Simple Color Pop in Lightroom

Pretty Presets - How to Make Colors Pop in LightroomI have done many, many Lightroom webinars and online workshops, and one of the most common questions I was asked was how to make colors in a picture "pop." It is a fairly simple process in Lightroom, one you can do yourself with individual tweaks, or with the help of a preset. Honestly the hardest thing about adding color to make the image pop is to not overdue it - which is an easy thing to do.

Let's get started.... Below is an untouched image that is precious but has a bit of haze and is quite dull. The image was taken in the Fall season, so the color of the grass and tress are drab, but with the help of post processing we are going to bring it to life!

Digital image in need of color pop in Lightroom


This is where I like to start with every image I edit. First I tweak the exposure, but this image's exposure is perfect. There is only some "clipping", which means it's overexposed - that is the area in red you see in the final before-after comparison. I pulled down the Highlights a bit to recover most of that area, but it's not required for the "color pop."

  • Contrast - Increased to bring more depth and contrast to the image, which makes colors bolder.
  • Blacks - This was moved very carefully to the left until the "mountain" in the Histogram moved enough to the left to touch the left side. This deepens the darker areas of the image, making colors have more depth.
  • Clarity - I increased the clarity just a bit to give more detail to the areas of contrast, make the image seem more crisp.
  • Vibrance - This option brightens colors without making the skin tones look orange; it's a much better option than saturation (don't use that for color pop in images with people).

Basic panel changes to create a color pop in Lightroom


The last thing I did to the image was apply a medium contrast curve from the Lightroom Tone Curve panel. Once you open the panel, look to the bottom, where it says "Point Curve" and click on "Linear." When the menu drops down, choose "Medium." If you think you need it even stronger, try the "Strong" option.

How to get a medium contrast curve in Lightroom

Medium contrast curve in Lightroom Tone Curve panel


Below is the before-after of the sample image after doing ONLY the adjustments shown above.

Example of color pop in Lightroom


Remember what I said in the beginning, about not overdoing it? Intensifying the colors is great - to a point. If you go too far the image will scream "Photoshop!" and it won't be as well received by your viewers (friends, family, clients, etc.). If you think you may have gone too far, you probably have.  


Are you new to Lightroom and editing is still slow going? Give our preset collections  a try. They are designed to help you edit faster so you can spend less time on a computer and more time behind the camera.

Many of the preset collections at Pretty Presets has some variation of a color pop preset, but here are a few of my favorites: