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Setting Clarity and Vibrance

From: Up and Running with Lightroom 3

Video: Setting Clarity and Vibrance

Down at the bottom of the Basic panel in the section called Presence are two sliders that can add that extra punch that a photo often needs to stand out. These are the Clarity slider for enhancing midtone contrast and the Vibrance slider for kicking up color intensity. Increasing the Clarity slider is so good at adding snap to a wide variety of photos that I think of it as Lightroom's secret weapon. Clarity works on the midtones in particular, boosting midtone contrast and bringing out details there. The effect is often to give a photo more depth.

Setting Clarity and Vibrance

Down at the bottom of the Basic panel in the section called Presence are two sliders that can add that extra punch that a photo often needs to stand out. These are the Clarity slider for enhancing midtone contrast and the Vibrance slider for kicking up color intensity. Increasing the Clarity slider is so good at adding snap to a wide variety of photos that I think of it as Lightroom's secret weapon. Clarity works on the midtones in particular, boosting midtone contrast and bringing out details there. The effect is often to give a photo more depth.

Let's see Clarity in action on this photo. First, I can see from the histogram that I need to set a white point and a black point in this photo. To set the white point, I'll drag the Exposure slider over to the right as I've shown you how to do in earlier movies, and to set the black point I'll drag the Black slider over to the right as I've shown you before also. Let's see what increasing Clarity does to this photo. Keep your eye on the clouds and also on this part of the mountain up here as I drag the Clarity slider over to the right. Here's the photo with the 100% Clarity adjustment, and here it is with no clarity.

So, that's before and after, quite a difference. You can actually see the effect of Clarity best at 100% view, so I'm going to go over here and click right near the mountain to zoom into 100%, or one-to-one view, and let's do that before-and-after comparison again. There's without Clarity. There's with Clarity. Now, one thing you have to watch out for when you use Clarity are visible halos of darker or lighter pixels along the edges in the photo, and you can see here there is a little bit of darkness, and if that's too much, it's too obvious.

What I'll do is just back off on the Clarity slider, and I'll leave it maybe around there. So that's what happens when you increase Clarity. Did you ever wonder what might happen if you decrease Clarity? Let's look at this portrait. If I go over to the Clarity slider and I take it over to the left, if I go really far, I get this kind of otherworldly HDR like look, and that's too much. But if I do just a small negative Clarity adjustment on a portrait, I can often soften the lines and give the skin a nice diffuse look like this.

Those are the two things that Clarity can do for you. Now, let's take a look at Vibrance and Saturation. I'll open another photo for that. To set up this photo, I'm going to set its white point, and I'm going to add a little Fill Light to open up the shadows over in the peppers on the left side. And then to compensate for the Fill Light, I'll increase the Blacks a little bit, all as I've shown you how to do in earlier movies. So now, let's see what Saturation and Vibrance can do for this photo.

Both of those controls increase the intensity of color. So let's say I take that Saturation slider and I drag it over to the right. Notice that all the colors in the image got more saturated, and some I think are just too saturated, like the yellow in this plate, or the reds over here in these peppers, or even the brick sidewalk, and that's often the trouble with Saturation. It saturates all the colors equally. So instead, let's try Vibrance. I'll take the Vibrance slider and drag it to the same level as I had Saturation, and that's a more pleasing and subtle result.

Notice that the plate isn't oversaturated, neither are the peppers, or the sidewalk, and I'm actually able to retain more detail when I don't over-saturate. Another thing I like about Vibrance is that it has built-in skin-tone protection. So I'll often use Vibrance to make a model's clothing look more intense in color without over-saturating the colors in her skin, as the Saturation slider might do. I have to admit that I almost always check out what increasing Clarity and Vibrance will do for a photo. They can give so many photos that extra pop that takes them from so-so to special, so give them a try on your own photos.

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Up and Running with Lightroom 3

29 video lessons · 11039 viewers

Jan Kabili
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