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Adding “Punch” to Your Images Using Clarity

When Adobe was developing the Clarity control, they had actually considered calling the slider “Punch,” because it adds midtone contrast to your photo, which makes it look, well...more punchy. So, when you see an image that needs more snap or punch (I use it on almost every photo), then get some clarity.

  • Step One: Here’s the original photo, without any clarity being applied. Now, because (as I said above) clarity adds midtone contrast to your photo, it makes the photo appear to have had the midtones sharpened, and that’s what gives it its punch. But before you apply any clarity, to really see the effects of the slider, you should zoom in to a 1:1 view, so head over to the Navigator panel and click on 1:1 first to get you to a 100% view of your image (shown below).
  • Step Two: Now, just click-and-drag the Clarity slider to the right to add more punch and midtone contrast (dragging to the left actually decreases midtone contrast, so you might want to try a Clarity setting of −100 to soften and diffuse a portrait). I apply between +25 and +50 clarity to nearly every photo I process, with the only exception being photos that I intentionally want to be softer and less contrasty (so, for a portrait of a mother and baby, or a closeup portrait of a woman, I leave the Clarity slider set to 0 or use a negative number). For images that can really “eat up” the clarity, like architectural shots (like the one you see here) or sweeping landscapes, I’ll sometimes go as high as +75, but as always, you just have to look at the photo, apply some clarity, and see which amount looks best to you. You can really see the effect of clarity in the example here, where I took the amount to 100, but as I said, +75 is about my top end limit (if you go too high, you’ll sometimes see a dark glow around the edges of your subject).
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