This under-the-pier shot is a classic composition in black and white – you’ve probably seen a lot like it already – but the color original looks very ordinary indeed. So here’s a step-by-step guide to how I transformed it into a powerful graphic image in Lightroom.
Clarity (and Dehaze and Structure)
'Clarity' is just one word for this particular effect, which is a localised contrast adjustment much coarser than regular sharpening, which throws larger objects into sharp relief and can add some much needed definition and 'bite' to low-contrast scenes.
Lightroom's Clarity slider operates more or less in the middle of this scale, while other programs offer a finer 'Structure' adjustment which brings out smaller detail – but again without getting down to the detail of regular sharpening tools. You should try out the Structure slider in Silver Efex Pro to see just how dramatic the improvements can be – black and white images seem to be able to withstand and benefit from much larger clarity and structure adjustments than colour images.
At the other end of the scale you've got tools like Dehaze in Lightroom and ClearView in DxO PhotoLab, which optimise the contrast for different regions of the picture.
All of these tools are relatively recent additions to the image-editing landscape, but they can boost the impact of your images in ways that regular sharpening and contrast adjustments never could.
The radial filter tool in Capture One, Lightroom and other image editors is great for ‘relighting’ scenes to add drama and depth.
The Clarity slider in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC adds a powerful localised contrast effect that can work well on colour shots, but really comes into its own with black and white. It recaptures the some of the punchiness of old black and white films without pushing the overall contrast out of control. Here’s an […]
HDR (high dynamic range techniques) are sometimes necessary to cope with scenes that have a higher dynamic range than the camera’s sensor can cope with. But that’s happening less and less as sensor technology improves. The latest D-SLR sensors don’t just have increased dynamic range, they’re able to capture shadow detail with less noise than […]
You’ll probably want to take a softly softly approach with female portraits, but male subjects usually demand a different style. Here are some Lightroom Classic portrait tips for giving your pictures a more powerful, grittier feel. I want to give this outdoor shot (above) a grungy, contrasty look, and I’ve got a favourite set of […]
I’m a huge fan of Silver Efex Pro, the black and white plug-in in the Google Nik Collection. But in a spirit of fair play I want to take a proper look at a rival product, Topaz B&W Effects 2. This comes from plug-in maker Topaz Labs, which sells a suite of plug-in tools that […]
You can make basic tonal adjustments with levels and more sophisticated modifications with curves, but the Tonal Contrast filter in DxO Color Efex Pro goes a whole step further. The problem with curves adjustments is that any change you make in one area of the image curve has a knock-on effect on the rest. If […]
The technical explanation of Lightroom’s Clarity slider is that it increases localised contrast to make objects, shapes and outlines stand out more clearly. The pictorial effect is that your images gain extra ‘punch’, but without pushing the overall contrast levels too high. It’s especially effective when the lighting is quite flat and lifeless, and I’m […]