Reveal Clipping for Creative Editing

When you hear the word clipping used in photography, your mind automatically jumps to a loss of information in your highlights or shadows, and that’s exactly what it is referring to. Our immediate reaction is to either darken our highlights or lift our shadows to fix any clipping issues. The result of this is a drop in all of our highlights or a lifting of all our shadows, often lessening the impact of the image.

In this tutorial, we show how you can use the Reveal Clipping tool built into ADP Pro, to more accurately deal with clipping issues, resulting in more impactful images.

Clipping Explained

There are two ways that clipping can appear in our images. One is a loss of information in our highlights or shadows through under or over exposure. The other is through the over saturation of a colour in our highlights or shadows. These are completely different issues and should be dealt with using separate methods. This tutorial predominantly covers the loss of information in our highlights and shadows.

Losing information in your highlights or shadows is typically something you are trying to avoid in your images. It causes blocks of pure whites and blacks, which can act as distraction in your image, with no detail for the viewer. Having said this, there may be occasions where this is acceptable or wanted, but for the most part it is something we want to avoid.

Reveal Clipping

When you are working within Photoshop, you don’t have the same visual ability to see the areas that are being clipped, as you do in Camera Raw or Lightroom. In Camera Raw you have the ability to turn on the Red and Blue overlays to reveal clipping in your highlights and shadows.

 

Reveal Clipping in Camera Raw and Lightroom

Camera Raw & Lightroom

When you work within Lightroom or Camera Raw, you are given the ability to reveal clipping in your highlights and shadows. These are available by clicking on the arrows at the top right of the histogram as shown in the image to the left.

When you click on one of these arrows you will see red appear if you have any clipping or over saturation in your highlights. Blue will appear in the areas that you have lost information or over saturation in your shadows. Also, the colour of the arrows at the top of the histogram, reveal which colour channels you have lost information in.

The issue with using Camera Raw or Lightroom to reveal and deal with clipping is that you don’t know what is causing the clipping. As mentioned above, clipping in these programs can be caused by saturation or by being too bright or dark, with no way to tell which it is. This could cause you to drop highlights as an example, because you think they are being clipped, but it could be over saturation causing the issue.

Photoshop Histogram

Photoshop

Photoshop gives us greater ability to see what is causing clipping, through the various types of histograms we can view. The histograms in Photoshop on their own are still not the perfect solution. 

Luminosity Histogram: This shows where the detail in your image is, based on the brightness values of the pixels. If the information is pushed hard right or left, you are losing information in those tones. 

Red, Green & Blue: This shows where the colour information resides, and will show if you have any clipping in specific colour channels due to over saturation. 

The combination of these histograms allows you to determine what is causing your clipping, something that is not available in Camera Raw and Lightroom. It doesn’t solve all of our issues though, it doesn’t tell us where we are losing information, only that we are losing it.  

Reveal Clipping in ADP Pro
Reveal Clipping Active

Reveal Clipping in ADP Pro

The reveal clipping button built into ADP Pro has combined the red and blue overlays of Lightroom and Camera into Photoshop. This now gives you the ability to see exactly where you are losing information in your images.

So why is this so important? 

You can now deal with the clipping issues in the areas that are being effected, rather than taking a more global approach. This allows us to maintain the brightness or darkness in our images, while controlling only those areas where we are losing information. You can also deal with any issues in real time, meaning you can watch the clipped areas disappear as you work on them. 

It will now allow you to push the boundaries in your edits. You will be able to push the brightness or darkness in your images creating higher and lower key images with confidence that you’re not losing information. 

Reveal Clipping Button

The reveal clipping button works in two stages. 

Stage 1: When the button is pushed a layer is created at the top of your layer stack. This reveals the clipped areas in your images. The areas in red are where you are clipping in your highlights. The areas in blue are where you are clipping in your shadows. 

You will also notice that the Reveal Clipping button turns green, this lets you know that you have an active reveal clipping layer. 

Stage 2: This removes the layer that is revealing clipping and returns the button to grey. 

If you want to create layers to deal with any clipping issues, place those layers below the Reveal Clipping layer. By doing this you will be able to watch the clipped areas change in real time. 

 

White and Black Points

An Example of Using Reveal Clipping Creatively

The reveal clipping button is a fantastic tool for revealing areas that are clipped, but it’s much more than that. You can use the reveal clipping button to push the boundaries of brightness and darkness in your image, creating higher and lower key images. 

In the video above, we use a Levels adjustment layer to push the white point of the image, well into the data within the image. Doing this is something that you would typically avoid, if you can’t see where the information is being lost, resulting in less dynamic high or low key images.

By turning on the reveal clipping, and performing the same task, we can see where the information is being lost. Then using a low opacity black brush, we can paint away the areas that we are losing information. This allows us to keep the overall image much brighter or darker, with confidence that we are not clipping areas in our images. 

 

 

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