Anything Photoshop or Photography

Clarifying Clarity! Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom Quick Trick

I ran across this little video by Matt Kloskowski for Lightroom called “The Clarity Super Edgy Trick” but can just as easily be done in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). The following image is an example of the technique.


To get this nice grunge/HDR effect, the following steps need to be done.

  1. First do adjustments to image and crop size in Lightroom or ACR. Set the Clarity slider to +100 at this time.
  2. Select the Graduated Filter (G) (11th icon from left at top) and set just the Clarity slider set to +100  (In Lightroom go to the Effect drop-down and choose Clarity – set slider to +100).
  3. Click and drag at bottom of image so the top line is totally off the image.  Clarity at 100% will have been applied again to the whole image. Everything above the green line in ACR or top line in Lightroom is getting the full 100% Clarity so make sure this line is dragged totally off the bottom of image. Hold SHIFT while dragging to keep the line horizontal with image and it is easier to control.
  4. Repeat Step 3 by creating a new Clarity Graduated Filter and do this as many times as you want. Usually this means 3 or 4 times.

If you want to apply the Clarity to just part of the image, use the Adjustment Brush set to Clarity at +100. The same brush can be applied several times by just creating New Brushes.

In the image of the cupola on the old historic courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, I started with Matt’s 70′s Look preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR), applied the Clarity slider at +100 in the Basic Module, and then set two Graduated Filters with Clarity set to +100. The image was finally brought into Photoshop and a rather brown colored sky was changed to a blue color using the Color Replacement Tool Brush. (See my Tidbits blog – “Like a Chameleon-The Color Replacement Tool” on how to do this.) I added some clouds using my SJ-Cloud Brushes Set.

Do watch when applying the Clarity Slider to landscapes – a bright sky next to a treeline can look bad as it tapers away from the trees edge. Since Clarity works on contrast at the edges in the midtone areas, if you do not want the grungy look, keep your setting to 40 0r 50 and do not use this technique.

One of my favorite shooting spots in Mesa, Arizona, is this old Buckhorn Motel in the center of town. In this case, the image was adjusted in Adobe Lightroom and the Graduated Filter was also applied twice. The image was processed using OnOne’s Perfect Layers Lightroom plug-in. In Perfect Layers, the image was duplicated with the new layer set to Screen at 52%, a Shadow Creations Another Mixed Texture Set – Texture Seattle was added as a texture layer set to Normal at 88%, and then the Masking Bug Tool was used on it to get the interesting side borders. This can all be done in Photoshop if you wanted to create this same effect without the plug-in. After opening image in Photoshop, a NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Tonal Contrast plug-in effect and an OnOne PhotoFrame were added to finalize the look. The tonal contrast could have been adjusted without the plug-in by using a Curves Adjustment Layer and/or Levels Adjustment Layer. Use Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer to pop the color.

The Magnolia Tree pod image was created by applying my Vivid Drawing Look Preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR) first, adjusting the exposure and clarity sliders, running the Graduated Filter three times with Clarity set to +100 and once with Clarity set to +37,  and opening it up in Photoshop. Three effects were then added on separate layers to get this final result, all using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 (Tonal Contrast, Glamour Glow and Vignette Blur effects were applied – they are coming out with a new version shortly so I will report back on this when available). Sharpening and an OnOne PhotoFrame finished up the photo. It gives a very different feel from the two images above.



With this beautiful Great Egret, Matt’s 70′s Look preset was applied (same preset as first image-link to download above). The Adjustment Brush was used to selectively apply the Clarity/Sharpening as too much tends to give the whites a very dirty look. The Adjustment Brush was used with Clarity set to +100 and Sharpen +100. I painted over the head and beak of the bird. I then applied one more new Adjustment brush and painted just the beak and eye area. The image was opened in Photoshop, and NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Glamour Glow (default settings) and Brilliance and Warmth effects were applied. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added and that was it. Very easy and the face is very sharp using the Clarity technique in Lightroom or ACR.

I just have too much fun trying out this technique. It is a very easy one to do and the possibilities are many. Try using a couple different settings in the Graduated Filter or Adjustment Brush. Save the Filters as presets (they can then be used for both). I have to hand it to Photoshop Guy Matt Kloskowski for coming up with this interesting technique. Give it a quick try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd

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  1. Pingback: » Why I Love OnOne’s Perfect Layers! Digital Lady Syd's Tidbits Blog

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