Vibrance and saturation are two tools which can be found in many photo editing programs, including the popular Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop (both of which you can get as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan). Although the two sliders may seem to do similar things at first, they are two different tools. So, today we are going to cover vibrance vs saturation in order to understand the differences between these two tools.
First, let’s introduce the photo we will be working with. This is a photo from our community member Matthew Sockolov. As you can see in this unedited photo, the colors aren’t quite as vivid as some may like.
Saturation is an option in photo editing that essentially intensifies the colors in the photo. When you turn the saturation slider down, you are taking brightness and color out, resulting in a greyer image. When you turn saturation up, you will make colors brighter and more vivid.
Here is the original photo on the left, and the same photo with the saturation set to 75% on the right. You can see the colors in the photo are significantly more intense.
You may notice that all of the colors in the photo have been intensified slightly. The flower is brighter, the streets have a slight blue tint, and the buildings have a bit more color.
Unlike saturation, vibrance is a smart tool. Instead of increasing the intensity of color across the entire photo, vibrance has some intelligence. Although it is certainly imperfect, and you must be careful with it, the idea of vibrance is to bring out some colors while leaving others alone. Below is the original photo and the same photo with the vibrance turned up to 75%.
Similar to saturation, you can see that the vibrance slider brought out the colors in the building and elsewhere in the photo. However, it did not over-saturate the flower as much. This is because the vibrance tool could see that the flowers were already fairly bright, and left them alone.
Should I Use Vibrance or Saturation?
For one last comparison, let’s look at the two edited photos. If we’re considering the different ways to use vibrance and saturation, we should know how each look.
In this photo, you can see that both the vibrance and saturation sliders do similar things to 90% of the photo. The buildings and background look similar. It is the foreground where the biggest difference can be noticed. If you look closely at the flowers, you will see that the saturation slider was perhaps a little dramatic to it (in my opinion).
Generally, I would work with the colors of the flower through the HSL sliders in Lightroom. However, this post is about vibrance vs saturation. If you have a photo in which some colors are bright and some are dull, you may try utilizing the vibrance tool. My recommendation is to move both around to investigate how your photo looks. Be patient, and don’t be afraid to change both the saturation and the vibrance!