Creative Editing - LAB Color Mode to Expand Color In Your Images

To get started, let’s review a little about color spaces. 

The standard color space used by digital cameras is the RGB color space (Red, Yellow, Green). The camera starts with these colors and mixes them to create the colors in the image. L-A-B color space defines color differently. It uses three channels: Lightness, A channel, and B channel. The lightness channel is the brightness channel and is without regard to color, and it is similar to a greyscale. The A and B channels define color without regard to lightness. The A channel is how much green or magenta is in the image. The B channel is blue and yellow. So why use LAB color? LAB has a much larger broad color space, and it also separates lightness from color. Therefore you can modify or stretch the colors without impacting the light or darkness of the color. The LAB color space allows you to extend the color palette and bring in other tones in the image. See the before and after of this image. The only changes made were with using LAB to stretch the tone curve of the picture. 

This process could sound complicated, but it is straightforward! I recommend trying this conversion before you have made other adjustments to your image. I also like using this technique when I know the picture has different color tones that I cannot see. Converting to LAB and using a curves adjustment layer, we can see what else is available in the image. 

To get started: 

  • Bring your image into Photoshop
  • Convert the image to LAB: Image>Mode>LAB
  • Add a curves adjustment layer
  • Modify the curves on the A channel and then the B channel
  • Once you modify both A and B, see how you like the image. Continue to tweak the curves if needed. 
  • Convert the image back to RGB: Image>Mode>RGB 

This video will walk you through the conversion and editing of the image with the curves adjustment. Give LAB color a try when you want to expand the color in your image and bring out additional color tones. 

Using Format