Lightroom Tips #1 – Selective Desaturation

Let’s see how I did to create this effect on this picture of Mio Igarashi. The picture was originally took with a Nikon D200 and RAW file format, lens: Nikkor 50mm/F1.4.

This is the final result, let’s see how to do it


In develop mode, select the “show clipping” tool by click in the little arrow or just press “j”:

show clipping tool lightroom

In this way we can only see the 100% dark, the black parts of the picture:

clipping too dark lightroom

Then, let’s select the “adjustment brush”:

adjustment brush lightroom

This is a “swiss knife” tool. Let’s set just what we need to modify and apply it to the interested zones. In this case we want to make her background really dark, so let’s reduce the “exposure” and “brightness”:

exposure brightness adjustment brush lightroom

This is how the bush is been shown on the picture. The “+” sign indicates that we will apply the bush in that zone and from there we just move around to the places we want to modify:

adjustment brush exposure brightness lightroom

The blue part indicates the real dark zones. As far as we apply the adjustment brush with those settings, we can control which parts are really dark seeing at the blue color:

exposure brightness adjustment tool lightroom

Once we complete this process we should have a perfect dark background that gives a sensation of deep-less to the picture. If we have no point of reference to understand where the background is, every people produces his/her own sense of deep behind the subject which could, in certain cases, be more suggestive than a normal background.

Now let’s desaturate to create a black and white zone. Again we choose the adjustment brush but this time with different settings. First make sure that you don’t alter the exposure and brightness setting those parameters to zero. Then desaturate completely as shown here:

desaturate adjustment brush lightroom

Now apply just to the interested zones only :)

adjustment brush desaturation lightroom


If you plan to do an effect like this, first think about how you can help yourself to reduce the edit and post processing time. In this pictures the helping parts are: She has beautiful dark hair. As far the black and white part is the human body, her black hair helped me in the zones where the hair is over her dress. Just imagine to desaturate only the hair part over a colorful background… It would take hours and the final result could be a little bit fake.
Then, her dress has a black zone surrounding her breaths. That helped me not to worry about the precision to apply the desaturation brush.
A dark background also helped in this process. Remember that it’s not only a matter of time is also the fack that we want to make it as natural as possible. Everybody knows that that’s not real but if feels natural.

Check the final result

Do you like this kind of effect?
What about leave some parts of the face in black and white? for example a black and white face and red lips?