The Adobe October 2023 update brought a few new features, and the Lightroom Point Color tool is one of them. It’s part of an overhaul of the old HSL/Color panel, which has now been renamed as the Color Mixer. So how do these new tools work, and do they actually work any better?
Lightroom has always offered fast and intuitive HSL adjustments. You can either pick a color range and use the Hue, Saturation and Luminance tabs to shift its values with sliders, or you can use the targeted adjustment tool to drag directly up and down in the image.
So far so good. However, I’ve always found Lightroom’s color adjustments very crude and unsatisfactory. I also use Capture One extensively, and the color adjustments I get from these two cameras are poles apart.
I’ll give you one very specific example, and also use this to test out Lightroom’s new color adjustments. One color tweak I do a lot with outdoor and landscape shots is to darken a blue sky to make clouds stand out more clearly. As well as reducing the luminance value I may also drop the saturation and sometimes shift the hue to get what I would call a ‘wintry sky’ look.
And I can get exactly this result in Capture One with just a few moments’ work in the Color Editor. Here you can see my original shot on the left and my edited version on the right. I’ve exaggerated the color shift just a little to make the difference obvious, and to show just how well Capture One separates the sky and the clouds, with no color pollution in the clouds.
I’ve never been able to get close to this result in Lightroom, so now’s a chance to see if the new Point Color tool can do the trick.
Lightroom Color Mixer panel
Remember, this is just the new name for the old Color/HSL panel, and I can use it to show my problem with Lightroom’s color adjustments.
To give it the best chance, I’m using the targeted adjustment tool to reduce the luminance and saturation to try to get close to the result Capture One gives me.
The first problem is that if I reduce the luminance of the blue sky, it also sucks in most of the cloud too, leaving that much too dark. It also increases the saturation (why?).
The second problem is that I then use the targeted adjustment tool to reduce the saturation, it doesn’t fix the issue with the clouds but it does introduce banding artefacts in the blue sky.
We could blame that on the fact I’m working on a JPEG rather than a raw file, but it’s the same JPEG I edited very successfully in Capture One, which gave a much cleaner color separation and no artefacts.
Lightroom Point Color tool
With this new option I can use the eyedropper to add samples from different areas of the blue sky, so it looks as if the initial color selection should be a lot more accurate, right?
The result I’m getting is certainly a lot better. I have to drag the luminance slider right down to zero to get the effect I want and I have to reduce the saturation slider too. It’s a lot better than before, but the clouds are still being affected too much, which suggests the color range needs tightening.
And that’s now possible. If you click the disclosure arrow under the sliders you can see a set of three gadgets for controlling the hue, saturation and color ranges. These do indeed sort of many of the issues here, and it’s possible with a little fiddling to stop the white clouds being affected by this adjustment.
But while the new Point Color tool has enabled me to get a much better color adjustment in Lightroom, it’s still not as good, nor as strong, as the color shift from Capture One.
Of course, this is only one very specific example. There are lots of other situations with other subjects where Lightroom’s new tools might do a perfectly good job. But I have always found this particular ‘blue sky’ test to be a good indicator of color adjustments – and for me, while Lightroom’s Point Color tool is an improvement, it’s still not in the same league as Capture One’s color adjustments.
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