Account | Register

Achieve Soft, Dreamy Images: Adjusting Clarity, Contrast & Vibrance


Are you new to Lightroom and wondering how you can achieve dreamy, soft images in post-processing? While there are many different ways to achieve this sought-after look, one way that is quick (and by quick, I mean you can do this in 30 seconds) and easy is to reduce Clarity, boost Contrast, and reduce Vibrance. Let's do a quick walk-through!


Note: this can also be done in the Library Module, but you will have more control in the Develop Module

We are going to be working with Clarity, Contrast, and Vibrance (which is just below the Contrast slider):


To soften the image, you will first reduce the Clarity. Clarity impact the midtones in your image, so when the Clarity is reduced significantly as in this example, you will see a drastic softening of your image:

Here is a comparison of how reducing the Clarity impacts an image:


To restore a bit of the depth and edge definition that reducing the Clarity took away, we are now going to increase the contrast.

In doing so for this example, the image became very warm. This is due to the fact that the highlights and shadows of the image were already quite warm, and boosting the contrast increases the range between highlights and shadows. Therefore, I ended up with a lot of yellow in the image:


To solve this issue in your own editing, you can reduce the Vibrance. The reason to reduce the Vibrance instead of the Saturation is because Vibrance reduces the saturation of only the most saturated color values, whereas Saturation reduces all of the color values.

Reducing the Saturation would wash out most of the color in this image, because, aside from the yellow/oranges, the image doesn't have a lot of color. By reducing the Vibrance, I am only toning down the yellows/oranges, while leaving the rest of the colors as they are:

Here is a before/after example:

As you can see above, the edited image has a much softer and hazy feel to it, while still retaining the sharpness of the subjects. It is important when you are using this technique to not go overboard - less is more! Think of it as a give-and-take situation: every time you tweak the Clarity, you should then tweak the Contrast in order to keep a balance between soft and sharp.

Do you have any questions about what we have talked about here today? We love hearing from you! Please visit us in our private Pretty Presets for Lightroom Facebook group!

Posted by

Leave a Comment