How to Adjust Hue, Saturation, & Luminance in Camera Raw

  • Thread starter 15Katey
  • Start date


May 10, 2021
Reaction Score
  • #1

In today’s post, I’m going to be adjusting some of the sliders in the HSL/Grayscale panel to see what kind of effect they will have on a few example photos. If you aren’t aware, “HSL” stands for Hue, Saturation and Luminance. Let me give you some definitions of exactly what these are below.

Hue – A color or shade.

Saturation – The intensity of a color.

Luminance – The brightness or darkness of a color.

I’m sure there are some more involved definitions out there, but I’m really trying to keep things simple here. And as we go through this post, you’ll see exactly how each of the sliders in the tabs inside of the HSL panel can affect a photograph. First though, let’s take a look at the HSL panel itself.


Saturation Tab​

I’d like to kick things off inside the Saturation tab, so if you’re following along, please click into that. If you’ll notice, inside this tab, we’ve got eight sliders. They range from red to green to magenta. The idea behind each slider is to adjust the amount of saturation, or intensity, for that specific color. For example, in our demonstration photo, we’ve got some flower petals that are primarily colored red and orange. I’ll go ahead and lessen (slide to the left) both of those colors.


As you can see, I’ve desaturated the flower petals.

If I reset those two sliders and increase the yellow and green colors by moving their sliders all the way to the right, we can see that the flower stems will become much more saturated.


Inside the Saturation tab, there’s a fairly wide spectrum of colors to adjust, so you can potentially have a far reaching impact if you make the proper adjustments.

Luminance Tab​

Let’s mix things up a bit and change flowers. Let’s also head into the Luminance tab to see if we can brighten and darken some colors. Take a look at the screenshot below to view our original flower.


As you can see, we’ve got the same variety of colors to adjust back and forth. If you click between the Saturation and Luminance tabs, you’ll notice a small change. Where the Saturation slider alter the intensity of color, the Luminance sliders alter the brightness of color. To view this clearly, look at each end of the color sliders. Let’s see if we can adjust something.

Besides white, I’d say this flower photo is primarily made up of reds, greens and yellows. Let’s move those particular sliders all the way to the left to darken the colors.


I’d say that actually looks pretty neat. We significantly transformed the visual effect of this photo.

Let’s do the opposite and brighten these three colors by moving the sliders all the way to the right.


Now, instead of darkening those three colors, we’ve essentially “whitened” them. Again, this gives the photo an entirely different look.

Hue Tab​

The Hue tab is a strange one in that it gives us the ability to actually change a color. If we have pure red roses, we can change the red color to orange, magenta or somewhere in between. The same is true if we have a flower with yellow petals. Within the Hue tab, we can change the yellow so it’s more orange or green. I’ve used this tab quite a bit and let me tell you that you can come up with some interesting combinations by moving the sliders contained inside.

I found the perfect photo to exemplify what I’m referring to. It’s sort of a purple flower. Take a look.


For this example, I’m only going to adjust one slider – the purple one. This slider gives me the opportunity to change any purple inside the image to either blue or magenta. Let’s turn the purple to blue first by moving the slider all the way to the left.


Wow, I’d say that’s a change. Now, let’s move the slider to the right so our purple flower turns magenta.


I’m not sure which one looks better. I like them both. I think you get the idea here that this is a very powerful tab inside the HSA panel. I also hope I’ve given you some sufficient background into the workings and possibilities of it as well.


May 10, 2021
Reaction Score
  • #2

How to Use Luminance Sliders in Adobe Camera Raw​

I wanted to take a few moments this afternoon to discuss the often underused Luminance tab that’s contained in the HSL Adjustments panel inside of Adobe Camera Raw. I thought of this tab the other day as I was working on editing a photograph. One of the goals I had for the photo was to brighten it up, but I wasn’t too fond of the typical method I use for such things. Because of that, I wanted to use a new way to go about doing the same thing that would give me a similar, if not more pleasing result. As it turns out, this new method did give me a much appealing result than the old. It’s more targeted and it just seems “better.”

In today’s post, I’m going to quickly work through a short project where I add some enhancements to a photo of a girl looking through her camera. She’s sitting in the middle of the road at night, posing for a photograph. When I saw this photo, I thought about how neat it would look if she was somehow showcased a little bit more as the primary subject of the photograph, some of which she already is. I initially thought that I’d make the enhancements in Camera Raw, like I usually do, and then move the photo into Photoshop, like I usually do. In Photoshop, I would add an adjustment layer that brightens the entire image and then paint away the areas I don’t want brightened. While this approach would work well, it would still brighten potions of the image I don’t want brightened. I’d much prefer a method that targets certain areas, so that’s what I’ll work on today. And to do this, I’ll use the Luminance tab inside of the HSL Adjustments panel.

