Lightroom Clarity Slider

The clarity slider is one of those adjustments in Lightroom that is a little bit vague. We all know what contrast and brightness does but what does clarity really mean? It can be a very useful tool in Lightroom for many types of images like landscapes and portraits. So what does it exactly do? Well, the clarity slider is basically a way to adjust the contrast of images but only effects the mid tones of the images not the shadows or highlights. This can be useful in many situations and we will give you some examples below.

First just a quick look at how the clarity slider impacts the photo. Here is a shot right out of the camera of a landscape that has a lot of mid tones in the sand area and the trees but also a large highlight area with the sky. When processing this image we want to increase the contrast of the foreground but dont want to have those highlights in the sky become any more bright.

what is the clarity lightroom slider?

Here you can see the effect to the extreme by taking the clarity slider all the way to +100. You can see that the sand and the green moss on the rock have much more contrast and really pop now while the highlights in the sky remained similar so we didn’t loose the sky.

lightroom clarity adjustment

Now here is what happens when we bring the clarity slider in lightroom down to -100. Again you can see the mid tones like the sand where impacted the most and have lost so much contrast that they become very soft.

clarity slider minus 100

Lets look at a few other examples that aren’t on the extreme end so you can see how this can be used for every day photos. First a quick portrait photo where the subject is set in front of a background that is pretty light and the light on her face flat. It was taken on a overcast day so there is a nice soft light on her face. But sometimes you want a little more pop to the photo and want to increase the contrast on the subjects face, but we don’t want to increase the contrast on the background at all. The background is already very bright and adding contrast will make it more distracting (and should really be burned in to darken so the focus is really on the subject)

lightroom portrait processing

Here I simply pushed the clarity slider up to +50 and left everything else the same. You can see how the background of the image stills holds the same contrast but the subjects face is the main part of the image that the change in contrast is effected by. There is still a lot more I would do to this image to improve and make it pop but you can see how the clarity slider improves the contrast mainly around her face area.

portrait clarity slider lightroom plus

Also sometimes the clarity slider can be a really quick and easy way to soften skin. Here is another photo right out of the camera and while the couple is still young and have great skin you might want to soften them up just a little bit.

clarity slider lightroom

By simply setting the clarity slider to -30 Lightroom softens the mid tones a bit which happen to be their skin and leaves the rest untouched. Perfect quick way to soften skin!

clarity lightroom adjustment

The clarity slider can be used in many ways and is one of those powerful but very easy sliders in Lightroom to use. Have any questions or something you would like to learn with Lightroom? Leave a comment below.

How do you use the clarity slider? Let us know in the comments below. Also check out more of our Post Processing tips.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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2 Comments

  1. I love the clarity bar. I use it abit to save photos that are blurry. It works well to give “that feeling”

  2. You really have to be careful with the clarity slider sometimes. On certain images you start to see a white bezel or halo around the image. Especially around images with people.

    Absolutely love the clarity slider, but sometimes it can be a bit much!

    Just our thoughts.

    the hinkleys

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