Contrast and Texture Enhancement (Photography)

Skill Level: Advanced / Views: 1323 / System Requirements: Photoshop

How to use various postwork techniques to bring out the best in contrast and texture.

inshaala on 2:50PM Tue, 03 June 2008


So, this tutorial is for those who want to add a little more punch than a mere "S-curve" contrast adjustment which is one of the first things people tend to learn when using Photoshop or equivalent programs to edit their photos.

We are going to learn about Dodge and Burn, as well as a bit of Unsharp Masking, Black and White conversions using the Channel Mixer, and of course the Curves adjustment - it is widely used for a reason...

So, to start off open up your image - some people like doing some preliminary adjustments in their RAW conversion programs but for the purposes of these sorts of shots where i know i will be dodging and burning I tend to just do a flat conversion - which means in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) I put the "Shadows" slider back to 0 from its default 5. And also flip to the "Curve" tab and select "Linear" from the default "Medium Contrast"

I tend to work in colour for the simple reason that if i wanted it in colour later on, then i dont have to go back and do the processing again. Black and white conversion is fairly simple anyway.  So remember to white balance the image properly before opening it up in Photoshop.  Alternatively if you know you are going to be only working in B&W then desaturate in ACR and play with the colour temperature slider so you get a semblance of the contrast you are going for between the different parts of the image.  The image above shows a flat conversion from ACR desaturated and the end result of the following few pages.

Right - on to the technicals of the process...

Tutorial Comments

LovelyPoetess  10:10PM Thu, 26 February 2009

Well this more than fills my quota for "learning something every day". Thanks for taking the time to type and illustrate the whole process. : )

BernieStafford  12:11PM Thu, 10 July 2008

Excellent tutorial Rich, well written, easy to understand & above all it taught me some stuff that I didn't already know!! :-) Many thanks.

TomDart  7:40PM Wed, 11 June 2008

Rich, I have been through the tut and this is a fine one. I knew to set exposure low in dodge burn but the girsempa unsharp mask part was new. I recorded this as an action and it works well. Adjusting fill or opacity makes the image work quite well according to the render intended. I have one tut up there and know it takes time, effort and thought to do a tut. Thanks so very much for a fine job..all who read should benefit. TomDart.

Meglaurel  9:11PM Sun, 08 June 2008

many times the digitals that have to submit lack the depth due to the resin pour use to cover the watercolors and acrylic inks. with your help can walk myself through to "retrieve that look without the glare" of trying to manipulate the lighting and it becomes more "true" to the original image. Cannot thank you enough! Its the start of "artfair drama and submission". This will allow for a cleaner more true to life take on the work.

girsempa  5:20PM Sun, 08 June 2008

Might well be one of the most useful tutorials out there (or here). Very clear, comprehensible (and comprehensive) and well written ;o)

MrsRatbag  11:11AM Sun, 08 June 2008

Wow, you're much easier to understand than the online instructor in the class I'm taking! Thanks, great lesson!

Meowgli  9:14PM Sat, 07 June 2008

...actually just realised I did in fact learn something new from this in your recommended action for multiple passes on USM, sharpening's an artform in itself and one with which I must experiment more, ta mate =)

Meowgli  3:43PM Sat, 07 June 2008

yup well written dude, personally I was already familiar with these steps but for those who aren't you've provided an eloquent and useful guide that's easy to follow and well illustrated ;)

bobbystahr  11:43AM Sat, 07 June 2008

Well done tutorial man.. ...

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