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Adobe Photoshop CS5 : Letting Camera Raw Auto-Correct Your Photos, Adding Snap to Your Images Using the Clarity Slider

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11/25/2012 11:28:34 AM

Letting Camera Raw Auto-Correct Your Photos

If you’re not quite comfortable with manually adjusting each image, like I mentioned at the end of the last tutorial, Camera Raw does come with a one-click Auto function, which takes a stab at correcting the overall exposure of your image (including shadows, fill light, contrast, and recovery), and at this point in Camera Raw’s evolution, it’s really not that bad. If you like the results, you can set up Camera Raw’s preferences so every photo, upon opening in Camera Raw, will be auto-adjusted using that same feature.

Step One.
Once you have an image open in Camera Raw, you can have Camera Raw take a stab at setting the overall exposure (using the controls in the Basic panel) for you by clicking on the Auto button (shown circled in red here). In older versions of Camera Raw, this Auto correction feature was...well...let’s just say it was less than stellar, but it’s gotten much better since then, and now it does a somewhat decent job (especially if you’re stuck and not sure what to do), so click on it and see how it looks. If it doesn’t look good, no sweat—just press Command-Z (PC: Ctrl-Z) to Undo.

Step Two.
You can set up Camera Raw so it automatically performs an Auto Tone adjustment each time you open a photo—just click on the Preferences icon up in Camera Raw’s toolbar (it’s the third icon from the right), and when the dialog appears, turn on the checkbox for Apply Auto Tone Adjustments (shown circled here), then click OK. Now, Camera Raw will evaluate each image and try to correct it. If you don’t like its tonal corrections, then you can just click on the Default button, which appears to the right of the Auto button (the Auto button will be grayed out because it’s already been applied).


Adding “Snap” (or Softening) to Your Images Using the Clarity Slider

This is one of my favorite features in Camera Raw, and whenever I show it in a class, it never fails to get “Oooohs” and “Ahhhhs.” I think it’s because it’s just one simple slider, yet it does so much to add “snap” to your image. The Clarity slider (which is well-named) basically increases the midtone contrast in a way that gives your photo more punch and impact, without actually sharpening the image (much like certain Curves adjustments in Photoshop can add snap and punch to your photos).

Step One.
The Clarity slider is found in the bottom section of the Basic panel in Camera Raw, right above the Vibrance and Saturation sliders. (Although its official name is Clarity, I heard that at one point Adobe engineers considered naming it “Punch” instead, as they felt using it added punch to the image.) To clearly see the effects of Clarity, first zoom in to a 100% view by double-clicking on the Zoom tool up in the toolbar (it looks like a magnifying glass). In the example shown here, I only zoomed to 50% so you could see more of the image.

Step Two.
Using the Clarity control couldn’t be easier—drag the slider to the right to increase the amount of snap (midtone contrast) in your image (compare the top and bottom images shown here). Almost every image I process gets between +25 and +50 Clarity. If the image has lots of detail, like a cityscape, or a sweeping landscape shot, or something with lots of little details like a motorcycle (or leaves and flowers), then I’ll go as high as +75 to +80, as seen here. If the subject is of a softer nature, like a portrait of a child, then in that case, I don’t generally apply any Clarity at all.

Step Three.
You can also use the Clarity control in reverse—to soften skin. This is called adding negative Clarity, meaning you can apply less than 0 (zero) to reduce the midtone contrast, which gives you a softening effect. For example, here’s an original image without any negative Clarity applied.

Step Four.
Now drag the Clarity slider to the left (which gives you a negative amount of Clarity), and take a look at how much softer our subject’s skin looks. Everything else in the image looks softer too, so it’s an overall softening, you’ll learn how to apply softening just to your subject’s skin (or anything else you need softened), while leaving the rest of the image sharp.


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