Lightroom: Iimprovement suggestions on Clarity and Print Module

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A couple of nits to pick about Lightroom 4, addressing these will create a much stronger product:

1. The clarity slider now makes substantial structural and tonal changes, especially visible on smooth surfaces like skin. This makes is much less useful and usable than the earlier versions. Yes, it prevents halos, but the result is generally unacceptable for me anywhere beyond 15-20 depending on the image.

2. The print module still does not have a good way of placing text with precise control below the image on the template. I have a workaround, but it is, well, a workaround. The watermark feature has a great set of tools, why not enable them for the identity plate placement on the page? The watermark feature allows for placing the text outside the image with negative offsets but then it is not visible! Why have this option and then hide the text?

3. I would love to have multiple line text in the print module with a simple graphic line without doing all that in Photoshop and bringing it as a graphic identity plate. See example of workaround and one output from LR at:

http://www.keptlight.com/2012/01/prin...

See what I would like to get direct from Lightroom, top left image at:
http://www.keptlight.com/shop/orchid-...
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Cemal

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Posted 4 years ago

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Arnold Bartel

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I'm completely with you with the clarity slider:
In my opinion the new algorithm isn't useable for skins. Maybe in landacape photography it brings better results but for portrait photography the clarity slider can't be used any more. Also converting portrait images from old to new process makes absolutely bad structure and contrast to the skin.
Maybe an option button, which clarity algorithm to use for an individual picture would be a solution.
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Rikk Flohr, Champion

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It has been widely discussed that Clarity needs a much finer touch now than in LR3.x. It has been suggested that cutting your pre LR4 setting in half gets you a good starting point.

As someone who retouches somewhere in the hundreds of people images every month, I can tell you that I rarely go to clarity as a global adjustment on any image with skin. That was the case in LR 3.x as well.
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Cemal

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Good to see supporting messages. I have written on Lightroom 4 and it's ills on my Web site. It is a very good software and to a large extent it works very well. But I don't know what kind of guidance they followed to arrive at a version with these shortcomings. Even if one used the clarity with restraint in LR3, the results were aimed at "clarity" not "tonality". Now, it is a mixed bag, up to a point it works like the old clarity (say around 15-25), beyond that it works like exaggerated tone mapping. On another Adobe forum where I posted a similar message, another user said he wished the clarity was even stronger, to what end I fail to understand.

If you care to read my posts on these matters, here are the links:
http://www.keptlight.com/2012/03/ligh...
http://www.keptlight.com/2012/03/lr4-...
http://www.keptlight.com/2012/04/ligh...

Thanks for chiming in and lending your support.
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Rikk Flohr, Champion

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I think you misread. I am not in support of reverting clarity to LR 3.x functionality. I am saying Clarity -any version is not a tool I would use with skin. I am also pointing out that the new Clarity tool needs to be used with more care and finesse than the 3.x tool.
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Cemal

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Rikk, I got your message loud and clear. I was merely pointing at the heavy handedness of LR 4 clarity slider on which you seem to agree. Like any set of tools each user picks their favorites and may ignore the rest. I did not mean to put words in your mouth.
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john beardsworth

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It's the user who is heavy handed though. The tool is twice as strong as it used to be, so use it more gently.
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Cemal

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I fully understand, subscribe to, and even preach in my lectures the notion "a little goes a long way" in all edits I make. When all the edits are done, the photograph should look "effortlessly done, with no visible signs of edits."

