There have been multiple times when capturing a landscape where the images I took look really unsaturated. Yeah, I can boost the saturation, but I don't want to accidentally make the photo look unnatural. I don't know if there's something I can do when capturing the images or if there's something I can do in post processing. I've tried HDR, but same issue.
I guess that every high level photographer showing their landscape photographs on the web is boosting the saturation and increasing the contrast. So, if you are comparing to their result, of course your photos will look unsaturated.
However, there are two things I would like to point out:
- If your image editing appliction allows, use Vibrance adjustments instead of Saturation. The result will be still saturated, but more natural picture. (This maybe obvious to you.)
- You can use color calibration chart like ColorChecker Passport to get as precise colors as possible. But I am using it and the colors are not saturated anyway, so I think this means the reality is not as saturated as it seems :) Maybe the eye and brain do some tricks, so we think the reaility is more saturated. And maybe we just forgot how un-saturated the place was when taking the photos...
This is my opinion based on experience of long time photographying (and earning a living as a photographer). If there is some more scientific answer to this question, I would like to hear it.
Any way of achieving accurate color saturation?
No available profile will suite your needs in all cases. Most profiles are accurate for some preselected set of objects like human skin, sky, natural pigments etc. You should train your eye and remember what you have seen in field and adjust settings accordingly.
Most available camera profiles have somewhat oversaturated colour. If you see the colour as unsaturated at neutral settings you are most probably missing something or your settings are not completely neutral.
And, as Vit mentioned, you should not call most images which you see in internets natural - most of them are oversaturated.
P.S. You should also pay attention to profiling of your display - most available LCDs have gamut smaller than sRGB and that leads to oversaturated colours (except the case when most of your viewers use this kind of LCDs).
Please make sure your camera and Photoshop has the same color profile. Camera raw plugin available with Photoshop has the option to get the accurate white balance of the image. Once you correct the white balance properly, it is easy to enhance the color using vibrance option in Photoshop.