Contrast and saturation are closely related. Sometimes you can end up increasing saturation when really it’s the contrast that was the problem. That’s why it’s always a good idea to fix an image’s contrast and tonal properties before you start worrying about its colour.
And one of the best tools for doing this is curves. You can apply curves adjustments in a whole range of applications, including Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One and here, in Aperture on the Mac.
Curves adjustments work the same whatever program you use. In this case I’m applying a classic ‘S-shaped’ curve to boost both contrast and saturation at the same time. This will have the same results whatever program you use.
The picture is of delicately-toned autumn leaves, and I’m taking a bit of a liberty in making them so much more saturated, but it does make for a very effective picture.
Step 01 The Curves display
You can see the curves panel in the toolbar on the left in this Aperture screenshot. Curves start off as a straight line, starting from the bottom left corner and ending at the top right corner of the scale.
02 Adding a shadow control point
I’ll start by clicking on the curve near the bottom left corner to add a ‘control point’. I can then drag this downwards, which has the effect of darkening the darker parts of the picture – darker tones are on the left, lighter tones on the right, and moving a control point up or down will lighten or darken those tones respectively. The trick is to make the curve much more shallow in the darker tones, but not to flatten it completely agains the baseline. This way, the shadows are darker, but still retain some detail.