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Vibrance!

A somewhat washed out view downstream in Palouse Canyon
A somewhat washed out view downstream in Palouse Canyon

Boosting saturation pumps up the green foliage but blows out the sunlit side of the canyon walls
Boosting saturation pumps up the green foliage
but blows out the sunlit side of the canyon walls

An identical boost to vibrance though much better targets the areass needing help
An identical boost to vibrance though
much better targets the areass needing help

Ever since the days of film when Velvia was dominant, nature photographers have known that a little touch of added saturation can make images more compelling. Now, the digital age has given us an even better solution, and it goes by the name of "Vibrance."

An image that is uniformly washed out can benefit greatly by a slight boost globally to saturation. The problem comes though when some areas of an image look fine already while other areas are in need of more punch. For such images, increasing saturation only serves to make them look garish or artificial. Bumping saturation globally enough to improve the problem areas can put the areas that were already saturated enough over the top. And trying to target the change to saturation to only the areas in need can be difficult to control, often resulting in images that look like they've been manipulated.

Vibrance addresses this problem by acting proportionally on areas of an image that need it most. Less saturated areas automatically receive the most attention while parts of an image that already have some degree of saturation are affected less. As an area approaches being clipped, it gets affected less. This lets you more freely boost vibrance in order to improve problem areas without having to worry about blowing out areas that already have color. By appropriately adjusting both saturation and vibrance, you can fine tune the appearance of an image to a degree not previously possible without extensive masking.

As an added bonus, the algorithms used by vibrance are programmed to recognize skintones and prevent them from becoming over saturated. A nice touch for portrait and fashion photographers as well as anyone who has ever shot a birthday party of family get together.

To the best of my knowledge, the concept of vibrance first appeared in Pixmantec's Rawshooter raw file converter. Adobe bought Pixmantec in 2006 and vibrance appeared shortly thereafter in the beta releases of Adobe Lightroom. As of the release of CS3, they've added it to Photoshop as well, but for now only in Adobe Camera Raw 4.


Date posted: September 30, 2007

 

Copyright © 2007 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Fine Tuning Saturation in Photoshop
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