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Thread: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

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    Soma Jones's Avatar
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    PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Could someone explain exactly what this slider does? I can see it provides a spectrum of sharpening but is there an equivalent process, or series of processes one can use in PS itself to achieve the same effect or better? Is there any reason I wouldn't want to use this in PS Camera Raw?

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Hi Soma,

    From 'the bible', by which I mean Real World Camera RAW with ... (where "..." is whatever version of Photoshop CS you have):

    Paraphrasing; The Clarity slider is similar to applying Local Contrast Enhancement using USM in CS (or Elements). It uses a small amount (%) with a wide radius (px). Further (and probably unlike USM), it tapers off the effect at highlights, so is effectively a mid-tone adjustment.

    They say a USM of 15% and 100px duplicates the effect in CS, but they do this on a layer and use blending modes I cannot relate to easily.

    Basically, anything you can do in ACR you should do in ACR.

    Colin may explain it better ...

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Quote Originally Posted by Soma Jones View Post
    Could someone explain exactly what this slider does? I can see it provides a spectrum of sharpening but is there an equivalent process, or series of processes one can use in PS itself to achieve the same effect or better? Is there any reason I wouldn't want to use this in PS Camera Raw?
    Soma, there are basically two types of contrast. Large scale and small scale. Large scale contrast is the difference between tones on a large scale.................bright yellow to dark green(for example ) is large scale contrast. To enhance large scale contrast, you would use the contrast slider, or the curves tool (make an S curve).

    Small scale contrast is the difference between tones that are very close together. For example Yellow and a slightly darker yellow. To enhance the small scale contrast , you would use the clarity slider or use "unsharp mask" with a small amount (.20 to .60) and a larger radius ( 4 to 10 depending on the image) . If you're using USM to add small scale contrast, zoom in to 100% and with an amount of USM of 100, slowly increase the radius untill you see the image start to degrade. when you see this, that is the max radius you want to use. Then adjust the amount of USM untill the image looks good.( usually it will be somewhere between 20 and 40 %)

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Hi Soma,

    I think Dave & Steve explained it well. In practice it does an excellent job of rescuing some images, but it's a train wreck on portraiture (although a little negative clarity softens the skin nicely).

    To be honest, for all the times I repeat the mantra "everything you can do in ACR you SHOULD do in ACR", this is one thing I'm somewhat ambilivent about. Often I'll add as much as I need, but having said that it's still no substitute for additional sharpening in Photoshop.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    I don't use CS but do use Lightroom and suspect the clarity slider in that does the same. I generally use it to make local adjustments, either with the graduated filter or adjustment brush, to 'develop' areas such as dull skies (adds some definition to bland clouds), water (helps to see under the surface more) or belts of trees (the extra definition helps to bring them to life). These are just some examples for using a positive amount of clarity. A negative amount can help reduce the impact of areas that are a bit distracting from the main subject and, as has been said, can do a good job of smoothing skin. It works well in conjuction with other adjustments, such as exposure, brightness or saturation for instance, so that they are applied at the same time.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    I realize this thread has been dormant for sometime, but perhaps time for revival as I have a question regarding the clarity slider..and if you Google "raw clarity slider" this is the #1 position right now (yay).

    I was working on some images and really loved the effect it gave with a value of -40. I read above its a great tool for smoothing skin, is it a "common" technique in landscape as well? I really like the effect..anyone else?

    Debbie

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Are you applying it globally or locally? Local application to reduce distraction from the main focal point can certainly work. Globally all you would achieve is an overall blur/soft focus. In some situations this might well be very effective but would be very much image dependent. Do you have an example image you can post so we can see in what context you are using it.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Quote Originally Posted by FredSpencer View Post
    Do you have an example image you can post so we can see in what context you are using it.
    Coming very very soon, still working on them, I wasn't expecting such a speedy response

    Debbie

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Note: My workflow is still full of flaws, so sparing you the details, unfortunately the crops on the photos are slightlly different.

    This is the one with a -50 clarity value and no sharpening at all. It seemed kind of silly undo some shapening on the RAW file and then add some Unsharp Mask PS, but sounds like they are a different beast so maybe its not so silly, however I didn't want to introduce another variable so - no sharpening. And call me crazy I actually like the softness of the image. And I think that I have seen this effect in somebody elses portfolio...like an established photographer, but I can't for the life of me remember who or where, but I remember wondering how the image managed that effect.

    PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    This one is sharpened in RAW and Unsharp Mask in PS4

    PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Thanks

    Oh....and these should have the subtitle "What I Learned from Donald's Photos". Learn to look for trees that standout. Thats a great big ole osprey nest in the top of this one. And I liked the tree.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    That looks to me to be the sort of image it works on. There isn't a subject, or even a wide vista, that you would want clarity or sharpening to enhance. It works because it introduces a hazy/misty effect which, combined with the subdued colours, gives it a dreamy feel.

    Personally I would also crop it to a portrait aspect to remove some of the dead sky and give a bit more emphasis to the foreground tree. Adding some saturation might also give it an Orton feel and add some strength to the image.

    I think you've definitely shown it is worth considering in some circumstances.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Some photographers (and artists) like the softer effects than are popular on sites dedicated to photography today. There seems to be developing a general attitude that sharp-to-the-point-of harshness is good and soft, ethereal pictures are not "finished properly."

