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Adding local contrast

From: Photoshop Artist in Action: Tim Grey's Photo Optimization Techniques

Video: Adding local contrast

This image started out looking very, very drab, but when I processed the original raw capture in Adobe Camera Raw, I utilized a variety of different adjustments in order to bring out the color contrast and texture in the image. I use the Clarity Adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw, and that worked out very nicely. But it wasn't quite enough of an adjustment even at its maximum intensity, and so I'd like to create a similar effect here in Photoshop. There are a couple of ways that I could go about that. One of them is to simply apply sharpening to the image, but in this case, I think I can use a technique for enhancing local contrast in order to achieve a similar result.

Adding local contrast

This image started out looking very, very drab, but when I processed the original raw capture in Adobe Camera Raw, I utilized a variety of different adjustments in order to bring out the color contrast and texture in the image. I use the Clarity Adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw, and that worked out very nicely. But it wasn't quite enough of an adjustment even at its maximum intensity, and so I'd like to create a similar effect here in Photoshop. There are a couple of ways that I could go about that. One of them is to simply apply sharpening to the image, but in this case, I think I can use a technique for enhancing local contrast in order to achieve a similar result.

I'll start off by creating a copy of my background image layer. So, I'm going to drag the thumbnail for that background layer down to the create new layer button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and then I'll rename this layer so I know why it's there. So I'll double-click on the name of the layer, and I'll type Contrast Enhancement in this case, and then press Enter or Return on the keyboard to apply that change. And then I'm going to change the blend mode for this layer to Overlay. The default is normal, and so of course we see just a normal image here.

But if I click the popup at the top left of the Layers panel, I can choose Overlay, and that will enhance contrast. Of course, it's enhancing contrast, not in the best way possible, and so I want to fine tune the effect. And for that, I'm going to use a special filter. I'll go to the Filter menu and choose Other. Yes, it's a menu that doesn't have the best name, so you might not ever look here, but the high pass filter can actually be very helpful in a variety of situations. So, from the Filter menu, I'll choose Other, followed by High Pass.

That will bring up the High Pass dialogue. I'll start off with a value of 10 for radius, but I can increase or decrease the value as I see fit. Notice that in effect what we're getting is an embossed effect in the photo. In this case I think I want to increase the radius somewhat significantly. I think right about there, maybe a little higher. That looks to be pretty good. I really like the dramatic effect on getting as far as the texture in the image. I think I'm going to need to enhance contrast a little bit in order to really improve upon the photo overall, but to me, this is looking pretty interesting.

I really enjoy the textures here. Perhaps partly I'm biased because the original image was so drab, but I really do think this effect is working pretty nicely. I'll go ahead and click Okay to close the High Pass dialogue, applying that effect. I can also tone down the effect if needed by adjusting the opacity value for my contrast enhancement layer up at the top right of the layers panel. You can see if I reduce the value to zero I end up with no effect. If I increase the value back to 100 I get a very strong effect.

I might tone it down just a little bit, but not too much. I really do enjoy the texture that's going on here. That looks to be pretty good so I'll go ahead and finalise that as the setting for my contrast enhancement. So you can see just by utilising a duplicate layer with the overlay blend mode and the high pass filter, adjusting opacity for the layers as needed, we can get some interesting texture, sort of like a clarity or sharpening effect enhancing contrast in localised areas of the image.

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