Clipping Preview Options


Today’s Question: I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and appreciate all that you do. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you talk about the clipping displays that can be activated at the top corners of the histogram in Lightroom. Do you not recommend using these options?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While I am a huge fan of the ability to see a “clipping preview” when adjusting a photo, I don’t employ the clipping preview option you refer to. Instead, I employ the more detailed clipping preview you can display by holding the Alt/Option key while adjusting certain sliders in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw.

More Detail: I should hasten to point out that the Develop module in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop provide the exact same adjustments and related options. So the details provided here will apply equally to photographers to work in Lightroom or in Adobe Camera Raw.

Within the Histogram display in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw you will see a triangle at each of the top corners. The triangle at the top-left corner enables you to toggle the clipping display for shadows, and the triangle at the top-right corner toggles the display for highlight shadows. With these options turned on, any shadow areas that have been clipped to pure black will have a blue overlay, and any highlight areas that have been clipped to pure white will have a red overlay.

The primary reason I don’t use these clipping preview options is that they only provide an indication of full clipping to pure black or pure white. The “other” option I prefer enables me to see when an individual channel is clipping, which can be helpful information in a variety of situations.

Thus, instead of employing the shadow and highlight clipping controls found within the Histogram display, I prefer to hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while adjusting any control that may contribute to clipping. For example, I will hold the Alt/Option key when adjusting the slider for Whites and Blacks, and in some cases when adjusting the value for Highlights and Shadows.

Ultimately the clipping preview is aimed at providing detailed information about the impact of specific adjustments on an image. I prefer to have as much detail as possible when evaluating clipping for an image, and thus I use the Alt/Option key rather than the triangle buttons associated with the Histogram.