Going all the way to B&W with the saturation filter gives you dull, subdued images (which is why we don’t use it for B&W conversion of course). And yet desaturation’s something I use in every picture.

The first thing you can do is simply change the blending mode of your saturation adjustment layer to Color. Straight away you get the dynamic range and contrast back.

But the saturation filter’s limited. It’ll just take you from having colour to not having colour. So why not use a curves layer instead?

Set its blending mode to Color. Now the steepness of the RGB curve affects how much saturation you’ve got. Remember if you make a horizontal line anywhere with a normal curves layer it goes grey? Well grey with Color blending just desaturates. Putting a curve in it allows you to control the saturation contour (how saturation responds over the tonal range), and adjusting the colour curves allows you to colour balance.

skisaturation
Original photo by David Slijper

An S-curve will give you saturated midtones and desaturated highlights and shadows.

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