Using HSL to Boost Colors: Lightroom Quick Tip

Using HSL to Boost Colors: Lightroom Quick Tip

There are a number of ways you can increase the saturation of your photos in Lightroom. One of the best is with the HSL Panel. In this tutorial, I’m going to share a few quick tips for using HSL (hue, saturation, and luminance) to boost the colors in your edits! You can also adjust the way they look easily with the slides in the HSL Panel.

Related: Minimal Lightroom Tutorial: How to Create a Soft Matte Effect

Boost Colors with Saturation Adjustments

I use the Saturation sliders in the HSL Panel to boost colors in my photos. Two things to note before I share more about the process:

  1. I always correct light/exposure first, after doing basic adjustments, initial cropping, and lens corrections.
  2. I usually increase hue/saturation in the Basic tab first and also adjust the Curves before moving onto the HSL Panel.

You can choose to do this first, but I find it easier to adjust after going through most of my other edits first. That way, you can ensure you don’t over saturate the image. Trust me, it’s easy to get carried away with the HSL sliders. :)

Let’s take a look at a quick before and after, showing the settings. This way you’ll be able to see how the Saturation sliders affect an image’s colors. In this edit I wanted to bring out the reds, greens, and blues.

Before Saturation Adjustments in Lightroom

photo edit before HSL adjustments

After Saturation Adjustments in Lightroom

photo edit after applying HSL adjustments

As you can see, the Saturation sliders work wonders in bringing out the colors and making them more vivid. The saturation also has a few downsides though. The Blues tend to always impact areas that shouldn’t really be blue. I wrote a bit more on this and how to correct it in another article on editing landscapes.

Basically, you can fix this by using brushes to ‘paint’ over the areas you want to adjust. For this edit, I just used a brush with some slight adjustments to the color, saturation, and highlights. This way I was able to warm up the blues a bit that showed over the train roofs, the skyline, and other parts of the cityscape. Here is what the edit looks like after the brush adjustments:

photo edit after lightroom brush adjustments

Advanced HSL Color Grading

If you’re looking to make more advanced adjustments to the colors in your photos, you’ll want to use the Hue and Luminance sliders as well. Whereas Saturation will simply boost or reduce the intensity of a color in your photo, Hue will quite literally change the color to a different hue. And Luminance can be used to change the brightness of that color.

Taking a closer look, see how adjustments to the Hue sliders in this image change the colors.

Before Hue Adjustments in Lightroom

before hue adjustments lightroom

After Hue Adjustments in Lightroom

after hue adjustments lightroom

You can create some really cool looks using the Hue sliders that completely re-color an image. I typically don’t use Luminance that much, but it can be used to change the brightness of the colors. So if you want to lighten some rich blues, or darken some overexposed colors in your photo, the Luminance sliders work really well.

Bonus Tip – Accurate Colors in the Sky

Reduce the highlights/whites in your overexposed photos to increase the blues and other colors of the sky. This is especially useful for sunset and sunrise photos. You don’t want to over-edit with the Curves tool or other exposure adjustments in a way that covers the color detail of the sky.

Read next: Five Landscape Photo Editing Tips for Lightroom

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