LR4 Color Adjustment

The new Lightroom 4 beta is looking pretty good.  It has many new features that are useful, and you can bet we'll highlight them when the final version is released.  One of the features I like most is the improved Adjustment Brush.  For the first time, all of the basic adjustments can now be applied to specific parts of the image. Lightroom 4 panel

This new capability will allow you to apply very targeted adjustments in Lightroom that you currently would have to apply with masks inside Photoshop.  And right on top of the panel is one you may overlook - color balance.

Lightroom 4 panel

We've blogged before about the varying temperature of different light sources, and problems that can occur when you mix light sources in a single photo.  If this isn't something you did purposely for an effect, it can be very difficult to balance the light sources.  Now you have a new tool to assist you.

When I was out in our one little snow earlier this year, I managed to create an example of two different color balances in one photo.

mixed color balance

I was adjusting my settings on arrival at this gate and noticed how the headlights' color cast was decidedly orange.  Since this was taken right before we went to Alaska, I never got around to processing all the photos from that shoot.  (That's lucky because this would have gone straight into the bit bucket.)   You can easily see the clash of the orange (warm) headlights against the blue of the early morning (cool).

corrected color balance

With the new brush, I can knock that orange right into submission, cooling it so the light looks like it fits into the scene better.  Most of your viewers would never question that the light might not match reality; it would just seem to fit better.

Here is another example where your viewers' perceptions of what is correct might not match reality.

When I came back from Alaska this summer, I had some shots from the glaciers.  If you've ever seen glaciers, you'll immediately notice their deep blue coloring.  Many people looking at this photo of gulls on an ice flow asked me about the blueness of the birds.  "Why are the birds blue? Did you tint them to match the ice?"  (Once co-workers know you dabble in the evil world of Photoshop, they'll question everything you do - even if you didn't use it.)

gulls on ice flow in Alaska

Of course, I could go into Photoshop and warm up the color balance on the gulls and mask the rest of the image.  It won't take too much effort.  Just add a new layer; adjust the color balance; mask the base image to reveal the warmer gulls; save to file; and you're done.  Or you can stay in Lightroom and make the changes with the new Adjustment Brush.

warm gulls on ice flow in Alaska

Doing all that is possible in a single program makes more sense.  And another big advantage to working in Lightroom is Adobe's policy that all Lightroom adjustments are completely reversible.  If I decide I've gone too far with warming up the gulls, I can change it instantly with the slider or easily revert to the original.  All the original pixels are still there.

I find it funny that people who proclaim they don't like it when I resort to Photoshop are happier with the warmer tones on the gulls ("Everyone knows seagulls don't look that blue").  In order to make them happy, I had to adjust the image away from the original pixels.  And now both parties know I didn't use Photoshop.  ;-)