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Sharpening is used to enhance contrast in a very, very small scale in an image. And sometimes what you need for an image is not really sharpening at a very small scale but sharpening at a slightly larger scale. But you don't necessarily want to accentuate textures in the image. And that's when I'll use a technique called Local Contrast Enhancement. I'm essentially enhancing detail in the image without really getting down to the fine level you would normally use with sharpening. And the benefit then is that I have an image with greater contrast and greater perceived detail, but without the risk of any sharpening artifacts.
Let's take a look at how we can apply this type of effect. I'm going to start off by creating a copy of my background image layer. So I'll drag the thumbnail for my background Image layer down to the create new layer button. The blank sheet of paper Icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. That will create a Background Copy layer. I'll go ahead and double-click on that name and then type a new name for it. I'll just call this local contrast since I'm enhancing local Contrast with this layer. I'm then going to change the blend mode for this layer to Overlay.
This will cause a significant change in contrast in the image, and not in a very good way. It's good in some sense, but not the final solution that we're looking for. I'll go ahead then and choose Filter > Other and then High Pass from the menu. That will bring up the High Pass dialog, which effectively creates something of, an embossed effect on my Local Contrast layer, which ever layer's actually active. I can adjust the radius to alter the degree of transition with this high pass effect.
So if I increase radius significantly, you'll see that the contrast is enhanced over a larger area, the transitions are occurring over a larger area. If I reduce the radius, you'll see that I'm just effectively sharpening the edges, enhancing contrast in very small areas of the image. I find that more often than not, I settle on a value of around ten pixels for radius. But I encourage you to work with various settings to see what you think works best for the particular photo you're working on. If the effect seems a little bit too strong, over all good, but too strong, don't worry about that at this point. We can adjust that in just a moment.
I think I'm going to increase the value just a little bit, maybe right around there. That's producing some nice contrast in the reflections on the water. I'll go ahead and click OK. Now, I'm overall happy with this result but I'd like to tone it down just a bit. And to accomplish that, I'll simply reduce the opacity at the top right of the Layers panel. That's reducing the opacity of our Local Contrast layer, which will cause that layer to have not quite as strong of effect. I'll simply point my mouse at the word Opacity, and then click and drag to the left in order to use a scruby slider feature, reduce opacity.
I'll drag all the way to the left and we can see at 0% we have the original image. At 100%, dragging to the right, we have the full effect of this localize contrast enhancement. And I want to go somewhere in between. I think maybe, right about there, about 60 or 70%. Seems to be producing a nice effect. I'll go ahead and turn off visibility of the Local Contrast layer and then turn it back on. And you can see we've enhanced the perception of detail, we've enhanced contrast a little bit, but without the risk of any sharpening artifacts.
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