The HSL controls in Lightroom (stranding for “Hue, Saturation and Luminance”) give us the power to make amazingly subtle (or dramatic) nondestructive edits to specific colors within an image. Very, very cool.
By giving us three different ways to adjust eight distinct colors, the HSL controls offer a way to work in specific areas of image — based on where those colors are found — with an amazing degree of finesse. This is a kind of localized control that not too long ago could only be performed by creating complex masks in Photoshop, although even then the control was less sophisticated.
The HSL controls are very, very cool and should be well understood by all photographers. However, learning to use HSL (at least for me) is not an intuitive process. Really mastering HSL requires good instruction.
Whatever your current HSL I.Q. is, you will likely benefit from one, two or all three of these resources.
#1: Video Demo of Basic HSL Functionality. In “Using HSL in Lightroom 3 Hue Saturation and Luminance” Mark Dickinson shows us the HSL sliders in action, showing us how to quickly play around to understand the importance of the red, orange and yellow controls for adjusting skin color. If you are new to HSL, Dickinson’s five minute video will help orient you to the possibilities before gaining a deeper understanding of what’s going on.
#2: Clear, Concise Explanation of Controls. In “Using Lightroom’s HSL / Color / Grayscale Panel” Martin Evening provides an explanation of HSL functionality that is clear, concise and in-depth — all at once. Adapted from Evening’s Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book, The: The Complete Guide for Photographers and focused on helping us make “fine-tuned color adjustments in Lightroom,” this article is perfect for photographers who want the HSL skinny with no fuss.
#3: In-Depth HSL Understanding. Writing for X-Equals, Michael W Gray has done us a wonderful service by dishing up a brilliant, clear, in-depth three-part series on the HSL controls in Lightroom, from conceptual underpinnings to practical usage. Filled with fantastic graphics — that you can download to “play along” — you’ll find:
Mastering HSL in Lightroom – Part 1 of 3 — In depth exploration of “exactly what the HSL is and how it is used,” showing a range of effects on an X-Rite Color Checker. Really sweet. (Gray, in true über photo nerd from calls this the “basics of HSL.” If you’re not an über photo nerd, try to stick in there, as this information really is should be basic for serious photographers, even if it really is advanced.)
Mastering HSL in Lightroom – Part 2 of 3 — Gray shows us the importance of starting with camera profiles (an interrelated and important topic) and then helps us start using the HSL controls in a basic manner. (If you get lost in Part 2, still head to Part 3, which will help you make sense of Part II.)
Mastering HSL in Lightroom – Part 3 of 3 – With “basics” (focusing on color correction functionality) covered in Parts I and II, Gray helps us see how to get more creative with HSL by cross processing and making color monochromes. These creative techniques — pushing controls to extremes — help us better see how the fundamental work. Very cool.
HSL Control Learning as Ongoing Process
Gray hits HSL learning on the head when, at the end of Part III, he says, “I would like to restate that the HSL is one of the most straight forward tools, but at the same time the HSL is so nuanced that it takes a long time and a lot of practice to be able to jump right in and carry out your desires.”