How to swiftly enhance sunset colors in Lightroom
There are many factors that create an impactful and pleasing to the eye image. To me, color is one of the key ingredients in creating a photograph. When we shoot in raw we have to “develop” the images ourselves, and that includes deciding on the colorwork. In fact, one of the reasons why I find photography so compelling is that it gives me room to develop an image and give it my personal interpretation.
Lightroom, Photoshop and many other editing programs come with many color enhancing tools. In this brief article, we will have a look at the color enhancing techniques I apply frequently and which can be carried out very swiftly in Lightroom. The HSL section in Lightroom may cause transition lines between colors (a.k.a. banding). This technique, however, won’t leave any harsh transition lines.
My favorite time to shoot is during the golden hour. That is when the light is… well… golden. This is the time close to sunsets or sunrises, where we may get nice rich golden colors. The approach I am going to share is perfect for golden hour images.
Here is the photo I am going to use for the demo. I shot it on the first afternoon of the new year during a stunning sunset along the shores of Tyrifjorden, Norway.
If you look at the adjustment panel in Lightroom, you will see the Split Toning section right below the HSL sliders. The Split Toning section is divided into two separate parts, Highlights and Shadows. Each part which targets different tonal values in an image.
The first step is to adjust the tonal values of the photo (highlights, blacks, shadows, etc.). You’d want no clipping in either end of the histogram. Then, open up the Highlights’ color picker in the Split Toning section.
Click on the rectangular box and a new pop up window comes up. You can move a color picker around choosing whichever color you please. Here I will pick a warm color that accentuates and enhances the warm colors that are already present in the image.
For the nest step, open the picker and do the same. For this demo, I will pick a colder tone for the shadows. If you are working on an image like this one, you would usually want something bluish. Here I just add a very modest tint of the color to my liking. I try to find colors in both sections that work together, that is, which are as complementary as possible.
Here is the thing, though. When you enhance the reds in the highlights, you will wash away the blue colors in the highlights – usually the sky and the water. You want to restore the blues and not leave them too faded or warm looking.
You can easily achieve that in the Camera Calibration section. This section has four various sliders, but I am only interested in the one at the bottom – Blue Primary. Push it to the right and see what happens.
The blue slider adds contrast, enhances colors and restores the blues in the highlights. If the highlights become clipped when you pushed the blue slider to the right, it means you have to readjust the tonal values in the image. Use the Highlights, Whites or Lights sliders in the tonal value sections in Lightroom.
These color enhancements may provide a good starting point before further editing.
Here is a quick before/after so you can see what happens when you apply the changes.