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Clarity versus Contrast - What's the difference?


Active Member
Dec 18, 2007
Lightroom Experience
I was recently browsing this very informative page about all of the Basic panel sliders and how each one works, when I started to wonder what the difference is between Clarity and Contrast.

This is what they say:

Affects the mid-tones.
The middle-to-dark areas become darker.
The middle-to-light areas become lighter.

Changes the contrast in the mid-tones.
Increases the details in the mid-tones.
Adds some sharpening.

Are these not just 6 ways of repeatedly saying the same thing? Both sliders are used to increase the contrast (and therefore sharpness) in the mid-tones. Then what's the difference exactly? I feel a bit stupid for asking this after using Lightroom for so many years..
Oct 8, 2007
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Clarity is "adaptive". It looks at the image's structure and targets areas or regions. So its exact effect will vary depending on image contents.

Contrast is a more traditional adjustment and also targets the whole tonal range.

Jul 4, 2009
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
Classic 7
Put simply, "contrast" just stretches the histogram both to the left and right, making dark darker and bright brighter, thus affecting the global contrast across the whole photo.

"Clarity" is also known as "local contrast", and works similar to "contrast" in that it increase the contrast, but only in the local region, increasing the contrast of edges, thus making the image "pop" and adding some sharpness.