What is the Lightroom HSL panel? And how can you use it to create beautiful modifications?
In this article, I explain everything you need to know about Lightroom’s Hue, Saturation, and Luminance tools, including:
- What HSL Sliders Actually Do
- How You Can Tastefully Adjust HSL Sliders for Pro-Level Results
- Tips for Applying Color Edits to Your Images
So if you’re ready to become an HSL master, read on, starting with:
What is the HSL panel in Lightroom?
The HSL panel allows you to adjust three picture features:
- The tint (i.e. the color)
- The saturation (i.e. the intensity of the color)
- Luminance (i.e. the brightness of colors)
But what makes the HSL panel particularly powerful is that it allows you to control different colors independently; in other words, it allows you to adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of targeted colors.
As you can probably imagine, it’s extremely powerful. Want to increase the saturation of the sky in your images? Then raise the Blue Saturation slider. Want to darken the color of the trees in the background? Then drop the Luminance green slider.
Simply put, with the HSL sliders you can independently adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of eight different colors: red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and magenta. This covers the entire color spectrum and offers a set of targeted adjustments that allow you to create all sorts of interesting effects.
But when should you adjust color hues, saturations, and luminances? When does this make sense for your images? Let’s dive deeper into these tools, starting with:
How to make shade adjustments
As you know by now, the Hue part of the HSL panel targets the hue of the color – which is basically a color Color. Yellow objects have a yellow tint; green objects have a green tint; purple and magenta objects have a purple-magenta tint, and so on.
The HSL panel offers eight Hue sliders, each corresponding to a specific color. By moving the sliders, you can change the color tints. Move the Orange slider to the left and your oranges will become redder. Move the Orange slider to the right and your oranges will become more yellow.
Note that the sliders only affect their labeled color, so while pushing the Orange slider to the right will adjust the oranges in your image, the other colors will remain untouched.
And note that the Hue sliders do do not affect the saturation or luminance of the image. If your image has desaturated oranges and you increase the Orange slider, you will end up with desaturated yellows.
Now why would you want to make shade adjustments? For three main reasons:
First, you can use tint adjustments to more accurately represent what you saw when you took the photo. For example, if you photographed a sunset on the beach, the reds might come out a bit too orange, in which case you can shift them towards red.
Second, you can use Hue adjustments to give colors specific artistic looks. Maybe you prefer greener oceans, deep blue skies, or orange sand. If so, the Hue tool can make it happen!
Third, you can use hue adjustments to create a specific color combinations. Here, photographers rely on color theory to create color pairs, and while it might sound complex, it really isn’t: you’re just using the color wheel to identify two colors that go well together. , then you move the Hue sliders until you get the result you’re after.
I wanted to adjust the colors of the leaves in this image:
So I moved the Yellow and Green sliders until the leaves started turning red and orange:
How to make saturation adjustments
Saturation sliders are simpler than hue sliders, simply because they are easier to understand what they affect and How? ‘Or’ What they affect it.
Saturation refers to the intensity of colors, so increasing the color saturation will give you bright, vibrant greens, reds, and blues. On the other hand, lowering the color saturation will result in more muted and faded greens, reds, and blues. Make sense ?
Of course, the power of the Saturation sliders in the HSL panel comes from their ability to target specific colors for adjustment. You can choose to saturate only the blues by desaturating only the greens, or saturate only the reds by desaturating only magentas, etc.
When is it useful?
As with the Hue sliders, you can use the Saturation sliders to make your photo more realistic. RAW files, in particular, tend to look undersaturated, so by boosting specific colors you can recreate the scene as you remember it.
But you can also use saturation sliders artistically. For example, you can choose to make one or two main colors pop while letting the others fade. It’s often useful to desaturate distracting background colors while saturating interesting foreground colors. this way you can help the viewer focus on the main subject.
And you can also use the Saturation sliders to achieve specific color palettes. Simply desaturate the colors that don’t stick to your desired color palette, and you’re good to go! (Of course, you’ll have to be subtle about this; you don’t want an image that features an odd combination of color and black and white.)
Here is my tree image again:
And here is the same image, but with subtle increases in saturation of greens and yellows:
How to make luminance adjustments
Luminance refers to brightness, so the eight Luminance sliders target brightness values for specific colors.
It works as you’d expect. Increase the Blue slider and the blues become brighter; reduce the Green slider, and the greens get darker, and so on.
Luminance adjustments are particularly effective when looking to create contrast in your image. For example, you can increase the luminance values of the subject colors while decreasing the luminance values of the background colors. This way your subject will pop out of the screen while the background fades.
You can also use luminance adjustments to manage image distractions. If you darken distracting colors, you can simplify the shot and effectively focus the viewer. (That’s why it’s always a good idea to do a “distraction check” while editing! Identify any distracting elements, then use the Luminance sliders to roll them back.)
Again, take a look at my tree photo:
Then watch the leaves transform with a little Luminance magic. Note how they really stand out:
Another way to apply HSL adjustments
So far I have discussed slider-based HSL adjustments. The sliders are quick, easy to understand, and work well.
Lightroom actually offers a second HSL tuning method, which allows you to target specific image elements when editing. This is how it works:
First, click the target icon next to the Hue, Saturation, or Luminance sliders:
Then identify the area of your image that you want to adjust. Click and to glide your cursor over the relevant area; if you swipe up, Lightroom will automatically increase the corresponding color sliders.
And if you swipe down, Lightroom will automatically reduce the corresponding color sliders. (If you’re having trouble figuring out what I mean, I highly recommend heading to Lightroom, selecting the target icon, and experimenting. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly!)
Lightroom HSL Panel: Final Words
Well, now you have it:
A guide to the Lightroom HSL panel.
The HSL panel can seem overwhelming, but once you understand how each adjustment affects your photo, it’s a lot less scary! And independently adjusting the color hue, saturation and luminance will make a huge difference with your photos.
So head over to Lightroom. Practice working with the HSL panel. And see what you can create!
Now your turn :
Have you ever used the HSL panel? Do you plan to start using it regularly? Share your opinion in the comments below!