    Coming from the world of photojournalism and wildlife photography, I understand this need for sharpness in some presentations. However, I find that I often prefer softer images than is the norm in the 'net world of photography.

    To my eye the first is a very nice, alluring picture. To my eye the second is a very nice, interesting documentation of what you saw. If that makes sense to you, you inderstand what I'm talking about. If not, don't worry about it, as it is your eye you have to please, not mine.

    Pops

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Quote Originally Posted by FredSpencer View Post
    That looks to me to be the sort of image it works on. There isn't a subject, or even a wide vista, that you would want clarity or sharpening to enhance. It works because it introduces a hazy/misty effect which, combined with the subdued colours, gives it a dreamy feel.

    Personally I would also crop it to a portrait aspect to remove some of the dead sky and give a bit more emphasis to the foreground tree. Adding some saturation might also give it an Orton feel and add some strength to the image.

    I think you've definitely shown it is worth considering in some circumstances.
    Thanks, I'll play around with it and keep your ideas in mind. I need to take 15 minutes and increase my knowledge on cropping and aspects in particular. I notice the ratios in the ACR crop tool but I haven't taken the time yet learn (so much to learn) the fundamentals behind them.
    Not much I could do about the sky, today it was just white. Cloudy, snowy, misty, hazy. But definitely incentive to go back on a different day; the sun should set just off to the left of that tree

    Thanks for your help.
    Debbie

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Quote Originally Posted by PopsPhotos View Post
    Some photographers (and artists) like the softer effects than are popular on sites dedicated to photography today. There seems to be developing a general attitude that sharp-to-the-point-of harshness is good and soft, ethereal pictures are not "finished properly."

    Coming from the world of photojournalism and wildlife photography, I understand this need for sharpness in some presentations. However, I find that I often prefer softer images than is the norm in the 'net world of photography.

    To my eye the first is a very nice, alluring picture. To my eye the second is a very nice, interesting documentation of what you saw. If that makes sense to you, you inderstand what I'm talking about. If not, don't worry about it, as it is your eye you have to please, not mine.

    Pops
    Ethereal - that is the word I couldn't come up with and it perfectly describes this effect (to me anyway). Good to know that like everything else it comes down to personal preference and as usual some people will love it and some will not. I love it when there is no "right" or "wrong".

    Thanks for your input.
    Debbie

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Quote Originally Posted by djg05478 View Post
    I was working on some images and really loved the effect it gave with a value of -40. I read above its a great tool for smoothing skin, is it a "common" technique in landscape as well? I really like the effect..anyone else?

    Debbie
    Hi Debbie,

    A better technique for skin softening is to ...

    1. Duplicate your layer
    2. Add a gaussean blur to the top layer (1 pixel radius for every MP it was shot with is a good guide)
    3. Reduce opacity to 50%
    4. Add a layer mask
    5. Using a soft brush, paint the skin areas of the mask white to reveal the blur, keeping away from hard edges
    6. Vary the opacity to give the desired result (usually in the 20 to 30% range, depending on age).

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    djg05478's Avatar
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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Thanks Colin ....I love 'step by step' advice. I've copied and pasted to my notes.

    Debbie

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Quote Originally Posted by djg05478 View Post
    Thanks Colin ....I love 'step by step' advice. I've copied and pasted to my notes.

    Debbie
    No worries Debbie,

    It's a technique that can be a touch confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it there are a LOT of things you can apply it to. If you get stuck, just let me know.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    I love the effect of (-) Clarity. It works well for certain landscapes and portraits. It is just wonderful for B&W portraits - it produces a porcelain effect on skin in one deft swoop that is pretty darn remarkable - blemishes and discoloration are greatly diminished if not removed completely and that "ethereal" glow is what good B&W portrait studios would spend serious time in the darkroom to produce.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Interesting to read the differing points of view about 'RAW Clarity ... that's what photography/art is all about, having preferences.
    As for me ... I looove Clarity where its appropriate to 'smooth the pic'.
    Where I can, I always start with RAW adjustments even for jpeg ... probably not the professional approach but it all seems to blend together rather well.

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    Quote Originally Posted by djg05478 View Post
    Ethereal - that is the word I couldn't come up with and it perfectly describes this effect (to me anyway). Good to know that like everything else it comes down to personal preference and as usual some people will love it and some will not. I love it when there is no "right" or "wrong".

    Thanks for your input.
    Debbie
    Debbie: Count me in as one who likes the (-) clarity effect, and I'm glad you posted, because it's something I always waiver on.I know I'm not using it the way it "should" be used, but I'm with you, I think in some shots it does give an ethereal look and I try it out quite often on my snow scenes and some florals. I'm talking Lightroom though, but I'm pretty sure it would be the same as what you are talking about in ACR. It's one of those things that I try and then look at again the next day to make sure that I'm not just liking the "different" effect. I'll try to post some samples later, to get some opinions, but like you say it really comes down to personal preference and thankfully we are all different.

    Wendy

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    Re: PS Camera Raw Clarity slider

    I love the effect it has on skin - the biggest problem I have though is that it's also applied to other areas where it's not so desireable at times (like hair).

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