Let's talk about "Negative Clarity". This phrase sounds like it belongs in politics and not photography, but Clarity, both positive and negative, is actually a relatively new Photoshop tool that is remarkably powerful in affecting the contrast and mood and of your images
|Mitch bathed in WAY too Much Negative Clarity|
The clarity tool first appeared in Lightroom with version 1.1 and worked in a scale from 0-100, that is, only in the positive direction. In Version 3.3 the tool acquired negative values, ranging from -100 to + 100, and it is the effects of negative Clarity that I will focus on for this article. Clarity is also available in Adobe Camera RAW and, significantly, with Photoshop CC, it is found as part of the Camera Raw Filter menu.
The Clarity slider is found at the top of the list of the last three tools in the Basic Panel, above Vibrance and Saturation. Simply stated, Clarity has its effect on the mid-tone contrast of images. It adds
|A little Positive Clarity|
It should be no surprise that moving the Clarity slider into the negative range causes a decrease in mid-tone contrasts resulting in a softening effect. Applied generally, negative Clarity causes an increasingly prominent soft, watercolor-like appearance, but I have generally used it selectively to soften skin tones and blemishes. Taken too far it can create a plastic appearance, but used in moderation it can apply a beautiful soft air-brushing. Not that my beautiful daughter needs any air-brushing!
|Abby Doesn't Need Negative Clarity|
Selective application of either positive or negative Clarity can be applied in Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW using the Adjustment Brush, but now that Clarity is available in Photoshop CC as part of the Camera Raw Filter it can be more easily controlled and finely adjusted. By using Clarity within a Smart Filter I can make adjustments in the intensity of the effect and control its application with a mask.
Early Spring Mist
A few weeks ago I was out shooting in the soft mist that so frequently develops as snow meets the warm air of our early spring. I love this barn nestled in a valley in Chesterfield, New Hampshire and on this day the distant tree-line was diffused by the hovering mist. Back home I felt that the image didn't accurately reflect the depth of the scene as I remembered. I wanted to
|Fully Applied Negative Clarity|
|Selective Negative Clarity in a Smart Filter|
Sugaring season is upon us and I was recently shooting the buckets clinging to some truly majestic Sugar Maples in Dummerston Vermont. I wanted the tree to stand out against the pasture and the distant, mist shrouded, trees. I found that a touch of negative Clarity worked well. It was relatively easy to create a mask to
|Negative Clarity Masked|
Is Photoshop great, or what!
|Leaves with a Touch of Negative Clarity|
Gaussian Blur, or contrast reduced by decreasing the highlight and black setting in a levels layer. Each has its own unique effect, but I have enjoyed my recent discovery of the soft feel that results from subtle selective adjustments in negative Clarity. Like any photoshop adjustment, it is possible to overdo negative Clarity. It is all a matter of taste. Applied to excess it can lead to a an unnatural sense of viewing the scene through grounded glass, but subtle adjustments can add warmth and depth to an image. Give it a try, if for no other reason than it is a fun term to use especially when you can bathe a picture of your local senator or representative with well deserved veil of softly obfuscating "negative Clarity".