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This chapter is from the book

Making Your Colors More Vibrant

Photos that have rich, vibrant colors definitely have their appeal (that’s why professional landscape photographers got so hooked on Velvia film and its trademark saturated color), and although Lightroom has a Saturation slider for increasing your photo’s color saturation, the problem is it increases all the colors in your photo equally—while the dull colors do get more saturated, the colors that are already saturated get even more so, and well...things get pretty horsey, pretty fast. That’s why Lightroom’s Vibrance control may become your Velvia.

  • Step One: In the Presence section (at the bottom of the Basic panel) are two controls that affect the color saturation. I avoid the Saturation slider for the reasons mentioned above—everything gets saturated at the same intensity (it’s a very coarse adjustment). If you click-and-drag the Saturation slider to the right, your photo does get more colorful, but in a clownish, unrealistic kind of way (the over-saturation won’t show up here in the printed book because the photos here get converted to CMYK for a printing press, so I’m just showing the original photo here, untouched). But, go ahead and try it yourself—drag the Saturation slider to the far right and you’ll see what I mean. Now, return the Saturation amount back to 0.
  • Step Two: Now try the Vibrance slider—it affects dull colors the most (like the pink flowers), and it affects already saturated colors the least (like the yellow capitulum and the grass behind them), and lastly, it does try to avoid affecting fleshtones as much as possible (which doesn’t come into play in this particular photo). This gives a much more realistic-looking color saturation across the board, without trashing your skin tones, which makes this a much more usable tool. Here’s the same photo using the Vibrance slider instead. The petals look much more vibrant, but without looking “clowny” (I bet that word throws my spell checker for a loop). So, unless I’m desaturating an overly colorful photo, I pretty much avoid the Saturation slider altogether.
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