Photoshop Technique: High Contrast Images

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: March 14, 2011

Category: General

Okay, so to kick the week off I thought I’d share an editing technique with you that I saw demonstrated by Scott Kelby a couple of years ago, and is a process that I use on virtually all of my images when I’m looking to add some High Contrast.

Now this technique could be considered a little on the unconventional side seeing as it makes use of the Unsharp Mask Filter but as you’ll see it’s incredibly effective and what’s more, it’s incredibly quick and easy; so here goes…

Step 1: Duplicate the Layer and convert to a Smart Object

Of course if you’re using an earlier version of Photoshop where you can’t convert layers to Smart Objects that’s not a problem. All it means is that you’ll have to start over if you want to change the final effect. Luckily for this technique though that’s no drama as there’s only 2 steps involved.

Step 2: Apply the Unsharp Mask (FILTER-SHARPEN-UNSHARP MASK)

This is where the magic happens and the good thing is that there’s no hard and fast rules to follow other than keeping the Threshold Slider set to zero.

Simply play around with the ‘Amount’ and ‘Radius’ sliders, pushing them to levels you wouldn’t normally, until you get the desired amount of contrast you’re after. I tend to find that the ‘sweet spot’ for me is with Amount at 25, and Radius at 16…but then it does depend on the image.

Note: You may notice on some images that you see a dark halo around some parts of the image; this is due to the amount applied to the Radius Slider. The good thing here is that as we have used a Smart Object, by default we have a layer mask on this layer too so all we need to do is paint using a black brush around the areas with the halo so that it is removed but the contrast remains everywhere else within the image.

That’s all for now, so I’ll catch you here later in the week for another Photoshop technique plus a walk through of a recent ‘on location’ Band Shoot.

In the mean time,
Enjoy 🙂

Keep up with Glyn ‘Day to Day’ on Twitter
Get more ‘Behind the Scenes’ by becoming a ‘Fan on Facebook’

You may also like…

Interviewed by Ron Clifford
Interviewed by Ron Clifford

A few weeks back I was invited onto Ron Clifford YouTube LIVE Channel to speak with him about all things photography....


  1. Russell Pritchard

    Great Job Glyn,
    The sharpening really sets the image off, just great.

    I feel a bit like Ken toney on Scot Kelbys Blog !

    • Glyn

      @Ken…sorry, Russell…glad you like it 🙂

      Cheers for stopping by and commenting mate

  2. Tim Skipper

    Cool idea Glen, going to have to try that.

    • Glyn

      Works a treat Tim and good when used with a layer mask to limit where you want the contrast to show up.

      Enjoy 🙂

    • Glyn

      @Tim…Nice one; let me know how it goes if you’re able 😉

  3. Corporate Portraits Ltd

    Hi Glyn

    Nice technique as I often increase contrast on my portraits, just with the contrast/brightness tool but this unsharp mask technique works and looks much better. Thanks Grant

    • Glyn

      Hey Grant, great to hear you like the technique and that it’s gonna come in handy. Really appreciate you stopping by 🙂


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *