It's like the Before-After for that particular panel only. Also, it's quicker to use the switches than to reset all sliders to default values.

Till next time. If you have questions, email reaches me at If you want to attend my Lightroom workshop, please see the FPPF website,


FIG. 1. That little round thing at 1 is the Targeted Adjustment tool. Here, it was used to desaturate the distracting green in the background. After clicking to make it active, and the panel at Saturation, click on the green and drag down to desaturate. Those in 2 are switches that toggle between OFF and ON to see Before and After for that panel.( Model: Kaiyir Trinidad)

FIG. 2. The HSL panel is where you have full control in Lightroom when you want to enhance your color photographs, you simply move the slider for a particular color. You also have great tonal control for monochrome conversions because you can use the color sliders in B&W.
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Title Annotation:Picture Perfect
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Dec 29, 2015
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