One Tool, Three Ways: HSL Panel in Lightroom Classic CC

by Lex van den Berghe

posted on 07-18-2018

Photography is a medium that’s shaped two-fold by its creators — once when the shutter snaps and again when a photo is transformed into its intended vision through editing. It’s between these two points where skill meets tool — turning an image into a creative expression. And it’s in that moment that professional photographers make their living. However, many professionals, especially those who’ve been with Lightroom since the beginning, don’t realize how much functionality has been added to their sidebar over the years.

To get a real sense of each tool’s power and diverse range of uses, we decided to team-up with three photographers, each from different professional backgrounds, to discover their unique take on some of Lightroom’s most powerful tools. We call it “One Tool, Three Ways,” and in the coming weeks we will explore how several of Lightroom’s tools can transform photographs into uniquely personal creative expressions.

For our first installment, we’re exploring the HSL panel — a deceptively simple tool that, like the professionals who use it, adds new meaning and style to everything it touches.

Kevin Wong

We start our journey looking out onto New York City where architectural designer and professional photographer Kevin Wong shows us how he uses the HSL panel to take every second of the golden hour and pack it into a single still image. Kevin’s goal isn’t to hypersaturate, but to bring out what’s already there. “With all photographs, my primary aim with HSL panel is to enhance the essence of a photograph while still maintaining the photograph’s natural look,” he said.

And while he does a fantastic job setting the sky ablaze with color, much of his cityscapes’ charm comes from details in the city. “If there is any artificial lighting, like yellow lights emanating from windows, I like to make those more apparent too. It really makes the image feel alive,” Kevin said.

Curious as to how his attention to detail impacts his workflow, Kevin gave us the rundown of his presets: “While editing an image, my formula with HSL panel is established based on hard or soft lighting, vibrant or neutral subjects, and backgrounds, dark or light skin tone, etc. To optimize my workflow, I’ve saved various presets, with HSL panel, that address specific situations. Once the initial preset is applied to the photograph, it usually takes the photograph in the general direction I want. I then return to both the basic and HSL panel sections to further polish the photograph until I’m happy with the final product.”

Maddie McGarvey

For a fresh perspective, we head to the Midwest to meet our second photographer and see how she uses the HSL panel to tell other people’s stories. With 10 years of professional experience using Lightroom during her career in journalism, Maddie McGarvey explains her minimalist approach to the HSL panel. “As a photojournalist, I don’t do many edits that would change the genuine nature of my photographs, but getting the colors right is an essential step in my workflow.”

Through Maddie’s active effort to preserve the authenticity of her photographs, while making just enough alterations to direct the viewer’s attention, the precision control of the HSL panel is allowed to shine. Because when she makes her adjustments, she’s not just editing to counterbalance harsh lighting — she’s matching the mood of her subjects. “I always want the people I photograph to shine through with their emotion and personality in my photographs, and the HSL panel allows for me to showcase their most genuine self,” she said.

Jonpaul Douglass

Traveling all the way to LA, next we join photographer and director Jonpaul Douglass to discuss his bold usage of the HSL panel. As a longtime tinkerer in all the Adobe applications, Jonpaul’s interests lie in experimenting with the HSL panel, pushing colors until they fit the mood of his scene, resulting in work that brushes shoulders with the surreal. “Much of my work involves color blocking, so I’ll often shift colors in a scene to either match or contrast to my taste.” Continuing, he shows us one of his before/after edits: “If I’m forced to work with a certain color that may not be exactly what I want, I always feel confident that I’ll be able to find that exact color I desire by utilizing HSL panel.”

Although much of Jonpaul’s work has the framing and visual finish of studio photography, most of his photography happens under the steady glow of the SoCal sun. To help him envision his final product while out shooting, he uses the Lightroom mobile app as he shoots: “Most recently I’ve been using the Lightroom app to make edits on my phone. I love how you can save develop settings from desktop and quickly try them out while shooting on my phone.”

A parting thought

Every genre of photography calls for its own perspective — a unique set of skills and vision. But whether you need to add that spark of humanity, amplify the grandeur of your view, or coax your colors into something more, the HSL panel is your humble tool for elevated style.

To achieve a similar result in Lightroom CC, you can explore using the Color Mixer.

Topics: Creativity, Photography

Products: Lightroom, Photoshop, Creative Cloud