Photoshop Contrast Mask


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Amfibius

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#1
This technique has been discussed elsewhere, notably by Michael Reichmann. I tried it at home and got a superb result, so I thought I would share.



1. This was the "before" image. The camera's sensor could not hold the dynamic range so it was a choice of blowing out the sky or blacking out the foreground. I chose a middle exposure to keep enough detail on the ground to recover later as well as some detail on the sky.

2. The first step is to duplicate the layer: Layer - Duplicate Layer. Call this "contrast".

3. On the "contrast" layer, choose Image - Adjustments - Desaturate and then Image - Adjustments - Invert. You will get an image like this:



4. Double click on the layer in the layer panel and choose Blend mode - overlay from the drop down menu. Your picture will magically appear fixed - dark areas have been opened up, and bright areas have been toned down.

5. At this point detail on the contrast mask is fighting with the original image, so you need to blur the contrast mask a little. Filter - Blur - Gaussian Blur and choose a radius between 10 and 30.

6. Adjust your contrast mask to your taste with Image - Adjustments - Levels (or curves, if you prefer).

7. Flatten layers and save image. This is the result I got:

 

Camm

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#3
Can I just check if You've sharpened your pics? I've followed your steps and foreground does brighten up, but it's not as sharp as yours.
 

Camm

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#4
My try. Pls enlighten me how to get the same result as yours.

 

Amfibius

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Camm, I got the final result and then resized it for the web and then sharpened it. If you want to try this yourself, I have uploaded a full sized (6.3 megapixel, 1.5MB download) here.
 

HeWolf

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#8
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I suppose the latest PS (version CS) has the shadow/highlight feature which makes it easier, so much easier.
 

Amfibius

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HeWolf, you may be right, but not all of us can afford to upgrade to PS CS :)
 

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#10
Not only on landscape pics, but also on indoor flash photography photos :) ...

thanks for the tip great amphibus.
 

melnjes

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Thanks for the tip. Read this before in the link you provided but your pics really showed the difference :)
 

StreetShooter

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#12
As with anything, a one-size-fits-all approach, while being simpler (I love auto-levels, BTW), is seldom as good as a customized approach.

What I usually do is create a duplicate layer, adjust the levels for the particular area I want to correct, then use a layer mask to paint it in. Then another duplicate layer to correct in the opposite direction.

So in this example, I create a layer to lighten the underexposed areas, then paint it in with the layer mask. Then I correct the over-exposed areas in another layer. You can also play with the contrast for each area you want to correct, so that the final picture does not look so "flat" (which is what contrast masking sometimes does to your picture).

Here's my result:



Slightly more LOTR-esque, I would say.

PS the full sized pic you posted is different from the first one, so I used the original small sized one for better comparison.
 

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