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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—the dull colors get more saturated, but 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 because everything gets saturated at the same intensity (it’s a very coarse adjustment). In fact, I only use it to remove color—never to add it. If you click-and-drag the Saturation slider to the right, your photo gets more colorful, but in a clownish, unrealistic way. Here’s our original image (a photo of my house) with no color boost (just seeing if you were paying attention). The sky is kind of “meh” and dull (colorwise), and the roof of the church is kind of washed-out looking, too, but at least the trees look okay.

Step Two:

When you see a dull sky, a washed-out roof, a lifeless, monotone-looking color image, that’s a job for the Vibrance slider! Here’s basically what it does: It boosts the vibrance of any dull colors in the image quite a bit. If there are already saturated colors in the image, it tries not to boost them very much, so things don’t get too vibrant. Lastly, if your photo has people in it, it uses a special mathematical algorithm to avoid affecting flesh tones, so the skin on your people doesn’t start to look too colorful (of course, that doesn’t come into play in this particular image). Anyway, using Vibrance gives a much more realistic-looking color boost than you’d ever get from Saturation. I pushed it pretty far here, but in my own workflow, I’m usually between 10 and 25 for my Vibrance amount, and only if I have an image that I think needs it.

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