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I think of the bottom section of Camera RAW's Basic panel as the icing on the cake controls. Clarity, vibrance, and sometimes saturation can make a well processed RAW image look even better. The Clarity slider is my favorite; it can really make an image pop. Here's this little squirrel that we adjusted in the last movie. Look how much better it looks if I take that Clarity slider, and drag it far over to the right. So here is how the image is now; here's how it was a moment ago. Again, with clarity; without clarity. I'm going to turn the Clarity back on.
What dragging the Clarity slider to the right does is enhance contrast in the midtones, which brings out more detail, and can make otherwise flat tonal areas pop. You can get a very different look from the Clarity slider by dragging it to the left, like this. This softens the midtones, and gives you this kind of diffuse glow. Try this on a portrait to give a model's skin a soft smooth glow with just this single slider. But since this is a squirrel, and not a model, I'm going to get some clarity back going here.
Let me switch to another image to talk about the Vibrance, and Saturation sliders. These are the only sliders in the Basic panel that specifically address color. They affect color saturation, which means the intensity of the colors that you process into a photo made from a RAW file. The Saturation slider can sometimes do this with too heavy of a hand. So if I drag this over to the right, you can see the problem. It tends to saturate all the colors in an image equally, so that while some look good, others look oversaturated, and this is particularly a problem with portraits, in which the Saturation slider can easily overdo skin tones.
So I'm going to put the Saturation slider back to its default of 0, and by the way, the way to get a slider back to where it started is to just double-click the little marker on the slider, and then you don't have to bother dragging it. So instead of Saturation, I'm going to try the Vibrance slider, which is often a better choice, particularly for people pictures like this. The Vibrance slider does saturate, but it has a stronger effect on colors that need saturating the most, while protecting, in particular, skin tones from oversaturation.
So, let's do a before and after with this Vibrance setting; unchecking Preview, you can see that the colors in the image started out kind of dull, and with the Vibrance adjustment. So the Clarity and the Vibrance sliders in particular should never be overlooked in Camera RAW. They are the secret sauce that will make your RAW conversions pop with detail and color.
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