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Would You Resort to Oversaturating Color in a Boring Photo?

Saturating colors in a photo is something that is easy to do, if you have the right tool. Many times, all it takes for Super! Saturated! Color! in a photo is to move a slider to the right.

But before you get slider happy, let’s think about saturation and why it might be wise to saturate moderately.

Take Photo 1 as an example. To super-saturate the colors in this photo, I simply went to Photoshop’s Adjustments Menu, scrolled down to Hue/Saturation, and in the ‘Master’ setting, moved the Saturation slider to the far right.

oversaturated photo copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 1. Over the top saturation.

Instant super saturated color. Even more saturated and vibrant than real life, which is Photo 2, taken straight off-camera.

straight off camera copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 2. What the camera actually took.

Compare the two and tell me with a straight face that the super saturated photo is still believable.

Like fiction writers, one of the things you have to do as a photographer is to suspend disbelief. This literary terms means to make us believe a story even though it is made up, or fiction.

Like fiction writers select what readers discover in the story’s scenes, photographers select what’s in the frame for the viewer to see. Skillful and thoughtful framing can result in skillful and engaging storytelling for both fiction writers and photographers.

Since we are selectively presenting the world through artistic expression, we often develop a style of storytelling.

This is where saturation comes in.

Saturation of colors in a photo is often done ‘to taste.’

Personally, I do adjust saturation in post-production, to enhance a photo. In Photo 3, I saturated color-by-color in Photoshop, but didn’t go over more than a 6 on the slider. Why? I try to suspend disbelief, so that folks who look at my photo look at the whole thing and make of it a believable story, rather than losing themselves in the candied gimmickry of an over-saturated image.

conservative saturation copyright Aloha Lavina

Photo 3. Saturated, but not beyond belief.

Wouldn’t you rather get really good at composition, interpreting concepts, and recognizing decisive moments than use gimmickry to attract attention to what may be a mediocre photo?

What are your thoughts on color saturation?

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

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  1. Finding Good Photos where they Hide | imagine that - July 26, 2011

    [...] We already learned that super saturated color is not going to save a boring photo. [...]

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