a21 March 2013

Tutorial: Clarity in Photoshop

before after
Photoshop has plenty of various filters and adjustment layers. However, it misses one simple feature which is present in both Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom: Clarity slider. Adjusting this slider in Lightroom can add a great boost to the image, make it pop. I use it on many of my images (usually small values though).

So why is this feature missing from Photoshop which is much more powerful than Lightroom in terms of editing photos? In fact, this feature is there in Photoshop. But it's somewhat hidden.

What's more there are a few ways of accessing it. I will describe only one, which is easier and more intuitive.

As you probably noticed, Unsharp Mask, which is commonly used for sharpening, can have very large radius (even 300 or more pixels). However, during sharpening hardly ever anything larger than 4 pixels is used. And even 4 pixel radius is used very rarely. What's more Amount can be set to as low value as 1% even though most commonly values in range 65% - 150% are used during sharpening.

So why are such extremely high and low values possible? In fact, they can be used for increasing clarity in the image! Just set Amount to some low value, eg. 25% or 30% and Radius to some high value, eg. 50 or 80 pixels and Unsharp Mask will increase clarity in your image.

I used exactly this technique to increase clarity of the image posted at the beginning of this post. Before shows the image before applying clarity and After - after doing so. The difference might be subtle but it definitely adds some pop in the trees and snow.

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