Written by Joel Wanek
Photoshop is an amazing and sometimes overwhelming program. There often seem to be multiple paths we can take to reach the same desired result. No one way is right or wrong but its good to have a variety of options. Here’s an alternative to using the Brightness/Contrast adjustment tool that will give you more control over how contrast is added to your image. In the end you’ll have a more more nuanced image.
Adding a high contrast layer is an essential step when doing high quality photo printing, but it is also a good general image enhancement, no matter what you’re outputting for. You should do this step after adjusting your Color/Tone, Curves or Levels. Initially this may seem like a complicated process, but the steps below show you how to record your every move, enabling you to repeat the process with the stroke of one key.
In the Windows menu select Actions.
Within the Actions window click the ‘Create new action’ icon.
A ‘New Action’ dialogue box will appear allowing you to name it and create a new keyboard shortcut for it. I’ve named my action ‘High Contrast Layer’ and assigned it the Shift+F6 shortcut. Click ‘Record’ when all information is entered.
Next, duplicate your background layer, either in the Layer menu or window.
In the Filter menu scroll down and select Unsharp Mask.
Within the Unsharp Mask dialogue box move the sliders to the follow values: Amount 50, Radius 200, Threshold 3.
In the Layers window click on the Opacity drop down menu and slide/adjust the amount to 30%. Use this amount as a general setting, but some images will need a bit more or less opacity. After this step your image should look complete.
Back in the Actions window press the stop icon to finish recording your action.
Now, you can repeat this process easily with the keyboard shortcut you created.