The point I am trying to make is this: In Lightroom 3 we had a hammer, in Lightroom 4 we have a sledgehammer. The tool and its nature has changed. Although both have handles and heads, the way they are used and where they are applied are substantially different. Simply saying "don't hit the nail as hard" does not even apply to a sledgehammer.
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john beardsworth

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Though yes the tool's character has changed, I feel you're making a fuss about nothing here. More like a bigger sharper knife than a bigger blunter hammer. Aren't people smart enough to adapt how they use it?
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Cemal

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Sorry to have distracted you from what you were doing. Please ignore my comments.
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ImanolZ

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I find also the new clarity slider a bit strange: more than clarity it looks like tonal structure. It's true that now clarity doesn't makes halos but certainly makes other stuff: JPG's like artifacts, saturation and color changing. I'm not saying that the new clarity is better or worse, I find it different. It works for different things. I hope I could see the old and the new clarity working at the same time - old one named as clarity and the new one as structure or tonal contrast-.
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Cemal

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You can see them side by side in Lightroom 4. Pick a photograph an create a virtual copy of it. Select on and enter the develop module and scroll the panels on the right all the way down to Camera Calibration. For the process choose "2010" and that will now work with Lightroom 3 controls. On the other one you can make adjustments using the Lightroom 4 controls and see them side by side.
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Rob Cole

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Cemal,

Consider separate topics for each item.

Regarding clarity:

Lr4 clarity is indeed very different than Lr3 clarity, and I actually use it on far fewer photos than I used Lr3 clarity on.

Thankfully, Lr4 is capable of producing clearer images without it, otherwise I would miss it even more.

So like many things Lightroom, I have a love/hate relationship with it.

Love: how much better it is than Lr3 clarity, on some photos.
Hate: how it detracts from many normal images that would have been improved by a touch of Lr3 clarity.

What I wish is that I had more control over it's effect. As it stands, it's amount can be controlled, or it can be applied locally, but there is no way to limit it's effect to midtones, or shift the balance between micro contrast and macro contrast enhancement.........

A couple of tips:
1. Use +contrast -highlights +shadows to increase midtone contrast (so less +clarity is needed for that purpose).
2. Use +clarity +blacks -highlights -shadows to reduce impact on global tonality, and somewhat mitigate it's clarifying effect in the shadows.
3. Use local -clarity to spot reduce it's effect (or of course, just apply locally in the first place...)

1 & 2 are supported using relative presets via cookmarks:

http://www.robcole.com/Rob/ProductsAn...
(see PV2012 tone section under "photo adjustment links").

Rob
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Cemal

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Rob, thanks for the detailed comments here and on my site. I posted the brief list here based on a suggestion from Julieanne Kost on her site, to bring these to the attention of Adobe engineers. I am surprised, and somewhat disappointed, that neither on this forum nor another Adobe forum there has not been a single reply from an Adobe staff. My printing and clarity posts on my site are extensive and clearly documented. I hope that they have at least taken a quick look at them.

They can easily limit the effect of the clarity slider to midtones since they have algorithms to separate the highlights and shadows. What is not in one of these areas must be the midtone. This version of clarity is in need of one or two additional parametric sliders, radius and tonal range.

Appreciate your comments, thanks.

Cemal
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Cemal

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I am relieved to hear that I am not alone or far too picky! In my book, the LR4 upgrade is a half-baked layer cake. Some layers that are close to being fully baked are delicious, others too doughy.

Photoshop lives! In all the revisions I have not seen a behavior change in, say, the curves layer. Internal engines are different I'm sure, but to the user they are transparent.

Cemal
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Rob Cole

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Adobe decided to take the heat and redo the basics that are at the heart of the process version. I don't know to what extent Revel considerations were a factor, but that's water under the bridge at this point... I do understand though that the design of Lightroom is different than Photoshop, or NX2... - in those apps, one can simply create new tools which have no impact on the old tools - such is not the case with Lightroom, since it's optimized around it's process version settings. Lightroom's design has some great strengths, but also makes it harder to have old tools coexist with new tools...

Don't get me wrong - Adobe certainly could have improved existing tools and developed new Lr4 tools that could coexist with the original Lr3 toolset, it's just not productive to belabor it at this juncture, and I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt - that it was not motivated solely by Revel concerns.
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Cemal

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Agreed, Let's hope that those Adobe staff who may peek at these forums may take some of these into consideration in the next round.

Cemal
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Rob Cole

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Cemal,

I don't think you are in that small of a minority. I do think most people suffer in silence. Voicing criticism on an Adobe forum that is chocked full of defenders is often a recipe for a bad tasting soup.

