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Photo Editing Tips: Use the HSL panel in Lightroom for custom colour

Photo Editing Tips: Use the HSL panel in Lightroom for custom colour

Spend any amount of time in the paint samples at the hardware store and you know that “red” can mean hundreds, if not thousands of different colours. In photography, colour can make or break a photo, but you don’t have to leave colours exactly how the camera saw them — and creating custom colour in Lightroom is almost as easy as choosing that favorite paint sample. Using Lightroom’s HSL, or hue, saturation, luminance panel, you can create custom colour effects without complex masking — and even create more contrast in your black and whites. Here’s how.

Colours can be adjusted in three different ways in the HSL panel — and unlike adjusting the saturation or vibrance slider, in the HSL panel, you can control colours individually.

Hue will change exactly what shade those colours appear. For example, sliding the red slider to the left will make the reds in the image a bit more of a hot pink, while moving to the right would turn those same reds into something closer to orange.

Saturation refers to just how much colour is there — it’s the difference between a very muted colour and a very vibrant one. If you take that same red slider but inside the saturation option and turn it all the way to the left, your reds will become grays. All the way to the right and you have a very deep vibrant red.

Luminance, on the other hand, refers to how light or dark the colour is. When you adjust the luminance, you can play with the exposure levels over a single colour at a time. Luminance doesn’t change the colour, but adds more shadow or more highlights. For example, adjusting the orange slider to the right is a popular way to brighten up skin tones.

By playing with the HSL panel in Lightroom, you can create a custom colour look to your shot. Adjusting the HSL is a popular way to make a digital file appear more like a specific type of film. For example, some film types change the hue of greens and blues. The HSL panel can also be helpful for adjusting minor colour casts or removing redness from the skin in a portrait (just watch and make sure you don’t remove all the red from the lips too).

But the HSL is more than just a tool for creating custom colour — it’s essential for creating better black and whites. In a black and white photo, the HSL panel switches to just one slider for each colour. What each slider does is adjust which shade of gray that colour becomes. By controlling how each colour converts, you can create more contrast in your black and white shots, or, if you prefer, create less contrast for a matte effect.

Controlling the HSL in a black and white shot can also take a boring black and white and make it interesting again. For example, reds and greens tend to convert to a similar shade of gray, which means if you have a photo of a red flower, the petals and the leaves are going to blend in. Using the colour sliders, you can lighten up the red and darken up the green, creating contrast in a shot that would otherwise be bland in black and white.

Once you understand what each slider in the HSL panel does, you can create images with colourful punch, or mimic the look of a matte film. Try opening an image and playing with the sliders, watching the image as the slider adjusts to see how that slider works. Then, have fun colour mixing to find the look that works for you. You can also find inspiration from a favorite film shot or another shot you admire and use the HSL sliders to recreate that digitally.

Colour can make or break a shot, and in particular when shooting RAW, creating a custom colour palette can help give your image that final punch.

What is colour calibration and why does it matter?

What is colour calibration and why does it matter?

After scouring the stores, you’ve finally found that missing piece to that outfit online, and the colours match perfectly. You quickly order, wait and then eagerly tear open the package — only to find the colour is nowhere near matching. What happened? Colours on a screen look different then the colours in real life, a fact that can play a big role in the quality of your printed photos too. Colour calibration is the answer — but what is colour calibration and why does it matter?

While the monitor on your computer displays red, green and blue pixels, most printers instead use the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) colour system. Those perfect colours then often get lost in translation, and what looked perfect on screen looks off on paper. It’s the same thing that happens when you order something online and open it up to find a different colour — viewing colours on an RGB monitor doesn’t always translates into the actual colour of the real thing. To make matters worse, one monitor may render colours differently than another.

Colour calibration adjusts the monitor so that what you see on screen is as close as possible to what you’ll see on the print. While most computers have built-in colour calibration and tools to adjust contrast and brightness for a better viewing experience, work such as photography and graphic design requires getting a more precise match.

A mix of hardware and software provides a solution for photographers and designers that need that precise colour. Using this type of colour calibration involves placing a device over the screen that reads the colours on the screen and even how those colours are affected by the light in the room. That device communicates with software and walks you through the steps to getting the right colours on the screen, even if you don’t understand all the fancy colour calibration terms.

So why go through all that work? Colour calibration helps guide the editing process, so that you’re editing your photos to look their best on the print, not on your particular screen. With the screen properly calibrated, you can use tools like the Hue Saturation Luminance adjustments as well as saturation and vibrancy tools and get the best results for that particular shot.

Since advanced colour calibration involves both hardware and software, there is an initial investment in order to colour correct all of your monitors, but, that effort for many helps save in the long run by reducing the number of required reprints, saving both time and supplies. For photographers that rely on a printing service instead of their own printer, colour correction is often an extra fee added to every print — and those fees can quickly add up.

Spyder is one of the most well-known brands for colour calibration with colour hardware available at several different price points starting at about $120. X-Rite is another trusted calibration brand and can sometimes run a bit cheaper than the Spyder options.

