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The HSL Panel in Lightroom 4

The Hue Saturation and Luminance (HSL) panel gives you the ability to fine tune specific color regions within your photo and is a powerful way to correct certain colors without shifting the balance of all the colors.


This tab allows you to shift one color in the photo towards its neighbor on either side of the color spectrum. For food photography the two things I adjust the most with hue controls are parsley and tomatoes.

Parsley can end up looking a little yellow after processing your photo. The way to fix this is to make the image more blue. The problem is if you do this with the white balance sliders, it will make the rest of your image look too cold. By adjusting just the green slider towards blue, you can shift the color of just the parsley(assuming you don’t have anything else green in the photo). Likewise, tomato sauces often end up looking a little orange. By shifting the orange hue towards red, you can make the tomatoes look more red. As with many of the controls though, being subtle is important, otherwise you’ll end up with glow in the dark parsley, or radioactive tomatoes.

In this example, you can see that the parsley looks yellow and that the sauce has a yellow tinge making it look orange. Since the overall white balance is correct, we want to shift just the green and orange hues as shown below. Notice the difference in the color of the sauce and parsley in the photo below vs the photo above.

If you’ve been paying attention you might also notice that the histogram peaks to the right rather than in the middle. This is because this image has a lot of light areas (white plate, light pasta and white background). If we were to rely solely on the histogram to make adjustments, we’d end up with an image that would look way too dark.


This tab allows you to adjust the saturation of individual colors. For food photography, the only time I use these saturation controls is when I’m shooting with daylight, and an increase in overall saturation has caused blue reflections to appear on cutlery and plates. By decreasing the saturation of the blue channel, you can shift these areas of the image back to a more natural level of saturation.

In this example, you an see that the plate and highlights in the sauce look bluish purple. By decreasing the saturation of the blue and purple channels, we’re able to return these highlights to a more neutral color. One thing to be careful with here is that if you desaturate a color too much, that area of the image will become black and white, making it look very unnatural. Compare the photo above to the one below to see how desaturating the blue and purple channels effected the color of of the plate and sauce.

This example also illustrates how the histogram peaks to the left because there are more dark areas in the photo than light areas.


The Luminance tab allows you to adjust the brightness of individual colors in your photo. I don’t really use this tab much in food photography, however it’s an indispensable tool for landscapes. With landscape photography, properly exposing the land, often leads to the sky being overexposed. While professional photographers usually carry a graduated neutral density filter to combat this problem, there are times when it’s just not practical to screw on a filter while you’re out shooting. By decreasing the luminance of the blue (and sometimes aqua) channel, you can fix an overexposed sky after processing the land below it to look right.

Crop in Lightroom 4

While it’s best to capture a photo that’s perfectly framed, most cameras today don’t have viewfinders with 100% coverage, so what you see in the viewfinder doesn’t exactly match the photo that’s taken. Also if you’re anything like me, you might have a tendency to hold your camera a little crooked causing your photos to look askew. This is where the crop tool comes to the rescue.

To crop your image, just select the crop tool (on the left, below the histogram). You’ll see some crop options show up down below, and a grid dividing your photo up into thirds with control points at the edges. To crop the image just grab one of the corner control points by clicking and holding your mouse button, and dragging the corner around. Holding down the shift key while clicking and dragging allows you to keep the original aspect ratio of the image. Once you’re happy with the crop, just hit the return key to crop the image.

By moving the mouse into the grey area outside the photo, you’ll see that the cursor turns into a curve with arrows at both ends. This will allow you to rotate your crop so you can straighten out a crooked image, or give your shot an artistic look. Once you’re done rotating the crop, just hit the return key to crop the image.

Removing Crumbs in Lightroom 4

By now you should have a gorgeous photo that’s properly exposed, with great contrast and rich colors. But there’s just one problem. When you took the photos you failed to notice something in the frame, which wasn’t supposed to be there. Maybe it’s an errant crumb on the plate, or a book you forgot to remove in the background. Whatever the cause, it’s there, staring right back at you, like a giant zit on the tip of your nose. While you could export the photo at this point and deal with it in Photoshop, minor blemishes can easily be cleaned up in Lightroom using the Spot Removal tool.

Once you’ve selected the spot removal tool (second from the left under the histogram), make sure the heal brush is selected, and then click and hold on the center of the blemish. Now drag your mouse to an area with similar color, tone and texture in your photo (usually right next to the blemish). When you release the mouse button, you’ll see two circles appear. The first is around your blemish, and a second where you want Lightroom to take a sample from. If the circle covering the blemish is too big or two small, you can resize it by mousing over the edge of the circle and clicking then dragging to make it bigger or smaller. If the repair doesn’t look right, try moving the sample circle around to a different location by clicking and dragging the center of the circle.

Sync your Photos in Lightroom 4

If all this seems like a lot of work to go through for each photo
, this is where it gets much faster. Lightroom allows you to synchronize all the changes you made to one photo across a whole set of photos. Assuming they were all taken with similar lighting conditions and camera settings, you just hold down the Command key and click on the other photos you want to apply the develop settings to. You’ll see the photo you just edited highlighted in a light shade of grey and the rest of the photos highlighted in a slightly darker grey.

Now just click the “Sync…” button at the bottom left of the develop panel and a dialog box should pop up asking you which develop settings you want to sync. Check all the settings you want to sync (I usually sync everything except Crop and Spot Removal) and click Synchronize.

Now all you have to do is go back and adjust the cropping and remove blemishes from photos that need it.

continue to Lightroom Tutorial Part 4 →