The Lake Project: Saturation, Is It Lying?

Down at the lake this week there was not a lot of wildlife to photograph, but there was more fall foliage to take in than I could handle. Because of this, I focused a lot of my time on fiddling around with my camera settings. One setting in particular caught my attention: saturation. In this week’s post, I am going to delve into my use of saturation, and how I feel about it as a whole because, if I’m being honest, it embellishes pictures in a way that makes them far nicer than they otherwise would have been.

For those of you who do not know much about cameras, this first paragraph is for you. DSLR cameras have a certain preset settings you use for each photograph. Examples on my camera include: Auto, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, and Neutral. I can, at anytime before I take a photo, choose one of these settings. Each of them adjust any of the four subsets that are called the “detail set.” Those settings are: saturation, contrast, sharpness, and color tone. Each does something slightly different, but this week I focused on saturation, a filter which enhances the colors in your photos.

Below are two of the same photo, one taken with some degree of saturation, and the other completely unsaturated. Try and figure out which one is which. Hint: Don’t overthink it.



I am going to assume you guessed that the bottom one is saturated because it is far more colorful and vibrant. You were correct!

Neither of these photos were edited after I took them, they were just taken with different settings at the time. Obviously, the bottom photo is the better picture. The colors of the leaves are beautiful, the white clouds against the bright blue sky really pop, and the dark blue water glimmers with great reflections of the trees and clouds. The bottom picture looks alive and interesting, while the top one looks sad and uninviting.

However, it kind of bugs me that the “better” picture is the one that is less real. When I look at the lake from that spot, it looks vibrant and colorful to me. But when I take the picture with neutral presets, it comes out drab and boring. That boring picture is what the lake really looked like at that moment so maybe the “bad” picture is the truth, while the saturated one is a lie. It presents itself as a sort of ethical dilemma. Do I show off the better picture and play it off as if that is exactly what it looked like? Or should I show the normal picture to people because that is the truth.

When thinking about this moral quandary, I remembered what my photography mentor, Daniel de Granville, said regarding editing images. He said that, as long as you are keeping it believable and changing it to what you think you saw, it is completely acceptable. I saw the lake with those vibrant, beautiful colors, so that is the picture I will show to people. Hopefully, they too can experience the beauty that I experienced, and I will not feel as if I am lying to them.

Until next week,



2 thoughts on “The Lake Project: Saturation, Is It Lying?

  1. kevinwang11

    The photo looks really nice! I was once troubled by the same “moral dilemma” until I came into the realization that photography is a creative form of art. While I do value originality, I don’t think photographers should ever be constrained by it. Many professional photographers do post edits, and that’s probably why many cameras shoot RAW.
    A piece of advice: Try not to use the built-in filter because they perform the exactly same process as most post-processing softwares do. Saving the original photos on your memory card gives you more flexibility in editing those photos.

  2. Sophie Xi

    For some reasons, I think the first photo looks better than the second one maybe just because it shows a sense of tranquility. Everyone might have a different way of perceiving images. Therefore, it is really nice to see the pictures that others have edited so that I can see through their perspectives.
    I really like you pictures! But, in addition to the saturation, do you adjust other settings for you photos?


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