Colour calibration, with the right tools, isn’t as complicated as it sounds, yet matching monitor and print colours can make a dramatic difference on the quality of your photo prints.

5 Printing Mistakes New Photographers Make

5 Printing Mistakes New Photographers Make

Digital photography has changed the game — but as more and more photos live on hard drives, fewer images are making the cut to become actual physical prints. As new photographers learn digital photography, they also have to learn photo printing. Printing a photo can change the colors, make mistakes stand out and make small resolutions obvious. Like any new skill, beginners are bound to stumble a bit — so what are the most common photo printing mistakes new photographers make? Here are five of them.

Not printing any photos.

Just because digital photos can exists entirely in pixels doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Printing photos is a way to showcase your artwork and even prevent a hard drive failure from destroying your favorites. But, printing photos can also be a learning tool. Sometimes, mistakes are easier to see in printed form. A shot that’s just out of focus or a composition that was cropped in too closely — those are all easier to spot, and then correct for next time, printed on paper. Whether it’s an album full or larger wall prints, don’t make the mistake of never printing any of your favorite photos.

Printing too small.

Any print is better than no prints, but new photographers tend to err on the side of too little. When it comes to wall art, larger prints make a much bigger impact. If you’re not sure which photo should dominate the largest area of that wall, printing a few small images first is fine, but don’t top out all your prints at an 8×10. Favorite photos deserve to go even larger.

Failing to check the resolution.

More pictures should be printed, and more photos should be printed larger — but not every image can be. Before you print, make sure the resolution will accommodate that print size. Most DSLRs can accommodate pretty large prints, but if the image was cropped or shot on a smartphone or point-and-shoot, be sure to check that resolution first.

Not color correcting.

Colors from a screen don’t always translate 100 percent to the printed surface. The difference between screen and paper can be remedied with a color collaboration device and software for each screen. Or, when using a printing service, checking the option for color correction, often for a small fee. Color corrected photos will pop that much more in print form.

Not experimenting with materials.

Sure, photos on paper are pretty cheap, but don’t stop there. Photos can be printed on a number of different materials from the more traditional canvas to the newer options like wood, metal and glass. Each medium has subtle differences that can enhance that particular photo, as well as blending better with the surrounding decor.

Photos shouldn’t exist only in megapixels — but making printing mistakes can be pretty expensive. To get the best results the first time, avoid those newbie printing mistakes and print your shots, print larger photos, check the resolution, color correct and experiment with different materials. Happy printing!

From wood to metal, 4 non-traditional printing surfaces (and why they're so cool)

From wood to metal, 4 non-traditional printing surfaces (and why they’re so cool)

Printing a photograph is no longer a question of a frame over a canvas — as printing technology improves, the possibilities for what you print your photos on expands from wood to metal and even burlap. Just like choosing between glossy or matte, each medium has it’s own unique quirks and styles that are important to understand before you invest getting that favorite shot enlarged. So besides canvas gallery wraps and prints, what non-traditional printing surfaces can give your prints the perfect presentation? Here are four non-traditional prints to consider.


Wood has long been a home decor staple and now it has ventured into displaying favorite photos. The natural grain and imperfections inside the wood help create a unique piece. Often, when printing on wood, anything white in the original photo shows the color and texture of the wood.

Of course, printing on wood opens up even more options — what kind  of wood? Maple’s light color creates a more modern than rustic look. Bamboo, on the other hand, adds lots of texture to the edges.

Besides being a beautiful way to display a photograph, wood also has the added benefit of being a renewable resource.


Putting a photo on something transparent like glass or acrylic has a unique effect — as the light passes through the photo, the color appear more vibrant and the image can almost sometimes appear to be three dimensional. Unlike printing on wood, glass prints offer modern, clean lines that go with those bright colors.

The downside? Glass and acrylic prints tend to be more fragile, though many are reinforced for more durability. Like most non-traditional prints, they also tend to be more expensive than a simple gallery wrap.


Burlap is standard in any rustic decor, and now it’s making its way into printing. While burlap was originally a popular DIY project for transferring graphics to, now it’s even suitable for printing photos from print companies. Burlap is often wrapped around a frame, much like a canvas gallery wrap.

Unlike traditional canvas, however, burlap adds more texture. Since burlap isn’t pure white, the images have more muted, almost vintage colors to them.


Metal signs aren’t just for advertising your favorite car or drink brand anymore. Prints on metal have the clean lines and thin edges of glass. Prints on metal tend to have a softer look to the images, despite the sharpness of the medium, though colors are still vibrant.

While metal prints are a beautiful medium, they tend to have a shorter lifespan — they’re best to hang in areas without direct sunlight. Metal prints can also chip and scratch, so they’re best left hanging, not handled.

Printing an image is no longer about choosing whether you want paper or canvas — printing on wood, glass, burlap and metal offer their own unique characteristics that can give that photo a unique edge. Paper and canvas wraps aren’t going anywhere, but getting creative with print mediums is now easier than ever.

