April 12, 2017

An impressive technique to add sharpness and local contrast to your photos

An easy tutorial in three steps to get tack sharp images

With Photoshop being an incredibly powerful tool there are as many ways to sharpen images and make them pop as there are photographers. In this blog post I want to show you my favorite technique which is suited for landscape, nature and portrait photography. I pushed the sharpening a bit further than I would normally do to illustrate the difference for you better.

Without further ado, let’s get to the tutorial to take your image from this:


to this:


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Step 1: Hit CTRL+J on Windows or CMD+J on Mac twice to copy your layer twice. Group the freshly copied layers in a folder. Set the folder’s blending mode to Overlay (Ineinanderkopieren for my German readers) and the top layer in the group to Vivid Light (Strahlendes Licht for my German readers. The bottom layer in the group remains in the Normal blending mode. It should look like this.




Step 2: Click on the top layer in the group which is set to Vivid Light and hit CTRL+I or CMD+I on Mac to invert the layer. Select the Vivid Light layer and go to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur (Filter > Weichzeichnungsfilter > Matter machen in German). I choose a radius and threshold between 30 and 35px. Wait for the filter to apply and turn down the group’s opacity to your liking. I also created a mask to apply the filter selectively to the penguins and the rock in the foreground. It should look like this.



Step 3: Hit CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E (CMD+SHIFT+ALT+E) to create a new layer from all the layers below. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and choose a mask between 20% and 60% and a radius of 1px (depending on your image resolution, its worth epxerimenting with these parameters). Add a curve adjustment and pull the mids down gently and apply the adjustment to the rock in the foreground and the dark parts of the penguins. Play around with the opacity and the curve adjustment to get the look you like the most. Congratulations, you’re all set! It should look like this.



And voilà, your final picture.



If you found this tutorial useful, it might be helpful for other photographers too. Share it to make it available to them! As an author and photographer, it means the world to me.