Recently, I read an article about the Clarity slider in Lightroom and in Photoshop. Apparently this feature is better than the Sharpen tool for creating high sharpness without an artificial-looking effect. What is your advice about using this tool?
The Clarity tool in Lightroom’s Develop module, like the similar tool in Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw, is not a sharpening tool per se, Gabriela. Clarity increases particularly mid-tone contrast while reducing the effect of any haze, and, yes, that does provide an apparent increase in sharpness. As with sharpening, the temptation is to set Clarity to an excessively high level or to use it on all photos. There’s a risk of increasing the contrast to a level that’s not pleasing to the eye.
However, unlike sharpening tools, Clarity is less likely to produce an artificially sharp effect or halos along sharp edges within a photo. (I discussed sharpening settings in the previous Q&A “How can I get a more natural-looking effect when sharpening images?“) Even so, the Clarity slider is not an alternative to sharpening and is most useful for images made in the flat, dull light of a cloudy day. It definitely provides a bit more “snap” in such circumstances.
Frankly, I don’t find a need for much of an increase in Clarity in photos taken on sunny days, but a high level can be useful when the photos exhibit low contrast. The effect it provides is more pleasing than what you’d get when using the conventional Contrast tool. While Clarity does not eliminate the need for sharpening in such photos, it does allow for using a lower amount that can minimize the risk of sharpening artifacts, in order to better maintain overall image quality.