Glossy vs. Matte Finish: What print type is best?

Glossy vs. Matte Finish: What print type is best?

It’s the paper or plastic of the photography printing world: glossy or matte finish? While the choice of a finish may be a matter of artistic opinion, there are still a few qualities that each print type offers that may make one better than the other for certain applications. So in the glossy vs. matte finish debate, which print type is the right one for you?

Glossy photo finish

Glossy photos do just what their name implies — they gloss over the photograph, giving it a nice shine. The paper and the coating behind that glossy photograph is actually made up of the same stuff as a matte image, except that more of the final coating is used. That extra layer of shine tends to give the image an apparent boost in color and, well, like anything with a bit of shine to it, just looks pretty.

The problem with the glossy photo finish is that it creates glare. You’ll see light reflecting off the photo itself, making it hard to view equally under different lighting scenarios. One of the issues many photographers have with glossy photos is also the fingerprints they tend to attract. The finish of a glossy photo leaves the print more susceptible to fingerprints, which means photos that will see a good deal of handling aren’t the ideal shots to use with a glossy finish.

Bottom line: Glossy photos are good for colorful shots — but only if you don’t mind glare or fingerprints.

Matte photo finish

With less of that final shiny layer, matte prints offer a similar lifespan, but without that glossy sheen. Matte photographs don’t quite have the same color boost as glossy — though if you shoot and process the photo right, you can still get a good deal of color from a matte print. Matte photos tend to be better for less vibrant color schemes or monochrome shots, particularly if you were trying to imitate a film effect. Where the glossy finish tends to emphasize color, matte prints tend to play up the texture in an image.

Without that extra gloss, the matte photo isn’t as susceptible to shine and fingerprints. In general, though it’s not always the case, professional photographers tend to choose matte over glossy because of the lower likelihood of glare and fingerprinting. While matte tends to play up texture, the image may look bit grainer because of that enhanced texture, however.

The bottom line: Favored more by pros, the matte finish doesn’t glare or fingerprint, but the tendency to highlight texture could also bring out unwanted texture like noise from high ISOs.

A matte photograph’s anti-reflective qualities often makes it a better choice for framing large prints, while the enhanced color may help snapshots stand out more with a glossy finish. While there is no right or wrong answer when choosing your photo finish, there are pros and cons of each type that are important to understand in order to get the most from your prints.

4 steps to getting accurate colour from your HP Designjet Printer

4 steps to getting accurate colour from your HP Designjet Printer

Digital photography and graphics work has made many things simpler, but there’s a problem: viewing graphics on a backlit screen is much different than viewing them on paper. Without the right printer settings, the printed colors can be drastically different than what you expect. Here are four things you need to try if the colors from your HP Designjet printer aren’t what you expected.

1. Calibrate the monitor

Don’t blame the printer just yet — it could be your monitor. The factory defaults aren’t always the best viewing conditions and can sometimes lead to big color differences between prints and the screen, and calibrating your monitor can make a big difference. Both PCs and Macs come with tools to help calibrate your monitor. For the most advanced needs, physical color collaboration tools take out the guesswork.

2. Calibrate the printer

Different conditions and even different ink cartridges affect the way that the colors look in your final prints. Printer calibration ensures that the printer is getting accurate colors. Calibration isn’t a one-and-done deal though — along with calibrating when you change the ink or paper type, you should calibrate for environmental changes (like the change to summer humidity) and whenever your printer hasn’t been used for awhile. Thankfully, color calibration from a Designjet is very simple — you print out a test sheet, let it dry, then scan it. (You can find the exact steps from HP here)

3. Select the “Printer Manage Colors” option

Once everything is calibrated, you should tell your computer that you want your printer to manage the colors, and you should do this both in the driver settings by accessing the printer from your computer’s control panel, and in the application you are using to print. First make sure the the “Printer manage colors” option is checked inside your printer settings — the exact location depends on the computer that you are using, but you can usually find it in the color tab.

Next, find that option in the program you are printing from. To do that, go to print, then hit “Advanced.” In some applications, you’ll check the box that says “let the printer manage colors” while in others you’ll select “printer manages colors” from the color handling drop down menu. In Photoshop, you don’t even have to click on the advanced tab to select the printer from the color management drop down menu.

Click to download an overview of these steps.

4. Choose the correct rendering

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you let your printer know what you’re printing so it knows how to handle the colors. In the same window that you used to select the printer color management, look for an option that says “rendering” or “rendering intent.” Then, select the correct option based on what type of document you are working with:

•    Perpetual: Photographs
•    Relative Colorimetric: Line art and logo graphs
•    Absolute Colorimetric: To simulate paper
•    Saturation: For business graphics, such as charts

Getting accurate colors from screen to print is tricky, but not impossible. With a color calibrated screen and printer, simply tell the computer what type of graphic you are printing and to let the printer manage the colors.