Hi this is Elizabeth from elizabethhalford.com on behalf of Pretty Presets for Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW and today we're going to talk about the difference between vibrance and saturation.

So again as usual I’m here in Lightroom 3 and we’re going to be talking about the difference between saturation and vibrance. You can locate the saturation and vibrance sliders here in the basic area of the develop module of Lightroom 3. Over here is vibrance and saturation. In my last video I was talking about the difference between exposure, brightness and fill light. So, if you haven’t seen that, bounce over and watch that and then come back and watch this. And this might make a little bit more sense because you can sort of think of vibrance and saturation as the difference between exposure and fill light in its most basic sense.

So, first a couple of definitions. Saturation is this slider right here, and it’s going to uniformly bump up the intensity of all of the colors in your shot regardless of the starting point of the colors. You have to be careful of this because it can result in clipping. Normally the word clipping you would think of highlights being blown out but when it comes to saturation, clipping means over saturation of certain colors which will result in the loss of detail in those areas. And then over saturation of skin tones can be a huge problem which will leave them looking too orange and unnatural. 

Now vibrance is a smart tool which cleverly increases the intensity of the more muted colors, it leaves the already well saturated colors alone. So we’ve got the vibrance slider right here. It’s sort of like fill light but for colors. So, vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming over saturated and unnatural. I love the vibrance tool. Saturation is kind of like bumping up your exposure and vibrance is kind of like bumping up your fill light. Where your fill light will not lead to a clipping of highlights quite so much, exposure will. It’s sort of the same thing, where you’ll get clipping of colors if you’re not careful with that saturation tool.

So we have this photo here that I took yesterday in the forest with one of my friend's daughters. And it’s already quite a low saturated image. I just wanted to show you the effect of these sliders here. We’ve got the saturation slider and as you slide it up the colors get more and more saturated and you can see that its quite a nice effect if you want your photo to be really poppy and very juicy and colorful but you can see that her hands are getting really orange here. And when you’re in Lightroom you can double click right here and it take the slider back to its default position so you don’t have to try and get it exactly on zero if you want to take it back.

And then we have vibrance and you can see, as we take this up things are getting slightly more vibrant but we are already over here near the red zone and her skin is not nearly as orange as it was when we were in the red zone over here with the saturation slider.

Then of course you can go the other way and you can remove or kind of zap the colors out of your photos. This is a really nice way to add sort of a dreamy feel to your photo. I’ve already taken the saturation of this photo down quite a bit so it would feel calm and muted. And so these sliders can have a wonderful effect on your photos. 

Something else you can do, and this is what I mentioned in one of the videos I’ve done for Pretty Presets that talks about using the adjustment brush. I talked about the concept of using the adjustment brush to sort of wipe away the effect of a preset or a setting here on a portion of the image, and someone left a really nice comment on the video, and said ‘I never thought of using the concept of the brush to use to wipe away effects.’ But you can do it so for example, this is unrealistic, I would never take this saturation up so high, but if we take the saturation way up and then go over here to the adjustment brush and use a low saturation brush, what we are going to be doing is taking back the effect of bumping the saturation up. So in effect we’re saying we really like everything nice and over saturated, but we don’t want her arms to be over saturated. And obviously this is pretty much taking it right down the grey scale which we don’t want but I’m just going to run this over here, I also think the apple is way too saturated. And this is just a very rough, I would be way more careful than this if I was actually doing it. And then you can go and slide it up to a point where you’re comfortable. So what you’ve done is you’ve been able to turn a bit of saturation up, and you can see this before and that’s after, so you were able to bump saturation but then take it back down on the areas where you don’t actually want it.

Conversely, you can take a photo and paint saturation on where you do want it, rather than applying the saturation and then taking if off the areas where you don’t want it. So again you would use the saturation brush, and you’d bump the saturation up like this and you will paint it on in areas where you want it. You can add a lot of saturation to the colors of the dress here. And after you paint it on, you can adjust it as much as you want, and that’s a pretty cool thing to be able to do. I really wish that right here in the sliders you were also able to paint on some vibrance instead of painting on saturation, but maybe that’s something that will come next time they do an update, that would be wonderful. 

So that’s it, that’s the difference between vibrance and satuation, again my favorite is vibrance because it’s a smart tool and it pays attention  to the colors that are a bit muted and brings the vibrance up on those and the colors that are already pretty saturated, it leaves those alone, which is really pretty clever. But go ahead and have a play yourself and explore Lightroom and all of its wonderful possibilities. Again this has been Elizabeth from elizabethhalford.com on behalf of Pretty Presets for Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW and you can find them at lightroompresets.com.


Elizabeth Halford

Elizabeth Halford is a professional photographer and blogger. She gives real photography advice in plain English.