Lightroom Texture vs Clarity vs Dehaze (precise photo enhancing)

The Texture, Clarity and Dehaze sliders in Lightroom are tools for adjusting contrast in an image – the difference between light and dark areas. Increasing contrast increases the difference between these areas for a harder, sharper look. Reducing contrast evens out the difference for a softer look.

The reason we have three is that the texture, clarity and dehaze sliders adjust tonal contrast in photos differently, so they have different uses in Lightroom photo editing. However, their specialities sometimes overlap, so they’re often used together to achieve a particular effect.

Plus, you can use the sliders in ways that you wouldn’t expect, which I’ll show you in a moment.

In the grid of images below I’ve pushed the sliders to the extremes so it’s easy to see their effect. Note the impact on the wall texture, her hair and skin, as well as color saturation and brightness.

Comparing Texture vs Clarity vs Dehaze Lightroom slidersSliders used, from left to right: texture, clarity, dehaze
Top row sliders reduced to: -100,  bottom row sliders increased to: +100

Where to find texture, clarity & dehaze tools

The Lightroom texture, clarity and dehaze sliders are in the Presence section of the Basic panel on the right of the Develop module.

How to use the presence sliders

Like with all Lightroom sliders, the trick is to apply subtle adjustments and pay attention to the entire image to avoid over processing.

I highly recommend using Lightroom’s Before and After tool to help prevent over processing. Use the ‘Y’ key to toggle a side-by-side comparison of your adjustments. This way, you can ensure your image retains a natural look without overdoing it.

As you can see in the below grid of images, texture has less of an impact on color and luminance than the clarity and dehaze sliders.

Comparing Texture vs Clarity vs Dehaze sliders for skySliders used, from left to right: texture, clarity, dehaze
Top row sliders reduced to: -100,  bottom row sliders increased to: +100

Adjusting texture, clarity and dehaze in Lightroom

Although the presence sliders each produce different results, they operate the same way:

  • To increase texture, clarity or dehaze – move the relevant slider to the right to increase contrast for clearer details and drama in an image.
  • To reduce texture, clarity or dehaze – move the relevant slider to the left to reduce contrast for a more whimsical, painterly effect with softer details.

In this grid of images note how the vegetation is affected by the different sliders.

Comparing Texture vs Clarity vs Dehaze slidersSliders used, from left to right: texture, clarity, dehaze
Top row sliders reduced to: -100,  bottom row sliders increased to: +100

Texture, Clarity and Dehaze differences

I’ll get into the details of each slider in a moment, but first, here’s a brief outline of what they do:

Texture slider

The Texture slider adjusts edge contrast of medium details in all tonal areas (light, midtones, dark) without affecting fine details, brightness or color saturation.

Clarity slider

The Clarity slider adjusts edge contrast for a sharper or softer appearance in the midtones of an image.

However, more edge pixels are affected than by the texture slider, making it a thicker edge. Clarity adjustments also affect brightness and saturation.

Dehaze slider

The Dehaze slider targets low contrast areas without a lot of detail, particularly midtones, shadow and dark areas of an image.

Image highlights aren’t affected, but luminance and saturation are strongly impacted.

Before and after skin editing in LightroomBefore (left) and after (right) images using only the presence sliders to edit face skin. Note that the under eye shadows have been reduced as well as smoothing skin.

How to use the texture slider

Lightroom developed the Texture Slider with portrait photography in mind.

So it’s ideally suited to smoothing skin texture, without affecting brightness and saturation.

Effects of Texture vs Clarity sliders in Lightroom

To demonstrate how good texture is for smoothing skin, for the image on the left I reduced texture to -100 and for the image on the right I instead reduced clarity to -100.

While her face in the image on the left is overly smooth there’s still form, however, the image on the right looks odd. It’s lost the subtle play of light on her face that gave her features depth. Instead, her skin looks flat and is almost one solid color.

With that said, using texture and clarity together to smooth skin subtly works well, as you can see below. Just be careful not to go too far with the clarity slider in particular.

Smooth skin with Lightroom texture sliderI adjusted texture to -38 and clarity to -23 to smooth the subject’s skin.

Before and after sky edits with presence slidersOn the left, before editing the sky, and on the right after adjusting the clarity and dehaze sliders of a sky mask. I also reduced exposure slightly.

How to use the clarity slider

Use the Clarity Slider to bring out fine textures like hair, fabric and vegetation. Make sure you don’t overdo it to avoid an unnatural look.

Lightroom clarity vs dehaze slider to edit sky

To demonstrate the difference between dehaze and clarity sliders… On the left I increased dehaze to +100 and for the image on the right I instead increased clarity to +100.

Edit sky with Lightroom dehazeHere you can see my sky adjustments to reclaim some of the lost detail: Clarity +50, Dehaze +41

 

Before and after using dehaze slider to remove hazeBefore and after reducing the lens flare from the late afternoon backlight with the dehaze slider. Adjustments: Clarity +5, Dehaze +61

How to use the dehaze tool

The main function of the dehaze tool in Lightroom is to cut through atmospheric haze in photos for crisper details. Lightroom analyzes the contrast levels to detect and diminish haze by restoring detail and contrast.

Among other things haze can be caused by lens flare, backlighting, mist and fog.

Even if you’re photographing on a clear day, you could encounter atmospheric haze, especially with distant subjects.

When dehazing in Lightroom, keep an eye on the histogram to prevent clipping shadows.

Before and after clarity and dehaze edits

My original image is on the left. On the right, after I increased clarity (+39) and dehaze (+31) for a more saturated and defined sun burst.

To demonstrate how clarity and dehaze affect lens flare… Below left I increased clarity to +100 and below right I increased dehaze to +100. This of course is extreme.

Comparison of Lightroom clarity vs dehaze sliders

As you can see, the dehaze slider cut through the lens flare of the backlight sun much more dramatically than the clarity slider. Not only did contrast increase dramatically, but so did saturation.

Select sky mask in LightroomI used the sky masking tool (with green overlay) to quickly select the sky for local adjustments. 

Making local adjustments

The real strength of Lightroom’s texture, clarity and dehaze sliders is when you make local adjustments rather than global adjustments. Most of the time you don’t want to adjust the entire image.

Lightroom has a number of local adjustment tools in masking to edit just a portion of your photo, like the background, sky or subject skin, without affecting the whole photo. They are:

  • AI Masking: Use Lightroom’s AI masks to quickly select a specific area of the image or subject. These include: Sky, Background, People, Face skin, Body skin, Clothes, Eyes, Lips, Teeth, Eyebrows, Hair, Beard. Or select by color or luminance.
  • Radial and Gradient masks: To manually edit an area with the radial or gradient mask, select the mask then drag your cursor over the area you want to adjust. For advanced masking, use the subtract function to remove the mask from areas you don’t want affected.
  • Brush tool: Select the brush to paint over areas to edit.

As with global adjustments, when you apply local adjustments, keep an eye on the overall image so that you don’t go overboard. Your goal is to enhance the image without making your adjustments stand out.

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