Clarity appears to be the favorite new-feature in Lightroom 1.1.

by George Mann

I have as usual been surfing the digital photography forums for a suitable topic for this week's blog posting and the winner by a clear mile is the new Clarity adjustment in Lightroom 1.1. As an easy image enhancement addition to the Saturation and Vibrance adjustments, it seems to suit a lot of photographers (quick photo fix) needs.

We have of course already seen the Clarity adjustment in the recently released Adobe Camera Raw update (ACR 4.1), but it is still the talk of the web on a number of digital photography forums. Coming a close second are the the new four slider sharpening controls which now resemble the Unsharp Mask (USM) and Smartsharpen Filter controls in Photoshop CS3.

Clarity is described variously as a local contrast enhancement filter and a way to add more depth and (apparent) sharpness to details in an image. It also seems to reduce that hazy look that you often get when shooting a glass-paneled building and sharpens objects behind the glass. The Adobe Help files describe Clarity as being a tool that adds "extra punch".

The best way to see what it does is obviously to run a problem photograph through it and see what happens. I will use a (less than perfect) picture of the Bangkok Airport control tower, which I need to use in a travel website project.

lrv1-clarity-05auto.jpg

Image 1 - the full image without any Clarity adjustment.


lrv1-clarity-07auto.jpg

Image 2 - 1:1 image without Clarity adjustment.


lrv1-clarity-08100.jpg

Image 3 - 1:1 image with full 100 value Clarity adjustment.


lrv1-clarity-101nrs.jpg

Image 4 - 1:1 image with 100 value Clarity adjustment, plus noise reduction and some sharpening applied.


lrv1-clarity-091nrs.jpg

Image 5 - the full image with all adjustments applied.

From the Adobe Lightroom 1.1 ReadMe file.

Clarity: New Control available in the Basic panel. Clarity adds depth to an image by increasing local contrast. When using this setting, it is best to zoom in to 100% or greater. To maximize the effect, increase the setting until you see halos near the edge details of the image, and then reduce the setting slightly.

7 Comments

Derrick
2007-06-29 08:33:28
Nice job on this post George! I'm much clearer on Clarity now, and your illustrations really help.
Tim
2007-06-29 11:26:55
What forums do you check out?
Fred
2007-06-29 20:45:58
Thanks for the demo, makes it easy to understand.
George Mann
2007-06-30 02:39:28
Numerous forums and web site postings, way too many for me to list here. Which is why sometimes my memory can also be a little faulty.


Here is a quote direct from Jeff Shewe regarding my low contrast statement. "actually...it's a "local area contrast enhancement" adjustment as in midtone contrast-not low contrast). By local area, it's descibing it as adaptive (meaning it chages based upon the image content) contrast adjustment. It also is not a "sharpening" control, it's a tone control."

meshuga mikey
2007-06-30 21:29:51
Clarity is really a much appreciated Upgrade Feature. Thanks
KVS Setty
2007-07-02 01:56:15
Good illustration of a particular feature of LR1.1,Thanks a lot.
Also I remember ,long time back i read a good article on "local contrast"on Luminous Landscape website,Understanding Series, now I will have to re-read the article to get better understanding of the phrase "Local Contrast".
thanks again for the good illustration.
Phil Marion
2007-07-18 14:17:18
"actually...it's a "local area contrast enhancement" adjustment as in midtone contrast-not low contrast). By local area, it's descibing it as adaptive (meaning it chages based upon the image content) contrast adjustment. It also is not a "sharpening" control, it's a tone control."


That cleared things up like mud for me. Your telling me to "increase the setting until you see halos near the edge details of the image" is ALL I really needed to know - THANKS a million!
But