Most digital cameras have settings that affect how the camera renders colour in the final image. One such setting is saturation. Saturation refers to the amount of grey in a colour. The more grey in the colours, the less saturated and the the less vivid the colour appears.More grey in a colour increases saturation and makes the colours appear more vivid. Changes in saturation should not affect the hue of the colours though.
Adjusting saturation in your camera can help improve your photos too. Increasing saturation will make your colour more intense. Decreasing saturation will provide you with more subdued colours. Over saturation of colour will often create an image with unnatural looking colours while complete desaturation will produce a black and white image.
A few situations I encounter where I like to adjust saturation are when shooting nature or when shooting portraits. I find when shooting nature scenes, increasing the saturation a little gives a little more snap to colours and creates a punchier, more vibrant, more dramatic photo. When shooting portraits, I like to decrease my saturation a little bit. Too much saturation often creates unnatural looking skin tones that are too red. These of course are both guidelines. Traditional film photographers often picked their film based on the saturation of the film. Fuji Velvia is one of the most widely used films for nature photography because of it’s high saturation, while portrait photographers like to shoot with a less saturated film such as Kodak Portra
This is another spot where digital photographers have an advantage over film photographers. They have the ability to adjust saturation on a shot by shot basis whereas film photographers have to shoot an entire role of the same film type. Another use of saturation is through selective saturation or desaturation in your photo editing software. With selective saturation, you can create a black and white image with just a small colour portion, or a colour image with selections in black and white.
The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the vice-president of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.