13. My 5 Favorite Lightroom Color Tricks

Have you discovered the beauty of Lightroom’s Hue/Saturation/Luminance panel yet?

Let’s call it HSL for short.  I edited the photo below entirely by using HSL.  

Here’s what I did to the image using HSL:

  • Darkened the blues to make the sky deeper
  • Saturated the blues to make the sky bluer
  • Lightened the yellows and greens to improve the lighting on the backlit sculpture.

My edits look like this:

The coolest thing about the HSL panel is the targeted adjustment tool.  I would love for you to think I am so smart that I knew that this sky had a little bit of Aqua and a lot of Blue, so I just grabbed those sliders to increase saturation.  However, that’s not true!  LR actually knew which colors to increase for me.


Do you see the tool inside the circle in the screenshot above?  That is the targeted adjustment tool.  You click on it to activate it, and then click and drag on the part of the photo that you want to edit.  In this case, I wanted to increase the saturation of the sky, so I clicked on the sky and dragged up with this tool.  When the sky looked good, I stopped dragging and LR had increased the Aqua slider to 6 and the Blue slider to 32.

This tool is great for many things other than sky.  Skin, for example, is something we always want to perfect, but it often appears too red.  Or maybe too orange – it’s hard to tell.  Rather than experimenting with the sliders, this is what I do to fix skin.  

  1. First, I click on the Luminance tab –  brightening skin is usually a good way to tone down colors, and that’s what the Luminance tab is for.  
  2. I enable the target tool, click on the skin and drag up.  This increases the luminance (in other words, it brightens the skin under my cursor).  
  3. If the skin is still to colorful, I go to the Saturation slider, click on the skin again with the tool and drag down just a tiny bit to decrease the saturation of that particular color.


In the photo above, using the targeted adjustment tool on the skin with the orange shadows on the left side of her face, I clicked and dragged down.  Lightroom decreased the Reds saturation by 7 and the Orange Saturation by 20.

Now, this tool can cause problems sometimes.  See how dress faded in the After photo?

If you have photos like that and you can’t edit them with the Local Adjustment Brush, it’s time to take them into Photoshop Elements.

What does the Hue section of the HSL panel do, you ask?

It allows you to change colors, within limits.  Moving a given slider to the left will make that color look more like the color above it.  Moving it to the right will make it look more like the color below it.  

For instance, if I drag the Orange slider to the left, the orange colors in my image will turn Red.  If I drag the Orange slider to the right, the oranges will become more Yellow.  Not that I could ever improve on a Chihuly, but the Hue sliders work like this:

So, to sum up, here are my top 5 favorite things to do with the HSL panel in Lightroom:

  1. Decrease luminance to deepen blues in sky
  2. Increase saturation to make sky bluer
  3. Increase luminance to brighten skin
  4. Decrease saturation to tone down reds and oranges in skin
  5. Decrease luminance to deepen and richen any color and increase saturation to pop that color

Just remember to choose your photo wisely so that you don’t change parts of the image that shouldn’t be changed.  And add this to your list of awesome color adjustments you can create in Lightroom!



  1. debbie January 11, 2019 at 7:55 am - Reply

    Terrific info and so well explained, as you always do! Thanks

  2. Bobbie Fraine January 11, 2019 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I’m glad to hear such positive things about Lightroom. I was introduced to it on the camera app I purchased for my iPhone so that if I was just out and about with grandkids or shopping in the mountains without my camera, I’d have something to quickly catch the moment and I didn’t like the camera that came with iPhone. Lightroom was the new camera’s editing app and I love it. I can’t wait to look into this for my photos editing.

    • Erin Peloquin January 11, 2019 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      I love it for editing. All of my photos start in Lightroom. Many of them don’t need to go into Photoshop or anywhere else.

  3. nansanders January 29, 2018 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    great info! i love it!

  4. maria August 22, 2012 at 9:39 am - Reply

    thanks for sharing this tip! it has definitely helped tone down the orange/reds in the skin tones of most of my clients. so much more accurate than just brightening the skin using an adjustment brush. thanks again!

  5. Suzanne August 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    This is so helpful! I just got Lightroom 4 and had no idea about the targeted adjustment tool. Thank you so much!

  6. Michael Taggart August 21, 2012 at 10:24 am - Reply

    excellent!!! I had now idea how easy this was.
    Thanks for showing us : )

    Is there an equivalent to this in photoshop?

    • Erin August 21, 2012 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Yes, there is a similar feature in Elements and Photoshop both. Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and target a specific color using the drop down menu. Elements has the added benefit of a layer mask so that you can constrain the effects of the edit to specific areas.

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