I think the Luminance area of Adobe Camera Raw is oftentimes overlooked for a few different reasons. First, most of us really don’t consider lighting nearly enough while we edit our photos. And if we do, we head straight for the Exposure slider in the Basic panel. The problem with this approach is that the Exposure slider is a blunt instrument. It alters the exposure of the entire photograph, even things that you might not want lightened or darkened. I know, I know, we can somewhat work around this pitfall by adjusting some of the other sliders, which will enhance the contrast between colors, but still, it’s really blunt. The second reason I think we overlook the Luminance area is by default, Camera Raw displays the Saturation tab when the HSL Adjustments panel is opened. I know this might seem strange, but many budding editors out there who aren’t yet well versed in the ways of editing might either ignore or simply not see the Luminance or Hue tabs. That’s a real shame, because those two areas are so helpful and can do so much. For some strange reason though, I’ve seen people focus on color saturation more than anything else in these types of applications.

The last reason new editors may avoid the Luminance tab is because when they do try it out, they don’t get the results they’re looking for. When it comes to saturation, yes, the difference they can make is quite straightforward. Either color is added or color is removed. With luminance, it’s very easy to make an image look terrible. Brightening or darkening specific areas isn’t the simplest thing to accomplish in an image and I think folks give up far too quickly. But these are just my opinions. I may be off base.

Besides brightening the center of this photo, I’ll also make some other changes down the line in an effort to give the image an overall better look. I’ll start off by comparing the result of overall increased exposure and the effect of a more targeted one by using the Targeted Adjustment Tool and the Luminance sliders.

Demo Photo​

Without further ado, I present today’s demo image. I think it’s going to be perfect for this tutorial.


Comparing Exposure & Luminance​

Both the Exposure slider and those in the Luminance area have the ability to brighten and darken areas of a photo, but they go about it in different ways. In this first image, I’ll show you what things would look like if I increased just the Exposure value so it reads +1.00. I’ll also go ahead and push a few of the other Basic panel slides now so things later on are more consistent. Let’s take a look.


Here are the sliders I pushed.


Okay, for this next shot, I set the Exposure value back to 0.00 and I moved into the Luminance tab inside of the HSL Adjustments tab. Once I was there, I used the Targeted Adjustment Tool that’s up in the top toolbar to click and drag on any areas I wanted brighter. What this tool does is brighten or darken any color it’s clicked on. So, it can be challenging to work with a photo that has somewhat of a color cast as this one does, but I did find some good results. There were enough differences between the oranges, yellows and reds to offer some distinction between areas of the photo. Let’s take a look.


Do you see how only the center of the photo has been brightened? The edges have maintained their original luminance, which is what I wanted. To get as much as I could out of this demonstration, I manually pushed the Orange and Yellow sliders to their maximum values and the Red slider to its minimum (this is the way they were heading anyway). Also, if you’ll notice between the two resulting photos, in the second photo, the girl’s hair hasn’t been brightened. Only the oranges and yellows were brightened as opposed to everything, as I mentioned happens when using only the Exposure slider.

But just FYI, my goal was to brighten only the orange area that’s surrounding the girl, and leave the dark outer edges alone. Those outer edges just happened to be very dark reds. I clicked on those orange areas with the Targeted Adjustment Tool and dragged to the right, which resulted in increased values (luminance) for the oranges and yellows.


This is exactly what I was referring to earlier when I spoke of a “targeted luminance adjustment.” There were some objects that I didn’t want brightened at the center of this photo and with this better tool, they weren’t. Of course, results will vary with different images, but you get the idea.

The Final Photo​

I’m going to go ahead and reduce the Blacks value, increase the Dehaze value and add a slight vignette to this photo for more contrast and call it a day. Here’s the final result.


I think that looks really sharp. Much better than the original and exactly what I wanted. So, the moral of this story is that when you would like to brighten or darken an image when using Adobe Camera Raw, the Exposure slider isn’t the only available option. You can also get some really great and oftentimes more targeted results from the Luminance sliders in the HSL Adjustments panel.


I hope I clearly explained how to use the Luminance sliders in Adobe Camera Raw and how they can compare to the Exposure slider under certain circumstances. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!