Clarity adjustment in Lightroom

I use the Adobe Lightroom post production software for making adjustments to the RAW images I take on my Pentax K5 DSLR. I originally used Apple Aperture, but when the price of Lightroom dropped with the introduction of Lightroom 4 I gave it a try and was very impressed with it. One of the adjustments I have learned to use a lot is the Clarity slider in the presence section of the Basic Panel.

If you search in the Lightroom help system for clarity it says …. Nothing. So I did some investigation as to the effect that you get. The general impression seems to be that the clarity slider adjusts the contrast of mid-tones in the picture. This can make pictures go from very harsh detailed images to soft watery images. Both effects can be useful in some circumstances although, as with most effects in post-processing, a small adjustment is usually all that is required.

The slider starts at a mid point setting of 0 and can be adjusted to -100 (soft) to +100 (harsh). To demonstrate the effect of this setting I’ve processed the set of pictures below. You can particularly see the effect of the clarity adjustment in the shadows on the path, and in the tree foliage. All these pictures were produced from the same master RAW file with the clarity adjusted in increments of 25 to show the effect – no other adjustments were made as the clarity was adjusted. If you click on the individual images you can get a better view of the affect.

Just for information, the picture shows my Daughter Emma walking away from me in the park behind the Alexandra Palace in North London.


There seems to be a similar adjustment in Aperture called definition in the Enhance panel but it doesn’t seem to have the same level of adjustment that clarity in lightroom has.

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