What Too Much Clarity Looks Like

by James Duncan Davidson

The Clarity tool is a great addition to Lightroom 1.1. It's become one of my favorite tools to use as it gives just the contrast bump that I'm typically looking for in an image. Most of the time, it gives just the right amount of pop and I've found that nearly all of my images benefit from some amount of its use. And, it's surprising how many images I have that can tolerate a heavy application of the tool.

I've started running into a few cases, however, where the Clarity tool can give a bit too much pop or even the wrong kind of pop if used at too high a setting. So far, I've noticed this mostly on edges where there's a very strong white edge against a medium toned background and the edge is very sharp. In these cases, I've found that it doesn't take too much Clarity to produce an unnatural looking effect.

7 Comments

fog city dave
2007-07-26 11:04:57
Clarity is indeed a very cool new tool. I just wanted to mention that it is available in the latest version of Photoshop Camera RAW 4.1 as well.
Chris B
2007-07-26 11:47:58
How does this compare to the highlight/shadows slider in Aperture? Does it work better or worse (based on the effect I am guessing it works in a similar manner)?
Niklas B
2007-07-26 12:01:13
@ Chris:


As far as I can tell Aperture has nothing like this. The tool you are referring to is used to bring out more detail in areas that are too dark or too bright. But the Clarity tool in Lightroom works more in the opposite way: it enhances contrast based on the local "topography" of the image.

Chris B
2007-07-26 12:40:48
Thanks Niklas, I'll have to give the demo a try. This indeed sounds useful.
Michael Houghton
2007-07-26 16:29:44
If you don't have any of those tools, I believe the effect is fairly similar to using a wide radius, low percentage Unsharp Mask. For instance, on a six megapixel image, 100 pixel radius, 10% or so. This also boosts local contrast .

2007-07-27 13:38:04
Yes, this behaves exactly like Photoshop's Unsharp Mask in terms of avoiding halos of oversharpening. (All digital sharpening is just some variety of local contrast enhancement, BTW, since there is no such thing as 'real' sharpening, so all sharpening tools behave in this same manner.)
Axel de Vries
2007-08-04 01:57:06
@fog city dave
Yeah but updating Photoshop Camera RAW 4.1 if you have Photoshop CS3 Extended will cause it to crash, so I