Thanks for having the courage to speak your mind.

In attempt to reassure, I do think you will get better at creating the results you want over time. I went through something very similar as you are going through. And if you browse the beta forum you'll find some others who went through their version of it too.

I've come to mostly love PV2012 at this point, but it has been quite a transition.

Rob
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Cemal

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Thanks for your reassuring voice Rob. I have never shied away from speaking my mind, sometimes to my own detriment. No regrets though. I may get used to LR4 or simply use it in 2010 mode by default, ironic isn't it? Of course the same problems will prevail on the Photoshop ACR side which is a different kettle of soup altogether. Time will tell how LR4 will be remembered. People still remember Windows Me, not very kindly!
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TK

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I agree that the old clarity should have been left alone and the new clarity should have been added as a new "faux HDR look" slider.

I don't like the faux HDR look at high settings at all and am puzzled by the tonal changes at lower settings.

Too bad that most people even didn't ask for what they now must love/hate (which includes all of the changed basic panel controls) and would have preferred to see efforts spend elsewhere.
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Cemal

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That would have been sensible TK. I have just finished giving a presentation on HDR imaging at the local photo club where I emphasized that HDR does not have a look, that look should be called possibly "CTM look (creative tone mapping)" since it can be obtained from a single photo. Many of the Lightroom and Photoshop gurus are to blame for this misconceived naming and practice. (See a longer exposition on my site: http://www.keptlight.com/2012/02/what... )

Cemal
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I like the look I can get with the clarity slider but as a time lapse photographer it applies itself so specifically to each image it's all but impossible to use it on a sequence of photos. In a simple city scene with clouds moving across the sky the same adjustment applied yields wide (and seemingly random) variations in tonal and exposure values. I know this is an issue for pano photographers as well. It would be great to see a way to duplicate exatly the effect from one image to a group of similar images without the reinterpretation of data from each image.
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Cemal

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Earlier, either on this forum or another one, I also mentioned the seemingly random behavior of the clarity slider. This is particularly problematic, as you indicate, on clear sky or one with clouds. In my example, clarity changed the tonality of the sky that was far away from any detail. In 2010 process, the effect of clarity was generally limited to areas where there was varying degrees of detail. Now, it is, or seems to be, driven by tonal characteristics of the photograph. I'm afraid this version upgrade will be remembered as the one that broke the stride of Lightroom.

Take a look at this thread for different examples I provided:
http://forums.adobe.com/thread/976601

Cemal
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Re Clarity, I much prefer the new LR4 version. Going fully positive works well and fully negative is lovely soft-focus for the right type of image. Great stuff.

As for portraiture, the clarity can now be applied locally if desired or even negated locally.

The shadow adjustment however could do with a greater range I feel.

For the right subject these controls are great. For other subjects, use them with care. Simples?
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To ahem, clarify my post on clarity my suggestion for improvenment is to add the ability to copy or sync the clarity settings from one image to a group or sequence of similar images without allowing the reinterpretation of data from each image. If you try now for example to sync a similar batch of landscapes with the new clarity tool (from the clarity settings from one image) you will find each images renders differently, both in tone and exposure. If you are attempting to stich a pano or create a time lapse sequence those inconsistencies will make it impossible to create a cohesive work.
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Cemal

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I fully understood your description from your first post Sam. The unpredictability of the adjustment is a major problem for me as well. On some images it darkens the plain blue sky on others it lightens it. It is very, very difficult to understand the logic behind it. I am not a happy camper, I think everyone here knows it!
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Regarding the unpredictability:
The "wonders" of image adaptive technology it seems.

Every time software tries to be smarter than a human in creative matters, it fails one way or the other.

I haven't tried this (I guess LR 4.2 may be stable/useful enough for me to give it a go) yet, but unpredictability/inconsistency problems should also appear with other basic panel controls in the PV 2012 version.

