Today’s Question: After seeing your video about the new Texture adjustment in Lightroom [and Camera Raw], I’ve played around with it a bit. I see that like Clarity it is possible to use a negative value for Texture. Is there ever a situation where you would actually want to use a negative value for this adjustment?
Tim’s Quick Answer: You can use a negative value for the new Texture adjustment anytime you want to reduce the appearance of fine texture in a photo. The most common scenario for this would probably for reducing texture for a portrait of a person, for example. But there may be other types of images where fine texture serves as more of a distraction than a benefit to the image.
More Detail: While many photographers (myself included) will be inclined to only use the new Texture adjustment in Lightroom and Camera Raw to enhance texture, it can also be used very effectively to reduce texture. In fact, that is the reason the adjustment was originally created.
In some cases you may find that significant fine detail in an image can be something of a distraction. This is certainly true for closeup photos of people, but the same can be true with other images as well. If you want to reduce the appearance of texture in an image, until the latest update you could use a negative value for the Clarity adjustment in Lightroom or Camera Raw. But that didn’t provide quite the same effect. Also, in some cases you might want to enhance midtone contrast, while also toning down fine detail.
Now that Lightroom and Camera Raw include a Texture adjustment, there is a solution. As noted in my video covering the differences between Texture and Clarity (among other adjustments), one of the key differences between the Texture adjustment and the Clarity adjustment is the scale at which they operate. Texture operates at a very fine scale, and Clarity operates at a larger scale.
So, if you want to tone down the very fine textures in an image, you can use a negative value for Texture. At the same time, you might want to enhance midtone contrast at a larger scale, and so you could use a positive value for Clarity.
In many respects, you can think of the Texture, Clarity, and Dehaze sliders as all providing options to enhance or reduce the appearance of texture in an image. The difference is that Texture operates at a very small scale, Clarity operates at a “medium” scale, and Dehaze operates at a relatively large scale.
So, depending on your intent in terms of the appearance of texture, detail, and contrast in an image, you can use these various controls with positive or negative values, depending on whether you want to enhance or tone-down detail at various scales.
Note that you can see these adjustments compared in the context of enhancing detail in a video published on my Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube here: