Handling the Details and Color
Next on our raw processing list is Clarity. Traditionally the Clarity setting can be used for two distinct purposes: 1) using a negative value to soften the areas of the image that don’t require sharp texture detail (such as skin texture in a portrait), or 2) to sharpen the mid-tone details so that they appear to “pop”.
ACR 7 now produces a much more pronounced Clarity effect when using it to sharpen mid-tone texture detail, but it does so without creating the halo problems sometimes exhibited by making similar corrects in ACR 6. In fact, if you add a substantial amount of Clarity with ACR 7, you can sometimes create a “faux HDR” effect.
Since HDR was the original purpose of the exposure in this example (to be one part of an HDR exposure series), we’ll give a shot! Experimentation is often required with Clarity, as its effect can be more of a subjective choice than the other Basic panel controls. Here I settled on a value around 30 to give the desired outcome. The biggest difference is that it lightens the large buildings in the background relative to the island foreground details. Figure 6 shows the result with Clarity applied.
Figure 6 Adding positive Clarity values to your shot can add a lot of detail and punch. In some cases you can even create a faux HDR look.
The final changes to be made in the Basic panel for this shot are improving the colors. First, using the Vibrance control, we can enhance the “color presence” of the dark clouds and the vivid oranges in the sunset. Once you’ve experimented with the Vibrance to good effect, try increasing the Saturation value slightly to add one final bit of “color punch” (Figure 7). Watch the transitions areas! If you add too much Vibrance and/or Saturation, you can create unwanted color shifts.
Figure 7 A final adjustment of the Vibrance and Saturation controls can help improve color presence and “punch” without introducing color bands or clipping.
As this demonstration has shown, ACR 7 is an extremely powerful raw editor, capable of recovering a lot of lost detail and maximizing contrast, with just a few simple changes to the default settings. If you haven’t already, you should definitely consider making ACR 7 and Photoshop CS6 part of your regular workflow.