I love saturation; always have-always will. As a fledgling film photographer I was always looking for a brighter color and a sharper edge. I went quickly from being a negative shooter to being a slide shooter gradually gravitating towards Kodachrome. Then, Fuji’s Velvia came into my world turning me on to color trips unimagined. Here I found my vision of the world in which I live.
Fast forward to the digital age and still find myself searching for saturation. In the above image of a Palouse-region river, you can see my love for saturated colors-especially greens. In fact, I will let you in on a secret: “I have actually gone back and desaturated this image about 10%”. I often do.
One of the things I tell my students is that it is very easy to go overboard with saturation. We keep moving that slider to the right watching our image come to life. We ohh and ahh as it becomes a more vibrant version of its former self. We think we like it. The next thing I tell my students is that after we have adjusted the saturation. Get up from the computer, go get a drink of water. Don’t look at the image again for several minutes (or even days). When you step back in front of the computer and look at the image fresh after our perspective readjustment, we often find that we have gone too far.
It is upon this reevaluation of my image that I often dial back the saturation by as many as 10 points. I actually find I am happier with the result in doing so-more often than not. Interestingly, I don’t like the image if I dial it back 10 at the initial edit session. I must get up from my desk and look at the world anew before realizing my vision was a little oversaturated.
In the image of the Pale Iris above, I had gone the other way. I initially went for a subtle-pastel vision of the world taking the saturation, in this case, down some 57%. I don’t often go for the understated look but when I do I find the opposite feelings are true. After getting up from my desk and walking away, returning a day later, I am under no inclination to boost the saturation back. When I go for subtle, I rarely go too far when I go for saturated look I almost always do.
*BTW, try listening to Procol Harem’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” the next time you edit an image to remind you of the power and responsibility of saturation. If nothing else, it is a great song.
Rikk Flohr © 2010