Understanding Texture, Clarity, and Dehaze


Today’s Question: What are the key different uses for the Texture, Clarity and Dehaze sliders in Lightroom and other processing programs [including Camera Raw]? Sometimes they seem to give similar results and other times one or the other is significantly better than the others.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The Texture, Clarity, and Dehaze adjustments are all somewhat similar in the effect they create, with each operating at a different scale in terms of detail within the image.

More Detail: The Texture, Clarity, and Dehaze sliders all enhance contrast in an image. I often describe these adjustments as applying an effect that is similar to sharpening, but with each operating at a different scale. You can sort of think of them in this context as offering enhancement for small, medium, and large areas of detail, but of course there is an overlap between each of the adjustments.

Texture operates at the smallest scale, which makes it closest to a typical sharpening effect. As the name implies, the Texture adjustment is focused on enhancing (or toning down) the finest texture details in an image. For example, I often increase the value for Texture when I want to enhance things like fine wood grain, sand or stone textures, and similar areas of fine texture. The Texture adjustment can also be used with a negative value to reduce texture, such as to smooth out skin textures in a portrait.

The Clarity adjustment can be thought of as being focused on midtone contrast in an image. This can enhance detail and texture, though at a larger scale than the Texture adjustment. It can also help reduce the appearance of haze, though at a smaller scale and with less impact than the Dehaze adjustment. I use the Clarity with many—if not most—images when I want a bit more overall contrast, drama, or impact in the photo. A negative value can be used with the Clarity adjustment if you want to reduce overall midtone contrast and add a somewhat dreamlike or ethereal quality to an image.

The Dehaze adjustment, as the name implies, is primarily focused on reducing the appearance of haze in an image. While it overlaps with the Clarity adjustment, it has a much stronger impact on overall haze, in many cases making the haze in a photo seem to magically disappear. I use this effect almost exclusively for reducing the appearance of haze in a photo, though it can be used to add a bit of dramatic contrast in other images as well. The Dehaze adjustment can also be used with a negative value to add a hazy or foggy appearance to a photo.