Adding Some Clarity: 3 Different Methods

Adding Some Clarity: 3 Different Methods

December 9, 2014

The clarity slider in some Adobe apps is a popular way to add a little pop or punch to a shot. Learn 3 methods for emulating this control.

Day 9: 25 Insights in 25 Days Holiday Marathon

Replicating The Popular ‘Clarity’ Slider From Adobe Applications

A while back, we did an episode of ‘From The Mailbag’ where a member asked how in Resolve do you create the same look that the Clarity slider does in Adobe Lightroom and various other Adobe Camera Raw processing dialog boxes.

We briefly discussed how to achieve similar results in Resolve, but I realized neither Pat, Dan or myself actually ever showed how to do it!

So, in this Insight, I’d like to explore adding some ‘clarity’ inside of Resolve – but as I’m prone to do, I want to show you how to add clarity using a few different techniques.

What Is Clarity?

While Adobe will probably never divulge exactly what goes into their formula for the Clarity slider, it’s pretty easy to reverse engineer by looking at the image as well as looking at a histogram in LightRoom or the Camera Raw dialogs.

  • Mid Tone Contrast – the most obvious thing that the Clarity slider does is ‘punch’ the mid tones of an image quite a bit. This mid tone contrast really has a nice effect on the image – the important stuff like faces, landscapes, etc., exist in the mid tones.
  • Sharpening – the other thing that the Clarity slider does is apply a subtle amount of sharpening. Because it’s working on a narrow band of mid tones, sharpening them takes the contrast adjustment and takes it to the next level.

There could very well be some additional ‘secret sauce’ that Adobe applies with the Clarity slider, but these two adjustments can get you 95% of the way to the clarity type look.

Three Ways To Approach Clarity In Resolve

When it comes to adding some clarity to a shot in Resolve there are a few ways to go about it.  Which method is up to you and I generally think of these as going from the most basic approach to the most involved.

  • Mid Tone Detail – The Resolve development team ears have been burning!  With the release of Resolve 11 there is a now a mid tone detail slider – which essentially allows you to recreate the Adobe Clarity Slider.  This control is a bit hidden but in the movie below I’ll show you how to access it.
  • Mid Tone Limited Key With Sharpening – My tried and true method for the Clarity Slider look in Resolve has always been to pull a Luma key that targets the mid tones.  Once I have that selection I’ll expand the contrast on the mid tones and apply a little sharpening
  • Using The Log Controls – Ok, I’ll admit this is a two part approach so we’ll call it 3A and 3B.  The Log Grading controls as I’ve pointed out in a previous Insight are an amazingly powerful secondary tool, and almost by definition, they can be used to help you create the targeted contrast expansion in the mid tones of a shot.  If you combine the Log controls with a window and some sharpening you have a totally customizable way to apply a little clarity to a shot.

As always, if you have some of your own methods you’d like share or have any questions please use the comments below!


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