Posted by: merlyn9 | 28 February, 2009

A Wobbly view of Lightroom Clarity

A quick break from my Yellowstone Adventure story and images…

Alternative Use of Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 2.x

After listening to the latest Episode of PhotoshopUser TV Podcast (Episode #174 — 23Feb09) I really had my curiosity peeked by a tutorial Matt Kloskowski and some comments he made during this tutorial.  Matt shows in his tutorial a way to use a New feature found in Adobe Camera RAW under Photoshop CS4.   Unfortunate for myself, I have yet to upgrade to CS4 from CS3 because all my resources went into saving for that New Canon EOS 5D MKII!   Then the transmission on the truck went out and cost me more than the retail price of entire Photoshop CS Suite!  The very bad side of this…  Camera RAW in CS3 does Not recognize the RAW images from the 5D MKII… I Need to get the CS4 upgrade for this.  Yet Lightroom 2.2 Has been updated to work with this camera’s RAW files!

OK, Back to Matt’s tutorial and his comments.  During his introduction into this new feature Matt says:

“’s kind of neat.  I almost wish that Lightroom worked this way because I use Lightroom more often than I use Camera RAW for this but[ton].  I wish Lightroom worked this way.  If I click the minus button it resets everything else to zero and brings my clarity down to minus 25.”


Original Unretouched Image (cropped)

So initially I was thinking Matt was talking about the way clarity and the adjustment brush worked from within Lightroom.  So earlier tonight I went into Lightroom and opened an image from a recent model I shot during a Valentine’s Day themed shoot.

Now these jpeg image examples shown here have been Cropped Only and have Not had any additional modifications or adjustments made other than this Clarity Brush simply for the sake of this blog entry.  This would not be my final version of this image.  (click on the images to view larger renditions of them)

In the first image you can see some blotchiness in the models skin. There are always some other imperfections or wrinkles creating less than optimal textures across skin.

In the Develop Module within Lightroom, selecting the Adjustment Brush from the panel on the right (default location) you can see the settings I used on this image. I had originally started with an mount setting of -96, but I thought that was a bit much for my liking so I brought it back down until I liked the results.  I am sure every models skin is going to require a different setting, as I’m sure lighting is going to play a factor here as well.


Lightroom Adjustment Brush settings

Using these settings above results in the image below. Sorry I did not provide a side-by-side comparison in this blog… believe me the thought had crossed my mind. But there is a fair amount of noticeable smoothing or softening of her skin. From the Mask Overlay image below you can see I have only made adjustments to her face at this time.


Image After Clarity adjustment applied

Clarity Adjustment Mask

Visible Clarity Adjustment Mask

To view this mask you can mouse-over the pin associated with this adjustment action. You can see it in the image on the model’s right cheek.  When I move the mouse off this the mask becomes hidden again.  I am sure there is a way to bring this up to work finer areas, but I’m not aware of it, so feel free to leave me a comment below if you know how to do this.  Camera RAW does allow for this making it much easier to fine tune your make area.  I also don’t know if I can change the mask color to turn my model into an Umpa Loompa?  Obviously, I created this mask pretty quickly as can be seen from the over paint across the eyebrow and lips.  But I was looking to see if this effect feature was functional within Lightroom.  Obviously (one would hope anyhow right?) I would be more careful in preparing an image for final presentation.


Re-listening to Matt’s Words…

I have since gone back, and re-listened a few times to that portion of that podcast episode, especially to transcribe Matt’s quote above exactly.  I think he may actually have been referring to the way clicking on the button functions and resets the other settings, vs. the way the adjustment brush with clarity works within Lightroom.  But I still found this to be quite an interesting test and comparison that I still completed this blog entry and published it anyhow.

Alternative Tool Options

Are there other means of softening skin within Photoshop?  Sure there are, and most of them have some sort of price tag associated with them.  From less than a hundred dollars to several hundreds.  In searching for something that works well for my taste and style of work I have trialed a few of these.

Nik Software Dfine 2.0 – I briefly tested the demo version of this plug-in the 1st-half of 2008.  I was pretty pleased with it’s results and flexibility at the time.   $99.95 directly, but I found this available at Adorama for $79.

Imagenomic Portraiture 2 – I also checked out the trial version of this plug-in during early 2008 and was more pleased with this tool.  Although I did have a few issues with this on the Mac at the time, and I did receive a quick response via E-mail… I don’t recall the issue being resolved completely to my liking at that time.  This plug-in was quite costly at $199.95.  But I guess if you are doing this type of work full time and being paid for or making money at it, that would be an easier amount to justify then.

Preliminary Analysis…

So Overall I like the Camera RAW Feature that Matt demonstrated in this tutorial.
Obviously now I am going to want to revisit this with Photoshop CS4 and that version of Camera RAW…

For those of us unable to afford or justify spending funds on plug-ins, especially in these economic conditions, this functionality works great.  The visible masking alone is sweet.  My initial test here was only from Lightroom.  Results compared to what Matt shows in the podcast are not as nice as when done from Camera RAW.  Maybe I just need to use a few more sample images and compare results that way.  Another advantage of the Camera RAW method is you can edit with the mask being visible.  As mentioned above, I don’t think this is possible from Lightroom.  Of course this just adds another reason why I need to save more lunch monies and purchase my upgrade to Photoshop CS 4.0!

All Images Copyrighted © 2009 michael T. sedwick



  1. Yep, I was referring to the way that clicking the little buttons resets everything else and just affects the one setting you’re clicking on. Sorry for any confusion.

    Matt K

  2. Looks very nice…

  3. Your are Great. And so is your site! Awesome content. Good job guys! Interesting article, adding it to my favourites!

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