How To Enhance Details In Photoshop – Local Contrast Tutorial

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Have you ever looked at your image and thought it was too flat? You’ve increased and decreased contrast but that didn’t help. Or, maybe you’re shooting in hazy, humid conditions and you need something to create local contrast that will cut through the haze.

Being able to enhance details in Photoshop through fine contrast adjustments can work wonders in these conditions and often draw out beautiful texture.

Detail Enhancement was applied to the walls and floor of this image of Petra, Jordan

after-detail-enhancerl

The below image is a before and after comparison to show you the detail enhancement effect. The effect on the after image is extremely strong, probably too strong. This was just for demonstration purposes.

before-after-detail-enhancer

How To Enhance Details In Photoshop

Photoshop Steps

1. Duplicate your current layer. You can do this by pressing Ctrl + J, or CMD+J on a Mac.

2. Invert this layer by pressing Ctrl+I, or CMD+I on a Mac.

3. Call the new layer Details. Change its Blend Mode to Vivid Light.

detail-anhancer-tutorial

4. Your image should now be grey. Go to Filter>Blur>Surface Blur. Set your Radius to around 34 and the Threshold at about 36. Press OK. It may take a few seconds to render.

5. We need to now change the Blend Mode again but since we can’t do this twice on the same layer, we need to merge the two layers we have in a non-destructive way. We can do this by pressing Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E or selecting both layers, right clicking on them, and while holding Alt, clicking on Merge layers. This will create a new layer which is the two previous layers below merged, but we should still be able to see those layers.

6. Delete the Details layer. Now change the Blend Mode of the new layer to Overlay. You will now have your detail enhance layer.

Tip: It’s easy to overdo detail enhancement. The steps above will produce a very strong effect. Bring the opacity down where needed. Be sure to use it selectively and subtly. Watch out for any halos which appear around objects. Mask them out when you see them.

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How To Enhance Details In Photoshop – Local Contrast Tutorial
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mariannebush
mariannebush
6 years ago

Jimmy, I think I love you ;-). I was just struggling with a shot and had that exact problem. Thank you for your generosity, you have no idea how much your tutorials mean to a lot of us. Hope South Korea is treating you both well.

Jimmy McIntyre
Jimmy McIntyre
6 years ago
Reply to  mariannebush

You’re welcome Marianne! I’m glad I could help. South Korea is going brilliantly, thank you 🙂

Gerryoc
Gerryoc
6 years ago

Jimmy I am already a subscriber do I need to enter my email every time to get the downloads

Jimmy McIntyre
Jimmy McIntyre
6 years ago
Reply to  Gerryoc

Not at all Gerry. If you’re on the list then you will receive all new resources as soon as they become available 🙂

Johnny Santiago Photography
Johnny Santiago Photography
6 years ago

Hey Jimmy,

I think I’m confusing myself here. Have you sent the “Photoshop Easy Panel” actions yet?

I thought I needed to redownload the mega pack to get it but I don’t see it.

Please confirm when time permits. I wanna try it out.

Jimmy McIntyre
Jimmy McIntyre
6 years ago

Hey Johnny, thanks for getting in touch. The Easy Panel will be sent to subscribers on Sunday.

All the best

Johnny Santiago Photography
Johnny Santiago Photography
6 years ago
Reply to  Jimmy McIntyre

Thanks.

I’ll be looking for it…:)

Johnny Santiago Photography
Johnny Santiago Photography
6 years ago
Reply to  Jimmy McIntyre

Hey Jimmy. I received your email today and am trying to install the easy panel. Your instructions are for a PC. Do you have instructions for a Mac?

Jimmy McIntyre
Jimmy McIntyre
6 years ago

Sorry Johnny, I’m not a Mac user, but I think this tutorial could help you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQThYQzj34g

Johnny Santiago Photography
Johnny Santiago Photography
6 years ago
Reply to  Jimmy McIntyre

It worked like a charm.

Thanks Jimmy.

Bo
Bo
6 years ago

Thanks Jimmy. This is the kind of tools for thge toolbox that I enjoy very much. Thanks
Just thinking, if I added a mask to the last layer (details enhance layer) and copied the B/W from one of the lumiousity masks, pasted it directly into the mask itself (Alt click on mask), that would be a very good starting point for a dynamic details enhancement

Chris
Chris
6 years ago

Thank you Jimmy! Your tutorials are simply amazing!

Patti
Patti
6 years ago

I am working on a mac and I don’t see a gray layer and when I merge the two layers I just end up with one layer and that’s it. Don’t know what to do with it. It is just blue and black. the other thing is that when i click on detail enhancer on the easy panel it says the command is currently not available.

Jimmy McIntyre
Jimmy McIntyre
6 years ago
Reply to  Patti

Hey Patti, the steps should be the same for a Mac or PC, so I’m not sure what it is going wrong. However, for the panel, ‘The command is not currently available’ means the actions haven’t been installed. This is very easy to do. Go to the top right of your actions panel. Scroll down and look for Load Actions. Then just look for your Actions folder and load each one in. The panel should then work.

Thanks

yorgas
yorgas
6 years ago

Hello Jimmy, thanks for a good tutorial.

I am wondering about the values you use for the Surface Blur (Radius to around 34 and the Threshold at about 36). Aren’t those dependant on the size and resolution of the image? That is, the result may differ on a low resolution image and a high resolution image?

What should I aim for in terms of halos and detail blur if I try to optimize the values for my images?

Geraberl
Geraberl
5 years ago

Great tip jimmy! what I’ve found a useful addition to this is, after changing the layer over to vivid light, convert the layer to a smart object before running the surface blur, that way, once you have run the surface blur it will appear as a smart filter attached to the smart object layer, thus giving you the ability to go in and change the radius and threshold values should you need to do so to either increase or decrease the amount of surface blur affecting the layer.

Chris
Chris
5 years ago

You totally lost me at step 5. I followed it exactly as you said. It doesn’t work.

Carley
Carley
4 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Instead of Shift+ctrl+alt+E, it’s shift+cmd+alt+E for macs.

Dave
Dave
3 years ago

Very cool. This also works with Photoshop Elements (I use version 13).

John
John
3 years ago

Hi Jimmy. What is the difference between this technique and the High Pass edge enhancement technique?

Moonpixel
Moonpixel
3 years ago

Great technique! Thanks

Remus Rigo
Remus Rigo
3 years ago

This tut is the best I found yet

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