Using Photoshop Clarity & Contrast to Create a Soft Dreamy Effect

Creating a Soft Dreamy Scene with Pretty Photoshp Actions

Have you ever tried to achieve soft, dreamy images in Photoshop/Adobe Camera RAW, but ended up with images that turned out fuzzy and seemingly out of focus? One way to avoid that scenario is to balance Clarity with Contrast in order to retain sharpness and detail, while still achieving that dreamy look that so many people love! In this Photoshop tutorial, we have created a video and a step-by-step blog post to walk you through the process!

Watch the video below to see how:

For those of you who prefer written instructions, here's how

After opening your image in Adobe Camera Raw, reduce the Clarity. Since Clarity affects the midtones of your image, and due to the fact that most properly exposed images are composed of mostly midtones, you will probably see a significant softening of your image:

Creating a Soft Dreamy Scene with Photoshp Actions

In order to add depth to your image after reducing the Clarity, you can boost the Contrast, which creates more definition between highlights and shadows, giving your softened image more of a tonal range:

Creating a Soft Dreamy Scene with Photoshp Actions

Once you have reduced the Clarity and boosted the Contrast, you may find that your image becomes too saturated. In this example, the greens and yellows in the image became a bit too loud, so I opened the HSL panel (Hue/Saturation/Luminance panel):

Creating a Soft Dreamy Scene with Photoshp Actions

By reducing the Saturation of the Yellows and Greens, I was able to reduce the intensity of those two colors without affecting the colors in the rest of the image, preventing the image from becoming too washed out looking:

Creating a Soft Dreamy Scene with Photoshp Actions

You may also find it helpful to adjust the Luminance sliders of a particular color. By moving my Green Luminance slider to the left, towards black, I was able to add depth to the image without losing the softness that we are going for with this edit:

Creating a Soft Dreamy Scene with Photoshp Actions

Here is a before (top) and after (bottom) example to illustrate the changes. As you can see, the edited image is much softer than the original, but it still retains its depth and sharpness:

Creating a Soft Dreamy Scene with Photoshp Actions

Do you have any questions? We love hearing from you! Please stop by and join us in our private Pretty Photoshop Actions Facebook group!

Looking for Photoshop actions to help you create dreamy yet sharp and detailed images? Be sure to check out the PURE Color Workflow.

Also, be sure to check out all of Pretty Actions other great Photoshop Actions and Overlay Collections!