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.
Image 1 - the full image without any Clarity adjustment.
Image 2 - 1:1 image without Clarity adjustment.
Image 3 - 1:1 image with full 100 value Clarity adjustment.
Image 4 - 1:1 image with 100 value Clarity adjustment, plus noise reduction and some sharpening applied.
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.