Dynamic Contrast in Photoshop made easy!

One of my favorite features in ON1 Effects 10 and Topaz Clarity is Dynamic Contrast.  Both Plugins allow you to increase the contrast in your images in ways you could only dream of in Photoshop.  Or is there a way in achieve the Dynamic Contrast look in Photoshop?

Earlier this week I was out to dinner with a buddy of mine before we went shooting.  He said he really liked plugins for the dynamic contrast look but was wondering if it were possible in Photoshop.  During out discussion, Leon brought up the Unsharp Mask, which is a great tool to enrich the contrast in an image, but alone it just isn’t enough.

After putting a few minutes of thought into it, I remembered an old technique I used in the past of applying an Unsharp Mask to a High Pass filter.  At the time I didn’t really know what I had stumbled upon, but apparently, that was the start of achieving Dynamic Contrast in Photoshop.

The idea is based on the rule of the Soft Light Blend Mode.  Whatever is Neutral Grey will remain unharmed, whatever is Black will get darker and white will get lighter, but never pure black or white.  A High Pass Sharpen gets you on the right track, but it needs the boost of the Unsharp Mask to make the contrast more prominent.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to get the Dynamic Contrast look on your images and also share with you 3 Actions that will do the heavy lifting for you.  Here is the basic rundown:

  1.  Duplicate the Background Layer
  2. Make a High Pass on the Background layer set to something rather high anywhere from 8-25 (depending on the resolution of your photo, higher for high-resolution images)
  3. Desaturate the HighPass Layer by pressing Command or Ctrl+SHIFT+U
  4. Run an Unsharp Mask on the High Pass Layer
  5. Adjust the Threshold, Radius, and Amount to Taste
  6. Using Blend Modes, Opacity and Blend If to adjust the effect.
  7. Use a clipping mask Curves Adjustment Layer to modify the effect even further.
  8. Or just download the Actions 🙂

Download the Actions

Download Photoshop Actions that were created using the concepts in the video tutorial.

Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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