Curious about saturation preferences: the poll

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Leslie Reid, Sep 20, 2017.


Which version of the image posted below do you prefer? (you can vote for two)

  1. Version A

  2. Version B

  3. Version C

  4. Version D

  5. Version E

  6. Version F

Multiple votes are allowed.
Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. To which I say: It doesn't matter. It's irrelevant.

    Does the following scenario sound familiar to you?

    "Just out of art school, someone asked me to put a painting in a show, a cityscape from 1948 or 1949. I got a nice review in the Times for it, and I said, 'Well, the real world's going to be as easy as art school!' The next time — a couple of years later — that I put a painting in a show, it was a small, delicate still life (Ivy, 1950). We got to the gallery and there was a Beauford Delaney. He just wiped that gallery out! My painting looked like an old dishrag. I thought it was really funny, because I had this painting I thought was real good and it looked like a dishrag! I decided this was never going to happen again. And that was the start of it. That was the beginning of my lesson. I said, no one's going to knock me off the wall. Period. You're competing with everyone else in a way ... "

    " ... That to me is where the marbles are: not in invention, but in visual dominance. The dominance is in the vision." — both quotes are from the painter, Alex Katz

    You may or may not know (or even believe there is such a thing as) what is "optimal saturation" for some picture, but that's not going to be what motivates which saturation or which colors you choose to use. See above.

    [Katz also refers to photography as "a food show" which makes me snicker << yes, it's an insult but we've earned it.]
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  2. When thinking in the art context, one is free to use any color one chooses in a photo, to give it a surrealistic, or impressionistic, or an abstract look. I think, most of the discussion here is geared towards making a photo resemble a real scene. So in that context, optimal saturation is highly relevant, as is contrast, sharpening and other attributes of digital photo editing. If there was no optimal resolution, how does version A get the most votes, even after all the subjective differences and varying monitor characteristics?
    Norman 202 and Norma Desmond like this.
  3. Agreeing with Supriyo, I read Leslie to be talking not about some kind of universal "optimal saturation" but rather "optimal saturation" in the sense of each of our preferences (the word she used) for the saturation level of this landscape.

    Had Leslie posted a much more stylized photo of, say, a rock singer under stage lights and offered a more extreme saturation that worked with the content, then I might have chosen a much more saturated version as what I'd consider optimal for that photo.

    For a very peaceful winter scene with lots of white snow, I might have chosen a fairly muted saturation level.

    So, I don't think that getting a sense of various determinations, by using a specific photo as an example and especially with accompanying explanations, of our optimal level preference, is irrelevant. It gives me insights into the people I'm sharing photos with and tells me something about how people see and what they like.
    DavidTriplett and Norman 202 like this.
  4. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    one thing i noticed about all the colour photos is how the blocked shadows (absence of colour) make the tree shapes look bigger and alter the photos much more than the saturation effect.

    i also fail to see any significant difference between the colour photos in this instance but Fred is right, other scenes would have resulted in different voting patterns.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  5. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    the poll also needs a ‘none of the above’ option :)
  6. The survey asks a blanket question without any context. The context is important. The same person who likes to wear a brightly colored dress may balk at the sight of an overly saturated landscape photo.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  7. Glad you got it. Not terribly interested in a web survey or a more theoretical approach to this question. More interested in hearing what individual fellow PN photographers think of the different versions posted and why, which has been accomplished to some degree.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  8. Do your eyes agree with what you say this poll has "accomplished? Does look around the web site find a majority (or even a substantial minority) of modestly saturated pictures?
  9. Late to the party, as usual, but I picked "A". My feelings closely reflect Supriyo's. I want to note that I agree wholeheartedly that there is no "right" answer. What works for any one image by any particular photographer has everything to do with artistic intent. However, a photographer who has a message to share will select the saturation, or any other effect, that is most likely to have the intended response in his/her audience. Expecting a highly saturated image to communicate the same message as a B&W landscape is wishful thinking.

    As I've pointed out in other threads, I choose saturation intentionally as an artistic effect. I can use higher saturation to communicate the nature of light in a sunset, or B&W to diminish the impact of otherwise distracting background colors. There will be as many answers to this as there are photographers and photographs.
  10. I agree. See my earlier posts.

    But how do you choose it? On what basis, or rather, from what base?

    Tim raised what I think is a very interesting question: how do you calibrate your eye? On what basis, or from what base?

    If you say "color memory" I would dare you to go to any paint store and pick out the color of the room walls in which you've lived for the last umpteen years. Buy a can of paint from your memory color: take it home and tell me if it even comes close to matching what you've lived in for decades.

    On photo color, I would speculate that most people who aren't into art photography calibrate their color saturation expectations from National Geographic magazine and/or commercial advertisements. Then add a little bit more ...

    What I think is overlooked is that both that magazine and commercial work start with content (very purposely) that is itself strongly colored: they don't force it or introduce it.
  11. As you so sagaciously point out, no two sets of eyes will perceive color the same way. I choose what works for me, It may or may not work for you or anybody else. It is, as is true for so much else as well, an issue of personal aesthetics. There is probably some nominal range we might define as the center 50% of the acceptability curve, or some such, but I'm not sure it makes a difference. My experience is that my brain/eye system tends to see colors as more saturated than does my factory-default digital camera system, so an adjustment is in order if I want others to see in my photos what I saw in situ. Again, this is a matter of interpretation, rather than objective reality.

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