Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Using Clarity to improve your photographs, part of Photoshop CC for Photographers: Camera Raw 9 Fundamentals.
- In this movie, we'll be talking about how we can add some clarity or some midtone contrast to our photographs. We'll be working with a few different images, but first we're gonna start off with this demo file that we have here, and I'm gonna zoom in on this file a little bit. This is just a gradient that I've created and posterized it in Photoshop so that we can see the different steps between the gradation that we have here going from bright down to a darker tone here. And I wanna use this to illustrate how the Clarity slider works. You can think of clarity like midtone contrast.
It's similar to contrast, but not as heavy-handed. As I drag this to the left, you can see that those ridges almost look like they disappear. The image becomes much softer. As we drag this to the right, you can see we have more detail there, and you can see how Clarity can be used in order to add little bit more texture or midtone contrast or snap to your photographs. Well, let's see how this works with a real workflow, starting off with this photograph of this young surfer, Pat Curren, here. Well, with this image, what I want to do is go through a little bit of a workflow.
So here I'm going to brighten my image up by increasing exposure, add some contrast. Highlights, I wanna bring those down, right? I need lots of detail on the ocean there. That's one of the challenges of photographing surfing is the white of the water there can get too bright. Bring up our Shadows, and Whites go down, Blacks go down, so nothing really revolutionary here, just a typical workflow. Now at this point, what this image really needs is this midtone contrast snap. So we'll go down to the Clarity slider, and let me first show you what it will look like if I use negative clarity, it becomes soft and kind of mushy and just weird.
But if we drag this to the right, you can see that what it's doing is it just adding that snap. And if I zoom in on this picture a little bit more, hopefully you'll be able to see this a little bit better. We can see how the Clarity is bringing out a lot of really nice details there. Now one of the things that will happen with Clarity is it will affect color. We'll talk more about that in a few minutes. But for now, just know that it's gonna give you the ability to add some nice snap. For action sport photographs like this, you may go really high with this. It might like kind of cool.
With people photographs, that would look overkill. So depending upon the type of photograph you have, the way it was captured, will really define the amount. That being said, for most of my photographs, the Clarity value is probably somewhere right in this range here. Let's look at one more photograph. This is a picture of my daughter Annika sitting at this old desk in a field behind our house. And with this photograph, I'll go through the workflow again. Exposure goes up, Contrast as well. A little more with my Shadows.
Blacks drop down, and then I'm gonna warm the image up a little bit here, too. All right, well, we have a nice look with the picture. Now what about Clarity? Well, with Clarity, as I bring this up, what we're gonna start to see is it's just gonna bring some of the little texture and details out. What can happen though is if you go too high, it can sort of muddy things up. So we don't wanna go too far. We wanna add just a little teeny snap there. I imagine it's gonna be difficult to see, so let me zoom in and you can see that midtone contrast snap that we're getting in this photograph just adds that extra little pop to your images, which can really help them to stand apart.
All right, one more photograph. This one here of one of my daughter's best buds, Madeline. Well, with this image, I wanna illustrate why sometimes you won't wanna use clarity. Here she is, this nice, bright, smiling face, so I'm gonna zoom in on it. And as I increase Clarity, all of a sudden it looks, I don't know, just kind of strange. Like this might work well with a motocross athlete because it sorta looks edgy and muddied up and whatnot. But with her, it sort of looks, I don't know, it just doesn't look very compelling.
Take a look at the difference. So again, as you're working with Clarity, sometimes the images will benefit from just a few points. But you wanna watch out and you wanna pay attention to the type of photographs you have because often that will determine how much positive or negative clarity that you'll use.
- Opening images in Camera Raw
- Improving under- and overexposure
- Recovering shadow and highlight detail
- Correcting white balance
- Improving clarity, vibrance, and saturation
- Processing multiple images at once
- Cropping and recomposing
- Making strong black-and-white images
- Creating panoramas and HDR images
- Reducing unwanted noise
- Sharpening portraits