Photog Chris's Blog

got a camera and photoshop, fun times

You don’t need Photoshop

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Original Washed out image

I have been using Photoshop for over a decade now. Many time when asked a question I automaticly think in Photoshop. It is a very powerful tool but many times I end up wishing I had a program that was smaller, faster, CHEAPER and did a few important things that I need.

Well, a flickr friend of mine is using an older piece of software, PaintShop Pro 8. Guess what, the software is quite capable of many things. In fact it is capable of three processes I use on almost every picture I put on the web :

  • Highpass Sharpening
  • Local Contrast Adjustment
  • Color Contrast

Local Contrast

First, lets boost the Local Contrast using the Unsharp Filter

  • Duplicate you layer (always a good idea)
  • Goto Adjust>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask
  • Radius = 100
  • Strength = 20-150
  • Clipping 0

All of your adjustments will be in the Strength setting. You can get a harsh Tone Mapping effect with this. Low settings do a good job of boosting the local contrast.

Local Contrast

Local Contrast via Unsharp Mask


Here is a different way of sharpening you photo without much damage, via a Highpass Filter. Paintshop Pro v8 does not have a Highpass filter, but that is okay, we can do it manually.

  • duplicate layer twice
  • On top Layer
  • gaussian blur value of 1
  • reduce layer opacity to 50%
  • negitive image
  • Make your base layer invisable
  • Merge visible Layers
  • Bring you base layer back
  • Set Merged layer’s blend mode to Hard Light
  • play with the opacity
Highpass Sharpening

Highpass Sharpening

Contrast Color Range

Adding contrast to your color range will boost you colors some without adding contrast to the luminance.

  • Duplicate you base layer (see a pattern here? )
  • Apply Curves (adjust>Brightness & Contrast>Curves
  • You want an “S” curve, a little below the line at the bottom at above at the top
  • Set Blend mode to “Color”

Here is an example of the “S” curve I am talking about

S curve

And final image.

Contrasting the Colors

Lets look at them side by side

Before and After, Click to see bigger

Notice that the after is sharper with more detail and the colors are not as washed out. This is a number of steps for just a little difference but I think it is worth it. Also remember, make all adjustments on a separate layer, easy to adjust by messing with the opacity and blend mode of that layer. You can also use a Mask and paint out areas you don’t want changed. See my Bird on a Wire article on Masks. It is done with Photoshop but the process is the same. ( to create a mask in PSP right click the layer and select New Mask Layer > Hide All or Show All)

Any questions? I am happy to answer.


Written by photogchris

December 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm

One Response

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  1. […] For many years I used the Unsharp Mask filter for sharpening an image. Did I say years? Closer to Decades. I have never really liked it, so I never really mastered it. Recently I learned of a new tool. Nothing to buy, it has always been in Photoshop and is something I have never had a use for till now. It is the High Pass filter. Don’t have a High Pass filter? Take a look here. […]

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