Lightroom/Camera Raw: What does "Vibrance" do exactly? (and when to use it instead of saturation)

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What does "Vibrance" do exactly?

And when might one prefer to use it instead of saturation, or along with saturation...
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Rob Cole

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  • guessing I'm not the only one who still has this question...

Posted 9 years ago

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Mark Sirota

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From the online documentation at

Adjusts the saturation so that clipping is minimized as colors approach full saturation, changing the saturation of all lower-saturated colors with less effect on the higher-saturated colors. Vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming over saturated.
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Rob Cole

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The help doc provides some clues, but I'll swear it seems like an oversimplification or something, although I couldn't back that claim.

Geek that I am, I would still love to see something a little more mathematical - like a graph of color response to increasing vibrance vs. saturation. Somebody did a really great graph that compares exposure to brightness in this fashion - armed with that graph you can predict exactly what effect brightness will have versus exposure at any luminance value. I'd love to see something similar comparing vibrance to saturation - maybe I'll do it some day if nothing comes up... (anybody have a test pattern image that includes all hues at all luminosities I could use?)

Also, if anybody would care to share, I'd be curious to hear how other people use them - in cases where people are present, or not...

- Do you usually use both simultaneously? If so, how do you decide how much of one vs. the other?
- Do you only use one of them at a time? If so, which one when?
- ...

I mean, some obvious cases for vibrance are: if you want to make something look more "vibrant" without making the people look too "saturated". Or, if you want to increase the saturation of cool tones more than warm tones. Or, if you want to saturate some stuff but other stuff is already plenty saturated... And conversely, obvious cases for saturation: if you want to give people some color without saturating the cool background too much. Or if you want to saturate the warm "skin-colored" fall leaves more.

Still, I find the actual difference in effect of the two somewhat mysterious and inexplicable - stuff gets more saturated using either one, but sometimes it is beyond me to identify why the hue differences and saturation effects I observe.

Anybody care to share their actual experience of using? Or technical info?

Anybody care to hear more of my findings if I scrutinize more closely?

And last but not least - is everybody happy with vibrance? or would anyone want to have the option to *not* protect skin tones, or not vibrate the blue so much (as examples), yet still have the other benefits of vibrance vs. saturation?.