The Vibrance and Saturation sliders in Lightroom’s Basic panel will both intensify colors in your photos. Saturation is an equal-opportunity, non-discrimatory control – it will saturate all colors in your photo equally, even if they start out at different levels of intensity. This is a great control to use if you want to give a quick and equal boost to all colors in your photo.
However, when some colors start out more intense than others, you may find that Saturation takes them over the edge into garishness before less-intense colors get to where you want them to be. In addition, using Saturation with photos of people is often a bad idea because in being non-discriminatory it will saturate skin tones, often producing less than pleasing results.
Consider the photo below. The first image is before adjustments. My goal is to increase the saturation of the colors in the hat.
When I increase Saturation, as shown in the second image, it not only increases the saturation of colors in the hat, but the skin gets yellow as well. In addition, the reds in the hat have started to go over the edge into garishness and where I lose detail in the yarn because the reds were more saturated than the blues to start with.
Let’s consider Vibrance, which is discriminatory – it will saturate less-saturated colors more than more-saturated ones – in other words, it focuses on the colors that are more faded-out. It also is designed to protect skin tones, so it’s an excellent tool to use with portraits.
Below I use Vibrance – notice that the skin color is pretty well preserved, and that I am able to get more saturated blues without the reds going over the edge.
Give it a try with your own images, comparing what you get with Saturation and with Vibrance.