If you use Lightroom you’ve probably noticed an adjustment called Vibrance in the Develop module. You may have wondered what the purpose was of this adjustment. I know I wondered about it for quite some time before finally doing some research.
The Vibrance adjustment is a part of the Basic panel, located between the Clarity and Saturation sliders (see first image, below). If you happen to have played around with it you might have found that it boosts or decreases the vividness or intensity of color, similar to what the Saturation setting does. For a long time I would, and still often do, use Vibrance rather than Saturation because I like the more subtle color boost it gives compared to Saturation. But what exactly is it that Vibrance is doing differently than Saturation? Why would I want to use one over the other?
The primary difference is actually quite simple but an important one. Whereas Saturation tends to boost the color intensity or vividness across the color spectrum, Vibrance makes little or no change to already highly saturated colors or to the skin tone colors, the reds, yellows, and oranges. This is useful for portraits or photos of people where you might want to enhance the saturation of the image without turning everyone’s face into a Sunkist orange.
Below are some examples that illustrate the difference in these settings. The first example is the original, un-edited image. The second is with the Saturation adjustment set at +35. As you might expect, the colors throughout the image have been boosted and are significantly more vibrant. The third image is with the Vibrance set at +35 (with Saturation at 0). Notice that many of the colors are now a bit more vivid but not to the extent as Saturation at the same setting. Notice also that the skin tones have largely been unchanged. Now, this image may not have been the best example to use because in this case the skin tones really could use some warming, but it gives you the general idea. In most cases with images of people, I tend to avoid Saturation, or to only use it minimally, especially with darker skin tones.