Solid Color for Targeted Adjustment


Today’s Question: I just can’t get a color from the color swatch in the Graduated Filter to enter the gradient area on the image. With Exposure set at different slider levels to the left, the sky remains dark. I try to put some reasonable blue in and there is no change at all. Any thoughts?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I suspect in this case you are probably either using a color value that is too close to the underlying area of the image, or that your other adjustments (such as Exposure) are overpowering the color effect. I would try moderating the other adjustments, and then select a strong color (such as a very saturated red) to test out the behavior of the Color adjustment.

More Detail: The Color option that is available for the Graduated Filter, the Radial Filter, and the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom’s Develop module (as well as Adobe Camera Raw) enables you to essentially add a color tint into a specific area of a photo. So, for example, you could add a nice blue tint to into an otherwise dreary sky.

To select a color, simply click on the color swatch (the rectangle) to the right of the Color label and choose a color from the popup. That color will then appear in the image based on the current targeted adjustment, depending on which tool you’re currently working with.

If the color you select is very similar to the underlying color in the image, or if the color is very subtle (of low saturation, for example) then the change may not be easy to see within the photo. To get a sense of how this adjustment works, I recommend first selecting a highly saturated color that differs from the color in the area of the image you’re applying the adjustment to.

Once you’ve refined the definition of the area you want to affect within the image, you can modify the other adjustments you want to apply, and fine-tune the color selection for the Color adjustment. Along the way, you may notice that applying strong adjustments (such as with Exposure) may mask the color so that it can’t be seen very easily.

Of course, in many cases you may want a relatively subtle color for the Color adjustment, so that the result blends in to the surrounding image in a pleasing way. But by starting with an exaggerated color and refining from there, you’ll get a better sense of what is possible with this adjustment.