Correcting color in Adobe Camera Raw can get confusing at times. After all, there are a pretty good number of sliders in the Basic panel and in many cases, one slider value effects another area’s appearance. For instance, if you were to increase the value to the Contrast slider, that adjustment would affect how intense the color is in the photograph. The same is true for the Clarity slider. Again, you’d affect the color of the photo. Even warming an image with the Temperature slider can overly saturate a photo. It’s because of this that we need to get a handle on what controls what in this application. The last thing you want to do is get caught in a vicious cycle of pushing sliders around all day, doing and undoing things. When you push one slider, you need to know not only the immediate primary result, but also the secondary. Understanding this type of thing can save a lot of time.
In today’s post, I’ll be working with only a handful of sliders in the Basic panel of Adobe Camera Raw. The primary purpose of this post is to explore the effects of just a few adjustments. I’ll begin with the Clarity slider and then work my way down to Vibrance and Saturation. Then, I’ll head up to Exposure and Contrast. Finally, I’ll work with the Temperature and Tint sliders as an experiment to see how each slider affects the possible position of another.
The Demo Photo
Believe it or not, there are colors hiding in this photo. I know things look pretty dull right now, but by the end of this post, I hope to have some interesting colors shine though.
I’m sure you can see the oranges in this image, but can you see the blues? You will by the end of this post. It’s actually those blues that I’ll be focusing on the most.
The Clarity, Vibrance & Saturation Sliders
Since the hinge in this photo is rusty and the nearby wood is somewhat weathered or rotted, I’d like to have some of those details really stand out. After all, they are front and center. The best way to bring out these details is to increase the clarity. With this in mind, I’ll push the Clarity slider to the right until it has a value of +50. If you aren’t aware, the Clarity feature in Adobe Camera Raw adds midtone contrast to an image. It makes things in the image appear sharper then they were when the photo was taken. I use this slider often, but using it does have a side-effect. This side-effect is that clarity can oftentimes reduce the appearance of color saturation. If you think about it, adding midtone contrast is the real culprit here. The way Camera Raw adds this contrast is by slightly darkening the edges it sees in the photo. As you can probably guess, when the edge colors are darkened, they lose some of their color.
The way to deal with this is to simultaneously increase the vibrance and then on top of that, add some saturation. I don’t want to add too much here. I’d like to first compensate for the color loss from the Clarity slider and then add some additional color to make the image stand out.
Here’s a screenshot of these three sliders after I pushed them.
And here’s the modified image itself.
If you’ll notice, the photo doesn’t look overly colorized at all. I increased the vibrance value to +50 and the Saturation value to +20, which, in my opinion, should have added a lot more color than what we see above. This just goes to show how related these three sliders are. They sort of counter one another.
If you’d like to read more about Vibrance versus Saturation, please click through the link below.
The Exposure & Contrast Sliders
Since both the Exposure slider and the Contrast slider add color, I’ll have to be careful with what I do with them. I already know that I’m going to be reducing the color in just a moment with a different slider, so I think adding some more color now is fine. Basically, I’d like to add a fair amount of contrast to the image so there’s a good distinction between the light and dark areas, so I’ll push the Contrast slider to the right first until it reaches a value of +50. Then, because I want to brighten up some of the shadows just a hair and also give an all around brightness, I’ll push the Exposure slider to the right until it reaches a value of +0.70.
Let’s take a look at the resulting image now.
The Temperature & Tint Sliders
Okay, now comes the tricky part. From past experience, I know that adding warmth to an image really adds a lot of color saturation. Obviously, there needs to be some existing reds, yellows and oranges for this effect to be pronounced, but I’m always careful when I move the Temperature slider. In today’s case though, I’d like to reduce the temperature to pull some of the blues out of the left side of the photo I’m working on. These blues weren’t even visible until I moved this slider. The thing is, when I push the Temperature slider to the left, a lot of color saturation is lost in the process. Because of this, I’ll need to increase the value of the Vibrance slider down below again. It’ll take some back and forth, but when it’s all said and done, I’ll have a Temperature value of -10 and a new vibrance value of +70. The increased vibrance will compensate for the lost color from the temperature reduction.
There is one issue though. When I reduce the temperature of this photo, a magenta hue appears over some of the wood. This hue isn’t welcome, so to remove it, I’ll push the Tint slider to the left a bit, just until the magenta disappears. I just did this and ended up with a new Tint value of -15.
Now let’s take a look at the final photograph.
I suppose I could go back and adjust the tint value some more, but for now, I think this looks good. My point with this post was to demonstrate the relationships between some of the sliders in the Basic panel of Adobe Camera Raw. If you move one, you’ll likely need to move another. Also, it’s important to remember that just because you already pushed one slider into a new position, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need to revisit that same slider again down the road.
I hope I clearly explained how to color adjust a photograph with Adobe Camera Raw (FYI – the same exact principles are true in Adobe Lightroom). I hope I also clearly explained some of how the relationships work between sliders in the same application. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section down below. Thanks for reading!