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I have been using Lightroom and Photoshop Pro for past 7 months. For all my photos, I used to increase the sharpness using the options available. I now see another option called clarity, and when I use it, I see the that the image's sharpness gets improved considerably, compromising some quality.

I now face a strange problem: when I upload such a image with increased clarity to Facebook, I see some downgrading of the image after upload, with so much of noise. This issue didn't appear when uploading to 500px. If I undo the clarity changes and just increase the sharpness, it looks fine in Facebook.

Given this, I have concerns whether to use the clarity option or not. What are the differences, and when should I use clarity and when should I use sharpen?

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The difference between sharpness and clarity, is basically that clarity is a sharpness applied with a very large radius, a relatively low amount, and mostly to the midtones.

This means that you have to use very much of clarity to get the same sharpening effect as sharpness, which also means that you add a lot of local contrast around details.

When the images are compressed using JPEG, it's exactly that high local contrast that is hardest to compress, so it's there that you will notice the compression artifacts very clearly. As the clarity uses a large radius, the effect is still there if you scale down the image, while normal sharpening disappears at the same rate that you scale down the image.

Use sharpness for normal sharpening, and use just a little bit of clarity to counter unwanted softness of the image.

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    Great answer. One can also reduce clarity to add softness, or a bit of "glow", to an image, if that is what one desires. Sometimes the artistic ideal isn't always high contrast...sometimes lower local contrast is what you want. Negative clarity can also achieve that. – jrista Dec 20 '13 at 19:43
  • So, is clarity the equivalent of the "Details" slider when editing in iPhoto? – user24970 Dec 28 '13 at 13:03
  • Accurate and clear. Great! – Royi Feb 23 '18 at 20:16
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Clarity is used to increase local contrast - which is the separation between tones on a smaller level.

In effect, it makes your image look more poppy/contrasty and I suppose "sharper".

The reason it looks worse on facebook is because the "higher level" or additional tones provided by adding clarity call for more visible compression, as apposed to your original image which probably has smoother tones and has less visible compression.

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