Saying that both Vibrance and Saturation boosts your color’s vividness wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect, but there’s one key difference that you should be aware of, which will define which adjustment you ultimately use. Let’s take a look at both adjustments. For these examples, the Vibrance adjustment will be used, which will allow us to adjust both the Vibrance and Saturation (Image > Adjustments > Vibrance. Or you can add the Vibrance Adjustment Layer).
In the image below, you can see how the Saturation adjustment has increased the vividness of the colors in the image. The greens, blues, and oranges were all equally boosted.
Now, instead of increasing the Saturation, take a look at what increasing the Vibrance does to the image.
Don’t see the difference? Look closely at the orange house. In the first image, the orange became much more saturated than in the second image. This is because Vibrance works to avoid skin tones, which are typically yellow and orange. This is very beneficial when working with images that contain people.
Let’s look at a comparison between Saturation and Vibrance on an image that contains skin tones.
In the above example, the Saturation and Vibrance were maxed out on the two images. Saturation on the left, Vibrance on the right. As the Vibrance adjustment works to avoid skin tones, the skin tones of the man on the right remained more natural looking, while applying the Saturation adjustment left the man on the left, looking ‘burnt’.
The Bottom Line
These days, I tend to start with the Vibrance adjustment, just to play it safe, but it may not always be as strong as the Saturation adjustment. If you’re dealing with an image that contains people, stick with Vibrance. If not, you may be safe to use Saturation.