Lightroom 4 – New Shadow/Highlight and Enhanced Clarity sliders

The new powerful Highlight/Shadow and Clarity features in Lightroom 4 will enable much more information to be extracted from both the Highlights and the Shadows of your images than ever before. The most significant change over and above the exciting new algorithms is that both areas will be worked on independently, a shadow enhancement will not affect highlights and visa versa. The results that are achievable will help you extend the natural dynamic range of the scene and create more compelling images, and will provide an easy way to reach your vision. The two sliders also have a negative as well as a positive value range providing balanced creativity. This image was taken on manual exposure with the Fuji X-Pro1 on an overcast day, the type of day that results in an image with a heavy shadow area and subdued highlights, however knowing that the Fuji has a huge dynamic range would make it possible to recover both areas of the scene.

As you can see in the histogram, there is a little clipping in the shadows but not in the highlights, we just need to extract the full dynamic range, extract the shadow detail and recover any highlights that exist.

The enhanced highlight and shadow sliders are shown below and are used to extract the content from both areas of the scene.

Focusing on the highlights (remembering that we are most likely going to expose for the highlights in the camera). Sliding the highlight slider all of the way to the left will enable the highlights to be extracted.

In the shadows (notice that the original photograph is not showing any shadow information (except in the histogram). If we move the shadow slider all the way to the right, Lightroom 4 is able to extract additional information and recover some of the clipping from the shadow area, and not affect the highlights.

The other control that has been enhanced in Lightroom 4 is the Clarity slider. This slider will control the amount of midtone contrast and can be found under the Presence section of the Basic panel. Moving the clarity slider to the left will reduce the midtone contrast and can create a smooth finish/dreamy effect (shown below, this can be effective on female portrait shots and can smooth out skin), to the right, will increase mid tone contrast and create a mock sharpened image.

Experimenting with the three sliders and by reducing and increasing the values in each may provide the creative effect required, however, Lightroom 4 is also able to enhance the image further.

The Gradient filter and the Local Adjustment brush have been significantly enhanced to include all settings that are available in the Development Module’s Basic panel. i.e. The temperature slider can now be used with the Gradient filter and/or Local Adjustment brush, in this scene to control the temperate of the sky.

Selecting the Gradient filter and dragging it over the image, will reflect the changes in the Gradient panel. In this example the temperature has been reduced to create a blue cast to the sky, the tint slider can also be changed. Notice that the top section of the Eiffel tower has also been affected by the change in temperature, this is easy to revert by using the Local Adjustment brush to override the Gradient filter changes. The Local Adjustment Brush is very effective in changing the settings at a localised level, i.e. in this scene, revert the temperature to before the blue sky was modified with the Gradient filter. Also, the colour of the metal structure of the Eiffel tower can be changed by applying effects using the Local Adjustment brush to paint where appropriate. i.e. to change the structure to be yellow (as shown in the image below).

N.B. When painting on this particular image we don’t want to affect the sky, setting the “Auto Mask”  to on for the brush (will protect the sky (that has already been modified) due to the difference in tone, see image below). Painting is much easier with a Wacom tablet (like the Intuos 5) as Lightroom is pressure sensitive with the Wacom and can be naturally brushed, compared to a mouse or something like an Apple trackpad that is either on or off, where the control of pressure is managed by the panel below and doesn’t feel as natural.

Once the Local Adjustment brush has been selected, click on the image and place an anchor pin. This pin will be a place holder for the mask and effectively apply the changes that are specified in the Local Adjustment brush panel.

The visibility of the pin(s) is controlled by the “Show Edit Pins” selector, the mask that is applied is visible by turning on the Show Selected Mask Overlay, or by pressing the “O” key whilst in the Local Adjustment brush tool (shown in red below). Initially the brush will paint on the mask.

“Auto Mask” is clearly working by detecting the edges on the tower and the tower base. Once the painting has been applied, the adjustment sliders have been modified, and the mask is not visible you can see the adjustments that have been made. If the mask is too much and needs to be re-shaped or altered, pressing the ALT key will turn the tool into a minus sign and will remove the mask by painting out brushed areas.

The final image with Highlight/Shadow/Clarity and the Local Adjustment brush adjustments applied can be seen below.

You can see how in just a few steps we have completely redefined the image and created something new and compelling.

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