In this tutorial we will see how Clarity in Capture One and other Raw software can greatly enhance a photo.
First when should we use Clarity and when we shouldn’t?
Based on my experience with Fuji Raf (Raw) photos there are situations where Clarity can do some magic and in other the opposite.
When should you use Clarity:
-Snow or sea photos
-Street photos (not contextual portrait)
When you shouldn’t:
For Landscape,snow,sea and sky photos Clarity will reveal the micro-contrast giving more deepness to the clouds,fields,snow particles and trails, waves…
For Macro shots it’s very useful for lenses that are not particularly sharp wide open at very close distance like the XF 23mm f2, it will reveal details that weren’t appearing without clarity.
For portraits and contextual portraits I don’t recommend Clarity because it will change the skin’s color and contrast making some stains and shadows sometimes that are not enjoyable.
No let’s open Capture One and go to Exposure Tab
You will have 3 choices:
We will keep Method to Natural
Keep Structure untouched (0)
Now for Clarity it will all depend on the photo itself, sometimes it will only need a +20% and sometimes like for snow photos you can easily go to +100%
First example, a snowy landscape.
We will go from this untouched photo:
To this one thanks to Clarity (set at +100)
See how the mountain curves are more pronounced now? It has more details, the light haze is gone and the sky is more lively? Clarity gave deepness in this scenario making the photo much interesting.
You see how clouds have a 3D effect now, along with more subtile contrast that make the photo pop up?
And now 2 examples that I love:
Now the problem sometimes with Clarity is that you can get halos if you have a blue sky in the background and a subject in front, specially if you use Highlights.
Like in this photo, see the white halo on the left of the wood cabin:
To fix that we have an easy solution in Capture One called ”Local adjustments”
So let’s go to the Local Adjustments tab
Then press on the + sign to add a new adjustment:
Then on the Cursor Tool Settings
Set the size of the brush you want while taking in consideration the zone we will fix, here we will work on the whole blue sky part so I set the size to a rather large size.
Opacity must be set to 100
Now go and look to what value you have set Clarity for the whole photo earlier, in this photo for example I used +100, so I will set the adjustment to -100 in the new Local Adjustment we just created.
And now I use the Brush by clicking on Draw Mask:
I will draw the mask manually on the sky, it should look like that:
Now just put the mouse pointer outside the photo and you will get the fixed photo like this:
No more halos and we won the advantage of Clarity for the rest of the photo.
Now an example that shows how good Clarity is for Macro shots.
The XF 23mm f2 Reviewed here is known to not have the sharpest image for macros wide open, but micro-contrast and Clarity can really make a difference.
Here a photo taken at 20cm and f2 (BTW Fuji themselves recommend a minimum focal point of 22cm for this lens), at 100% crop.
And now with Clarity set to 100:
See what I mean?
Additional notes: In some photos Clarity can change Highlights and Shadows, if you feel some parts are being too bright you can compensate by leveling up Highlights, same goes for Shadows being too dark after Clarity, just level up Shadows.
So in conclusion the Clarity tool is really an awesome tool that will reveal Micro-Contrasts in your photos, making a plain meh photo into an interesting, lively with more deepness and 3D like effect, reducing also haze and the humidity veil in landscapes photos.
It’s also highly recommended for Macro shots reveling even more details and sharpness.
Be aware though that with portraits it won’t always give you good results, in reality it will change skin color and expose some details like facial hair, blisters, red stains…
Also in some case like building with blue sky in background can make halos all around the building, you can fix that by taking off Clarity in the sky.
As usual if you have any question don’t hesitate to ask