How to Change Colors Locally in Your Photos

by | 1 year ago

Back in June, the Hue slider, a very cool feature in the local adjustment tools, was added to Lightroom. The following technique is great for photographers to know when going to develop your photos, because it gives you total control of the colors in your images. In this example, we’ll be changing the color of flowers, but you can change any specific part of your image that you want. 

When the poppies were red, I took this photo in Avignon in the south of France. Later, I was shooting some poppies in California and, to my surprise, they were very orange, so I had the idea to change the colors of the poppies in the Avignon image to make it into a cool photo! 

Step One: The Basic Retouch 

To start, do a basic retouch on your photo. In this example, I opened up the Shadows to +100, and set the Whites to +44 and the Blacks to –34. I added some Contrast by moving the slider to +32, and for the white balance, I changed the Tint to +34 and the Temp to 5351. 

Step Two: Improve Your Sky 

If your sky is lacking intensity, drag out a Graduated Filter (M) on top of your photo, and lower the Exposure (–0.98 in this example) to darken it. For a softer sky and more puffy clouds, use a negative Clarity. Here we lowered it to –28.

Step Three: Select and Use a Radial Filter 

Next, select the Radial Filter (Shift-M), and drag out a circle over the part of the image where you want to change colors. Select the flowers at the lower left of the image. Turn on the Invert checkbox so that all the changes will affect the area inside the circle and not around it. Before changing the colors, we boosted the Clarity and Texture to increase the midtone contrast. 

Step Four: Using the New Hue Slider 

Now comes the fun part: using the Hue local adjustment. Since I initially wanted to make those poppies more orange, I moved the slider to 25.6. You’ll notice that the grass changes color too but we’ll fix that later. 

Step Five: Fine Adjustment

I then decided to try a blue color. To make sure you find the perfect color, you can turn on the Use Fine Adjustment checkbox but, before turning on that checkbox, use the Hue slider to get close to the color you want. Here, we set it to around –120.0, and then clicked on Use Fine Adjustment. Now when you drag the Hue slider, the changes are much slower so you can make sure you get the exact color you want (–123.6 here). 

Step Six: Range Mask 

Once you’ve selected the color, you can better control the areas that change color by using the Range Mask option at the bottom of the Radial Filter panel. Select Color in the Range Mask drop-down menu, and then click on the Color Range Selector tool (eyedropper) to make it active. Click-and-drag your mouse to create a little square around an area where you want the color change to take effect: Here, we drew a little square inside one of the flowers. This really fine-tunes the color change by only applying the changes to similar colors in the area you selected. So in this case, the Hue change is restricted to the flowers and no longer affects the grass. 

Step Seven: Tailor-Make Your Photo 

On this last step, Right-click inside the Radial Filter and select Duplicate. Move the duplicates to other parts of your image to create different colors all around your photo. Here we created two duplicates to create three different colors of poppies. We set the Hue on the original Radial Filter to –87.1 for a more natural look. For the yellow poppies in the middle, we set the Hue to 42.8 and boosted the exposure to 0.68. Here’s the final result. 

I hope you learned something with this technique and that you’re ready to create a lot of amazing color effects. The sky’s the limit! I think this Hue feature is really cool, and I was very inspired with the colors of the flowers in my image, but you can apply this technique to any situation you like!