How To Use the Luminance Feature in Lightroom

Just because a photographer did not use a filter when taking photographs doesn't mean that they can't apply a filter later. Image editing software programs, especially Adobe Lightroom, allow users to add effects like polarizing filter overlays to their photographs. This can be done by using the Luminance feature in Lightroom. A little patience and a willingness to experiment are all users need to effectively use this interesting tool.

Step 1: Understanding the Luminance Tool

For amateur photographers that have never used a filter, filters can either dull the glare from the sun or add a certain hue to photographs. Polarizing filters are generally used to reduce the glare caused by bright lights or the sun. UV filters can be used to make pictures look brighter while neutral density filters lessen the intensity of bright lights. The final type of lens filters are warm/cool lenses. These either make the image more warm (orange) or cooler (blue).

The Luminance feature has the same effect as a polarizing filter, except that it's doing it to photos that have already been taken. If a photographer has a picture that would look better with a more vibrant blue sky, he can use the Luminance feature to create just such an effect.

While this tool works better with raw (non-manipulated or only slightly processed) images, users can experiment with the tool with previously adjust images.

Step 2: How to Use the Tool

To access the Luminance feature, users need to open the photo and then go into the Develop module. The Develop module allows users to manipulate, edit or add effects to photos without actually destroying the original photo. The effects will not be permanent until the user decides to make them so. This allows users to experiment with their images without worrying about losing the origin.

Within the Develop module, users need to go to the Histogram, and then go into the HSL/Color/Grayscale panel. From there, users need to find the Luminance tab. Once in the Luminance tab, users need to click on the icon located in the upper left-hand corner. Then, drag the icon onto the photo, and place it in the area that needs to be manipulated. While holding down the mouse, drag the icon around the area.

After the area has been selected, users can adjust the saturation of colors by using the Amount Slider. If the arrow of the slider is moved to the left, the color saturation will increase, and the area will get darker. If it's moved to the right, the area gets lighter.

Why Use the Luminance Tool?

The Luminance tool is especially effective to increase contrast in photos.  For example, if a photographer has taken pictures of snow-covered mountains, a deeper blue sky will cause the mountains to look more dramatic.

Further, if a photo was taken during the middle of the day or under bright lights, the colors could be slightly washed out, or the photo could be overexposed. Adding some saturation to the photo via the Luminance feature will bring back the colors that were lost and create a better looking image.