Photo Processing Basics: Use Hue & Saturation Effectively

Change and enhance color with precision using this adjustment tool
Photoshop Hue Saturation controls

Use the Hue/Saturation tool in Photoshop (common in most photo applications) to fine-tune white balance, remove color casts and boost color intensity via simple sliders.

The Hue/Saturation adjustment is found in most image editing applications, and offers one of the best ways to change colors both globally and selectively.

In Photoshop, the Hue/Saturation tool has three adjustments: Hue (color balance), Saturation (the intensity of color) and Lightness (a combination of contrast and brightness). When used individually or in combination, these adjustments can have results as dramatic as the complete transformation a scene or be used for more subtle enhancements in specific color ranges.

Adjust the Hue control and you’ll see shifts in the color values in your images. With this slider, you can radically alter the photograph’s colors. Finer, incremental adjustments can effectively reduce unwanted color casts or correct white balance.

The Saturation control provides a satisfying color boost or, when taken too far, a garish appearance to your photographs. Although the degree of change is subject to your own personal taste, an amount of about 10 to 20 is recommended for most images.

You can adjust all colors by using the Master control, or make individual color (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta or yellow) adjustments.The individual color adjustment offers the most precision and control, allowing changes to selective colors with less risk of altering other color values.

The Lightness control should be used sparingly, if at all. Adjustments to brightness and contrast can be better achieved and controlled by using Levels or Curves in your image-editing application.

Basic Rules For Hue/Saturation

  1. Adjust Hue in small amounts to correct color and adjust in large amounts to drastically change color.
  2. Saturation changes the intensity of a color; adjustments between 10 and 20 will offer an accept-able range.
  3. Saturation features a Master control in addition to individual color adjustments.
  4. Extreme adjustments of Saturation cause problems, ranging from harsh color to increased noise and grain, to edge “halos.”
  5. Use Lightness sparingly. Instead, use Levels or Curves for major adjustments to brightness and contrast.