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Vibrance vs. Saturation in Plain English

Vibrance vs. Saturation in Plain EnglishRecently I posted about the difference between exposure, brightness and fill light. Today, I want to talk about the difference between vibrance and saturation. Those fun little color boosting sliders which can make or break a shot.

First, I’ll give you some definitions and the we’ll look closer at the difference made on a shot.


Saturation is a uniform bumping up the intensity of all colors in your shot, regardless of the starting point of the colors. This can result in clipping (over saturation of certain colors which results in loss of detail in those areas) and over saturation of skin tones leaving them looking too orange and unnatural.


Vibrance is a smart-tool which cleverly increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well-saturated colors alone. It’s sort of like fill light, but for colors. Vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming overly saturated and unnatural.

See the below example made in Lightroom:

Vibrance vs. Saturation in Plain English

In the middle shot, the saturation was turned up to +50 and you can see what the red bricks have gotten a tad out of control. Too red in my opinion. But when I turned the vibrance up +50 instead, Lightroom already saw that the red was very red but that the grass could use a bump (a bit of ‘fill color’ if you will). I think that the bottom edit is much more reasonable than the shot edited with added saturation.

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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