December 02, 2012

softening with the clarity tool

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Oh, I'm not a big fan of the multitude of special manipulation effects that can be so easily applied in modern image editing programs, but there certainly is a lot that can be done--and probably shouldn't.

For instance I can take most any image and make it look like an artistic painting method: colored pencil, dry brush, fresco, daubs, palette knife, rough pastels, smudge stick, sponge, under-painting, and watercolor. I can make my image look like it has film grain, or give it a neon glow.

I can make it look like it has been wrapped in plastic-wrap, or I can make it look like a silkscreened poster. I can give the image brush strokes with accented edges, angled strokes, crosshatch, dark strokes, ink outlines, spatter, sprayed strokes, and even mimmic the Asian Sumi-e technique.

Oh, it just goes on and on... I can, but wont, distort the image six ways towards Sunday, make it look like a pencil or charcoal sketch, give it glowing edges, and add texture and grain.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

For me it is all just good rainy day fun, but I do sometimes employ a few of the of the blurring and sharpening techniques, with Smart-Blur being one of my favorites. All of these "filters" can be applied either selectively in certain areas of the image, or over the entire image. The keyword here is restraint.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

A relatively new filter that I've actually started to find useful in certain situations is the Clarity Tool. Used with a positive setting (+) it tends to increase contrast, but in a much more refined manner than standard contrast adjustments. But in certain situations I like to use the Clarity Tool with a negative setting (-) where it tends to reduce contrast. I'm finding this to be occasionally useful in gaining control over exceptionally "busy" images.

The jury is still out on whether I will make negative settings with the Clarity Tool part of my standard arsenal of techniques for getting the most and very best out of an image. Again, I feel that restraint is important.

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John @ Beans and I on the Loose said...

Call me old fashion but I prefer my pictures pretty much how they come out of the camera. Okay, my preference comes from my ignorance for I don't know how to use all the tools at my disposal in the photo program I use. After reading your post I went searching to see if I had a Clarity Tool and found stuff I didn't know was in there. Too much to deal with. So what # to the positive do you ramp it up to?

AphotoAday said...

Hi JOHN (SINBAD'S DAD) -- Yeah, I'm pretty much of a purist--the way they came out of the camera--too, but I've spent so much $$$ on the camera, lens, software, and printer that I almost feel obligated to make a big project out of it... One thing I balk at, however is using my tripod unless absolutely necessary--there's usually something convenient to brace the camera or myself on if necessary... Am not sure if I will continue to use this Clarity tool (in CameraRAW prior importing into Photoshop), as it produces a result that is so different from my other shots... I have a friend who uses the program "Painter" for all of his work--he loves the painterly effects he gets, but pretty I find it difficult to see past the effects to the actual image... Have another friend who uses the "Hipstomatic" filter made by an outfit in S.F. -- gives an instant grimy "street effect", which suits his work wonderfully, but that technique wouldn't work for me... Anyway, you were asking how much of the minus clarity I used -- it varied but is about half-way down the scale. Fairly obvious if it gets taken too far (goes really flat), as it is if used for "positive" clarity which can sort of destroy the subtleties of an image...

Anonymous said...

If these photos are all done with the negative clarity filter, then right on! In my opinion they take what might be a snapshot and make it into something more "arty."


Civic Center said...

Uh, Donald, you're an artist and get to do whatever the f--- you want. The painterly tools that have been given to us all through Photoshop are simply amazing. We're still figuring them all out, which makes you sorta Early Photoshop Pioneer Photo Artist Dude.

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