Local contrast can help give images more descriptive and well balanced tones. What you’re doing is making a vague/blurred version of the image; using that to lighten/darken the image underneath; then inverting the effect.

So light areas get darker, and dark areas get lighter, but with this kind of area-based effect. Similar to what you can do with Unsharp mask, and you can try it with different blur modes too, like surface blur.

Original photo by David Slijper

Layers from bottom to top:
– Original picture
– Copy of the original -> Filter (Convert for Smart Filters); Gaussian Blur set to something high. Set this layer to Overlay. (This will put more light in the dark areas, to bring detail out in shadows)
– Clip an Invert filter to it
– Then another copy of the original image with Linear Light blending, and a low opacity. (This brings the contrast back)
– Curves layer set to Color blending with a flat RGB curve. (But a desat layer or just a white Solid Color set to Color would work the same)

One Response to “Local contrast for descriptive tones”
  1. David Johnson

    Excellent, I use something a bit different but I’ll give this a try now and compare, thanks for posting

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