What is saturation?
How saturation changes the feel of a photo.
Highly saturated photos can look artificial, so use saturation with care — especially if you’re going for a natural look. Many people can tell when photo saturation has been altered. We judge the health of plants and the freshness of food by color, so we notice unnatural saturation shifts very quickly.
If you want to create surreal images, you might make larger shifts in saturation. But for realistic pictures, keep real-world references in mind as you edit, so you don’t overdo the colors. “It’s rare to see pure colors in nature because ambient light makes colors less saturated,” says photographer Heather Barnes. “That’s why you have to be really careful in post to not overly saturate your color.”
Make slight moves for big impact.
Check your histogram.
Histograms are graphs that show you the tonal range of an image, from shadows to midtones to highlights. Their most common use is for exposure and tonality, but you can also find a color histogram in your digital camera or in your photo editing software.
Look for points on the graph where your color values spike off the chart. This is called clipping, and it means the camera sensor was overloaded, so you’ve lost detail for those pixels. If you desaturate a little, you might regain some of that detail.
Adjust color saturation in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
The Vibrance slider adjusts the intensity of only the less saturated colors in a photo. You can make subtler, targeted increases to color saturation by moving the slider to the right.
Think of Saturation as the color paint roller and Vibrance as the color detailing paintbrush.
Get started with tutorials.
Learn how to make targeted adjustments to specific colors in the Color Mix panel.
With a little practice and close attention to the colors around you, you can ensure that your photos capture the world in all its natural vividness.
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