A workaround for panorama stitchers is to apply the processing to the stitched image, rather than the individual images.
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brian brains

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Apart from the unpredictability, is anyone actually pleased with the cumulative effect? After all many commentators regard the new clarity/shadow tool combination to be great as a form of controlled HDR. Maybe it is the name that misleads? We are used to clarity in LR3 and really the new one isn't the same at all so ought to have a new name. Maybe also offer another tool actually based on the old clarity?

Also, in my opinion, I'd never try to apply clarity or shadows to images automatically. That seems to be asking for trouble as has been found. Even sharpness needs individual tweaks. That's my view anyway.
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Rob Cole

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New clarity is awesome on some photos. And I think it complements the rest of PV2012 nicely. I have my issues with it, but mostly I wish I could control where it's applied, without so much painting. Some nice auto-masking support would help, like a more sophisticated version of U-points...

Don't get me wrong - I miss old clarity too sometimes, when new clarity is doing "too much" (in some ways, and/or "not enough" in others...), but as I've said before, PV2012 naturally has independently controllable "clarity" (intra-region contrast/detail) in shadows, midtones, and highlights, so old clarity is not needed so much for that, like it was in Lr3.

Although it took some getting used to, I probably am applying new clarity to over half my photos now, but typical global value ranges between 3 & 9, which I consider fairly light. 10-20 I consider fairly strong, and 20-30 I consider very strong. I've only gone above 30 on a small handful of photos. And, it is not uncommon for me to spot reduce clarity here and there using the brush, or add an extra touch...

Regarding shadows: if I apply strong +shadows along with strong -blacks, it's possible to have "too much" intra-shadow contrast. I regularly shift to using more +blacks and reduce shadows slider until an appropriate amount of shadow detail has been accomplished. The point curve can be used to set black point if need be, and/or the tone curve can be used to further optimize shape of shadow tones if need be. I consider this skill to be essential for defining striking vivid shadows when desired or more subtle natural shadows if desired. (note: blacks extends further past the midline than shadows, so other compensations are necessary if similar overall tone and color are to be maintained. You can see the exact formula I am presently using for this in the PV2012 tone section of the cookmarks page - photo adjustment links. Look for Blacks/Shadows).

PS - I think most of any HDR-ish look a photo may have comes from improper adjustment of basic controls, and also from having more tonal detail than you are used to. The smaller part is due to the localized toning magic, e.g. new clarity (assuming it has been applied in moderation).
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Cemal

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Here is a simple test of the differences in the clarity behavior. Save the attached image, which is a simple gray scale ramp in two directions. Import it to LR 4, make a virtual copy and change the process to 2010 for that copy. Now, you have two identical images, one in 2012 engine and the other in 2010. Look at their histograms which should look like a lot of spikes

Watch what happens to the tonality of the squares as you increase the clarity in 2012, lighter squares will become darker and darker ones will get lighter. Observe the histogram as it bunches the tones in the middle and eventually creates a continuous histogram.

Now try the same thing in 2010. You will see minimal changes in the tonality of the squares and only where there are edges that can be made "clearer". You will also see the histogram generally unchanging in its distribution of the spikes but will form tiny heaps as the tonality around the edges change.

I bet if you try a different distribution of gray patches you will likely get a different behavior. I will leave that for you to develop and try.

For me, I have created a preset in LR4 which saves only the process version which I have set to 2010. I also marked that preset to apply on import. Now, any imported image will have the 2010 engine applied to it instead of 2012. I must admit, the 2012 engine handles overexposed images remarkably well. For those situations I will switch to 2012. Otherwise, I will mostly work in 2010 engine. I would rather know how a tool will behave than on some occasions working very well.

Cemal
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Rob Cole

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Thanks Cemal. Yep, the behavior of the 2 clarities is different alright.
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TK

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Good stuff, Cemal.

Who was asking for a change in the clarity behaviour again?
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Rob Cole

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I confess, I do get aggravated at having to correct for the "over-clarifying" effect of new clarity so much. Even at a value of 9 (one of my pet favorites), I often have to paint away the new brand of "haloing" - over-stratified areas designed to enhance local contrast... This comes up frequently in landscape shots where one mountain peak is followed by another - it can look very unnatural with even a moderate dose of clarity applied (imagine the squares in Cemal's example above were the mountain peaks). Dark backgrounds sometimes get "over-clarified" too but that's generally easier to correct, when it's not along a subject edge. etc...

