When you're making changes to your images in Camera Raw, it's important that you keep your eye both on the image as well as the histogram, because if you're making changes, you don't want to be pushing any of the values in your shadows and your highlights to pure black or pure white. Or if you do do that, you want to make sure that you know that you're doing it. But because it's hard to look in both places, there are two icons that will allow you to see your clipping. So if I toggle on the one on the left, that's going to show our clipping warning in the dark areas, and the one on the right is going to show the clipping of the highlights, or the light areas of your image.
Now there are keyboard shortcuts for this. The U key toggles on and off the one for the darks, which is the underexposure, and the O key toggles the highlight warning for the light areas, which would be the overexposure. So with those both on, now I can move my White slider and my Black slider and if I move my white slider too bright, we can see that whatever values in my image I'm pushing to pure white will have this red overlay, so I immediately see the warning.
And you really have to be careful, because if you push your Highlight values to pure white and you print this image, the area that has detail will have a dot in the print; the area that doesn't have detail will not have a dot. And our eyes are very, very sensitive to patterns. They can pick up on that dot pattern, and it would be very jarring where all of a sudden your image would transition to an area with no dot. So we definitely want to pull back on that White slider to make sure that we're not clipping any values in our image.
Now there might be some really small areas, like this little teeny dot here or here, but that will be okay. Let's see what happens when we move the Black slider too far to the left. You can see here that we're getting an overlay of blue, which is telling me that I'm pushing those shadow values that used to have detail all the way to pure black. And we can see that those values sort of start to climb the wall here, this imaginary wall. We're pushing what used to have detail to pure black. So I want to back off on that as well, until I no longer see that blue overlay.
And you can't forget, it's not just the Whites and Black sliders where you might see this clipping. If I were to add some Contrast here or maybe move my Exposure down dramatically, you can see we're starting to get that blue overlay. So just be careful and when you see that, it probably means that you've gone too far. As a general rule of thumb, I think most people would agree that you want to keep your detail in the highlights of an image. But there are definitely plenty of examples of stunning images with rich, solid areas of black that is lacking in detail, but that's an aesthetic choice of the artist.
And I always think it's a good idea to know the rules before you break them, and the clipping warnings in Camera Raw will help tell you where exactly you are breaking the rules and pushing those shadow detail areas to pure black without detail.
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