Lightroom is a very powerful editing tool. You can do much more than correcting exposure, tint, and contrast. You can also color correction.
This can either be a global change, or you can adjust individual colors in an image. You can even change selective areas of an image.
In this article, we’ll show you how to use color correction in Lightroom to take your images from ‘blah’ to ‘wow’.
When Should You Use Color Correction in Your Images
There can be many reasons why you would want to correct color in an image. You might be shooting in poor lighting or mixed lighting situations like.
The latter can have low ambient light or spotlights for emphasis of exhibits.
Or you might want to get creative with your photography and want to edit your photos for a certain vibe.
This is a precursor to any editing. But I want to point out that for effective and flexible editing in Lightroom, photographing in RAW is key.
I am a huge proponent of photographing in RAW 100% of the time. The colors can be adjusted on raw files. But with jpegs, they’re already baked in. It is not impossible, but harder to achieve the exact match.
RAW files are large and do take up space. But external storage is not that expensive. You can store your Lightroom catalog outside of your computer. This help with the digital space issue, and in case anything happens to your computer.
With RAW files, all the original image data is preserved. When you open them in Lightroom, it creates a virtual copy used during your editing session.
Edits are made in a non-destructive format. The original RAW file is always available for changes at a later stage.
This is very useful when you want to edit the same image in different ways.
A JPEG image is essentially a RAW image compressed in-camera. The camera’s computer makes decisions on what data to keep and which to toss out when compressing the file.
JPEG files tend to have a smaller dynamic range of information. This often means less ability to preserve both highlights and shadow details.
To start color correcting an image in Lightroom’s Develop module, open the Basic panel. Click the White Balance Selector which is the eyedropper in the top left corner of the panel.
Click on the image in a place that should be neutral gray to adjust it. If you don’t get the right correction the first time, click again on a different area of the image. Do this you get an adjustment that looks correct to you.
What you’re looking to do at this point is to remove any colorcast in the image. And yes, in case you are wondering, some of this is subjective. What might seem the right color for you, might be different for others.
Notice as you hold the White Balance Selector over the image that the Loupe shows a gird of pixels around the area you have the mouse held over. It also shows the relative percentages of red, green and blue in the pixels over which the mouse is hovering.
Where the color in an image should be neutral grey, these values should be the same. If they are not, there is a color cast.
Try and get as close to neutral grey as possible. You can also use a grey card for the numerical values and try to match those.
When you have a result you like, you can return the White Balance Selector to its position in the Basic panel. Or press Escape to get out of the dropper selection.
Fine-tuning is also possible in Lightroom for selective color correction. There are many ways to adjust color selectively in Lightroom. Pick the ones that make the most sense or are easiest to work through.
If some individual colors are still incorrect you can adjust these using the HSL panel. To do this, select HSL and then Saturation. Use the Targeted Adjustment Tool to drag on an area of the image. Go downwards to decrease or upwards to increase the color saturation at that point in the image.
When you have adjusted Saturation, click Luminance. If necessary, use the same Targeted Adjustment tool. Increase or decrease the Luminance in areas that are too dark or too light.
You might find yourself doing this if people are in harsh sunlight and the sun gives their skin an orange glow. Or if there is a color cast issue because of the surroundings or even clothing that a person is wearing.
Once you’ve fixed the color problems, you can return to the Basic panel. Continue to adjust the image using the tools there.
Another way to adjust color in an image is to use presets for different type of color effects. Google Lightroom Presets and you will find a host of different types of presets.
These are predetermined values of all the sliders that effect the image. You can get paid or even free presets to try out incase you are looking for a specific style of images to emulate.
Color correction and editing your images to suit your style takes practice. Lightroom is a very powerful editing software. It can do a lot of the heavy lifting for editing. It’s also simple enough for the basics.
If you want color correction to be a regular part of your post processing procedure, keep practicing. Use old photos before you turn to new ones. Experiment by using the tools available.
Play around with the sliders, apply presets, note the values and adjust them. Save all your practice photos and examine them to determine which ones work best for you.
Get comfortable in Lightroom so that you can work toward creating a style that is uniquely you.