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Saturation and Accuracy in Photography

Mike Johnston writes in a brief essay about over-saturation of digital images:

Why is inaccuracy in color rendering simply a given, while a little blurring of fine detail resolution or a touch of noise in the shadows are so adamantly not tolerated?

It's widely accepted that we can adjust the white balance of an image. Ostensibly, we're allowed to do this because we're matching the lighting the camera captures to the lighting our eyes/brain work to produce for us. We're making the picture "accurate," and the basis for comparison is the image our eyes and brain assemble.

The same argument applies to saturation. Our eyes and brain combine to increase the saturation of any scene. Sunsets never seem to be as spectacular on film (digital or physical) as our memory of them, and adjustments made to "correct" that are, by and large, not very different than adjusting the white balance. So I reject the "inaccurate" portion of Mike's statement and suggest that slight bumps to saturation make the image "more correct." After all, our own perception and memory of the scene is still the basis for comparison.

And noise? Nobody "sees" noise. Noise is simply the manifestation of the limits of technology. There's no such thing as "accurate noise."

2 Responses to "Saturation and Accuracy in Photography"

  1. I was going to write something to this effect, but you (and a few others) hit the territory and no one will read my input in the 100-post followup on Mike's site now :). Anyway, right on.

  2. I agree 100% with you. The only thing I have to say is what if a color blind ( the Blue-green type) photographer had someone edit his photo to make all the blues and greens the same shade. We would think it was an inacruate photo, but since he was there and we were not what gives us the right to say so?