What is the benefit of the Vibrance tool in Adobe software?

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November 28, 2014 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in Q&A, Tips & Techniques by  •  1 Comment

I just bought Adobe Lightroom and noticed that there’s a feature called Vibrance. Apparently this is like the Saturation tool but differs in some aspects. Why did Adobe add this and what are the pros and cons compared to the Saturation tool?
—Jacqueline Y.

The Vibrance tool has been available for some time, Jacqueline, in Photoshop as well as in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. Vibrance has some benefits compared to Hue/Saturation. This newer tool employs more artificial intelligence to increase the intensity of colours. In a nutshell, it’s designed to especially affect areas that are not very saturated to minimize the risk of excessive colour intensity that can produce posterization and an artificial-looking effect.

Particularly in images that include people, the Vibrance tool is more suitable than the Saturation tool since it's less likely to produce excessively saturated skin tones. As well, you can set a fairly high Vibrance level for enriching other colours before posterization occurs. © 2014 Peter K. Burian

Particularly in images that include people, the Vibrance tool is more suitable than the Saturation tool since it’s less likely to produce excessively saturated skin tones. As well, you can set a fairly high Vibrance level for enriching other colours before posterization occurs. © 2014 Peter K. Burian

More importantly, Vibrance was designed to have a minimal effect on skin tones. This allows for a quick boost in colours such as blue and green in a landscape, without making skin tones excessively ruddy (red) or yellow when people are included in the photo. (In Photoshop Elements, there’s an Adjust Colors for Skin Tone feature instead of Vibrance.) Of course, Vibrance will also provide only a minimal increase in the colour intensity of a red barn or yellow autumn leaves, for instance. Hence, it’s most desirable when you’re modifying portrait photos. For more specifics, check out this brief video tutorial: Saturating selectively with Vibrance. It’s illustrated with an older version of Photoshop, but the concepts remain valid.

Dec-Saturation-Control

There is a valuable aspect of the Saturation tool that’s mentioned briefly in the tutorial: the ability to achieve selective colour enrichment. When you first access Saturation, it’s set to Master, indicating that all colours will be made more intense as you move the slider toward the plus side. However, there’s a drop-down menu that lets you choose a specific colour for modification. Use this to boost the richness of blues, for example; then, do so with greens; and finally with reds and yellows. Naturally, you’ll want to apply only a very moderate amount to the latter two, if there’s a person in your photo, to ensure that skin tones remain natural and pleasing.

One Comment

  1. Edward Smith / November 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm / Reply

    Great article. Another great utility that is must have for digital photography is Binfer. The link is http://www.binfer.com

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