Adjusting Color Saturation

Saturation refers to the intensity and purity of color. A fully saturated color contains no black, white, or gray. In other words, saturated colors are deep, rich, and bold.


I find that the colors produced by the Rebel XTi/400D are already pretty highly saturated, but on occasion, an image can benefit from a little saturation bump in the digital darkroom. Figure 10-9 offers an example. I was drawn to this scene by the mix of colors, and the original photo, shown on the left in the figure, seemed a little lackluster in that regard. So I increased the saturation ever so slightly to produce the image shown on the right.

Be careful about increasing saturation too much, however. Doing so actually can destroy picture detail as areas that previously contained a range of saturation levels all shift to the fully saturated state. In fact, you can often reveal detail by lowering saturation a little in your photo editor. For example, compare the original (left) and desaturated (right) versions of the image in Figure 10-10. Notice that the subtle gradations of color in the flower petals become apparent only in the right, slightly desaturated version.

Original Increased saturation

Original Increased saturation

Figure 10-9: I slightly increased saturation to make the colors pop a little more.


Reduced saturation

Reduced saturation

Figure 10-10: Desaturating colors slightly can sometimes reveal hidden details.

Whichever direction you want to go, take these steps to adjust saturation of your image:

1. In the main browser window, double-click the image thumbnail.

Your photo opens inside its own Viewer window.

2. Click the Edit drop-down list.

The list appears above the image preview in Windows; it appears below the preview on a Mac. (Refer to Figures 10-3 and 10-4 for the exact locations.)

3. Choose Color/Brightness Adjustment from the list.

Your image appears in the Color/Brightness Adjustment retouching window. The window contents vary depending whether you're using the Windows or Mac version of the program; Figures 10-11 and 10-12 show you both versions.

S Color/Brightness Adjustment - J:\lmages\Canor» Rabel\Chapter 10\IMG_7882.tif v X L

S Color/Brightness Adjustment - J:\lmages\Canor» Rabel\Chapter 10\IMG_7882.tif v X L

Please select adjustment option:

Ccfar Adiusiment

Saturation! Coiiüoit 0 C

Undo All Undo Rede

OK | Cancel

Figure 10-11: In Windows, select Color Adjustment from the top drop-down list.

Figure 10-12: On a Mac, click the Color Adjustment button to display these options.

Cancel ( OK

Figure 10-12: On a Mac, click the Color Adjustment button to display these options.

4. Set the retouching mode to Color Adjustment.

• In Windows: Select Color Adjustment from the drop-down list at the top of the retouching window, as shown in Figure 10-11. After you do so, the window offers three sliders: Brightness, Saturation, and Contrast.

• On a Mac: Click the Color Adjustment button. The Mac version of the tool offers just a Saturation and Brightness slider. (Don't fret; you don't want to use that Contrast slider anyway, nor its sibling, Brightness. More on that topic a bit later.)

5. Drag the Saturation slider to adjust the image as desired.

Again, I caution you against raising the Saturation value too much; you can easily blow out subtle picture details.

6. Click OK to apply the change and close the retouching window.

7. Save the edited image, following the steps provided at the end of this chapter.

And now for the promised note about the Brightness and Contrast controls: Despite what their names may lead you to believe, these tools aren't the best options for adjusting image exposure and contrast. You can get much better results by using the Level Adjustment and Tone Curve Adjustment tools, both explained later in this chapter.

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