An ultra vibrant unsaturated look

An ultra vibrant unsaturated look

When I watch a film, I can't help but pay attention to the color grading. I wonder which colors were touched and why. And of course how the overall look was achieved. If I liked the grading, I try to imitate this result myself.


I recently watched season 5 of the Austrian TV series Vorstadtweiber and I fell a bit in love with color grading. The colors were very rich without looking cheesy and artificial. Ok, a bit artificial, but that was part of the story.

Unfortunately there is no trailer for this on YouTube, so I cannot show any sample pictures. I would definitely describe the color grading as absolutely contemporary. This look can currently be admired in many modern films.

In any case, it took me a moment to understand how to do this grading with simple means. At first I only wanted to saturate certain colors. It's actually pretty easy in still images. But when there is a sequence of images and you don't want to touch each one individually, you need some principle.

More saturation

That's when I got the idea with the vibration slider in Photoshop (or Lightroom or Camera Raw). This slider does not exist in Capture One. There, saturation is already intelligent from the start, they say. For a quick look, however, you need the sliders to be separated.

What is the difference between vibration and saturation?

Vibration only increases the saturation of dull colors. Saturation makes all colors shine more brightly or intensely. And then it can quickly become too much. Over-saturated skin looks terrible and such images easily make me want to vomit. I guess, you know what I mean as we have all seen too many badly graded photographs.

Here are a few examples of how the sliders work in general:

Vibration: 0 / Saturation: 100 — ouch
Vibration: 100 / Saturation: 0 — ouch
Vibration: 33 / Saturation: 72 — sky too bright for the look
Vibration: 48 / Saturation: 0 — not quite there
Vibration: 81 / Saturation: -9 — overly rich
Vibration: 81 / Saturation: -9 — with final tweaks

Final rich look

So how can you achieve a more even distribution of saturation? You simply pull the saturation control in the negative range and push the vibration control all the way up in the positive range. The result is still an oversaturated image. But it is the perfect basis to easily tweak the colors for a final look. Give the blue tones a little more yellow and remove a bit of blue from the red tones. And whoosh, there it is: a very rich look.

The resulting rich colors whet your appetite. It is definitely a zeitgeist phenomenon and not suitable for every photo series, but I will certainly grade a few outdoor series with this principle in the future.

ungraded and shot in overcast conditions
ultra vibrant look applied, orange and blues pop