Summary:
------------
In areas of a photo where there is no "right light" (meaning one really has no sense of how illuminated the various parts should be), new clarity is truly a fantastic improvement over old clarity. But, in other cases, there is a "what's wrong with this picture" thing due to the tonal redistribution of new clarity.

I wish the Lightroom clarity was designed with user-controllability in mind. Don't get me wrong - I like to paint, but it's very time consuming, and if not done with precision, results in "painting artifacts" instead, which can also look unnatural...
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Cemal

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My final wrap up and Lightroom 43 (four-three) solution ;-)

http://www.keptlight.com/2012/04/ligh...

Cemal
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Rob Cole

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Let us know how the "dual process version" workflow pans out, and which process version you end up using the most - OK?
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LRuserXY

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I made an animated gif using Cemal's image: Left PV2010 with clarity 0...100, right PV2012 with clarity 0...50 (using half the values of PV2010 as suggested):



You have to click on the image to see the animation (the preview is not animated).

From what I see, the new clarity actually *decreases* the global contrast, which really seems to be some sort of tone mapping...

By the way: Did you notice that for _negative_ values, there is NO difference between the old and the new clarity??
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Cemal

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Very nice demo, thanks. It makes the point very clearly (pun intended!) I will report how my Lightroom 43 experience works out. So far, no regrets, I seem to be getting the best parts of each for my needs.

Regarding the negative values of clarity, I do not have much experience in that since I rarely use it. I also have my biases about skin softening using any kind of blur carelessly (suprise!) I have several posts about this matter as well..

Cemal
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Rob Cole

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I used to double-edit in Lightroom sometimes in the interest of applying dual sharpening parameters or overlayed vignettes. Haven't done that for a while but it's worth considering for clarity now. i.e. Edit first pass using PV2012, and apply no clarity, or minimal clarity, then export a tif or jpeg back to the catalog and finish with PV2010 clarity. Note: you can still go back and edit with PV2012 and have that reflected in the final PV2010 result, just by re-exporting.
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Cemal

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Another idea for workaround, thanks Rob. This Lightroom 43 idea will kind of work, until Adobe sees the light and corrects Lightroom!

Cemal
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Cemal

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LRusser24, I forgot to say something about the global vs local contrast. In tone mapping a trade off is made, sometimes incorrectly, to favor local contrast over global contrast. That gives the image a flatter but crunchier look which a lot of HDR aficionados seem to like. The old clarity favored only local contrast. The new one seems to reduce global contrast and slightly increase the local contrast which helps to minimize the halos and makes the resulting image perceived "clearer", read as "slightly sharper". This also explains why the perception of sharpness quickly gives way to muddy tones, because the amount tonal shift overpowers the small gains in local contrast.

Cemal
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Rob Cole

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I'd be interested to know more about what other problems (besides clarity) you are having getting photos to look the way you want in PV2012. If it's the subtle differences in PV algorithms, then there is no solution, except to use PV2010. But my experience is that the largest part is often due to improperly adjusted basic sliders - not all of it, but >50% - eh?
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Cemal

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I will post a sample photo and make the RAW file available if you like to experiment. Stay tuned
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Rob Cole

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I liked the idea so well of being able to double-edit PV2012 photos using PV2010 that I automated it. The logic for this has been added to the Dev-Correct/2012 plugin:

http://www.robcole.com/Rob/ProductsAn...

Just invoke 'Edit with PV2010' to edit a PV2012 photo using PV2010 to take advantage of old clarity (or Lr3 fill-light). Note: Subsequent PV2012 edits will continue to be reflected in the PV2010 edited version.
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Cemal

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Thanks for the plugin Rob, I will give it a whirl. I'm off to a trip and may be inactive for a few days after tomorrow, but will resume reading comments and replying as appropriate.