Localized Contrast in Photoshop -- Part IV

Article and Photography by Ron Bigelow

www.ronbigelow.com

Photoshop CS4 Used in this Tutorial

The first three articles in this series showed how to enhance small scale contrast in Photoshop. However, when using Camera Raw, there is a much easier and faster method.

Figure 1: Open Image

The procedure starts by opening an image in Camera Raw by choosing File/Open and choosing the image file (see Figure 1).

The image opens in Camera Raw where some initial edits have been made (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Camera Raw

Clicking the + sign a few times zooms the image to the 100% view (see Figure 3). At this point, it is obvious that the image could benefit from an increase in small scale contrast. Luckily, the Clarity slider was specifically designed for just this purpose.

Figure 3: Image Zoomed In

All that needs to be done is to move the Clarity slider to the right (see Figure 4). Clicking OK opens the image in Photoshop.

Figure 4: Small Scale Contrast Adjustment

Moving your cursor over Figure 5 will show the before and after versions of the image.

Figure 5: Before and After

It Can't be that Easy

One might be tempted to think, "It can't be that easy"! Actually, it is.

Furthermore, some experimentation has shown that moving the Clarity slider changes tonality but has little effect on hue or saturation. Thus, the concerns about color changes that are an issue when using the previous small scale contrast enhancement method (i.e., using USM) are not a concern with this technique.

In addition, the potential clipping of some tones that had to be dealt with, when using the USM technique, is easily handled when Camera Raw is used. When the Shadow clipping warning and Highlight clipping warning are turned on (see Figure 6), any clipping will be shown on the image. If clipping is visible, the Camera Raw sliders can be used to adjust the image to eliminate the clipping.

Figure 6: Handling Clipping

Summary

So, does this technique need to be applied to every image? Of course not. The key to high quality image editing is to closely examine each image and determine the editing that is required to best optimize the image. This technique should be applied only to images that need the small scale contrast enhanced. However, for those images that do need a small scale contrast boost, this is a great technique.

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