Add clarity to your images in Photoshop

Matt Bennett

Make your images pin sharp in less than three minutes!


Step 1

Go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. Select Amount 20, Radius 50 and Threshold 0. This is a ‘magic setting’ that instantly adds local contrast enhancement to your images.

Unsharp Mask
Unsharp Mask

Step 2

Now, duplicate your Background layer and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Soft Light
Soft Light

Step 3

Now, go to Filter>Other>High Pass and select a subtle radius value. We’ve opted for 5.2 in this example. Flatten the layers and you’re done!

High Pass
High Pass
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    • Martin Griffett

      These tips are great, but what’s missing is an explanation of what these “tweaks” actually do.

      You explained the Unsharp Mask but what about the Soft Light and High Pass filter – what are they and when would you use them? Or avoid them (i.e. possible issues)?

    • Thank you – this is a new technique to me and it works very well. Much appreciated.

    • Bob

      Not sure I see the need for the High Pass Filter. Can you elaborate?

    • carol

      Sounds very simple. I am anxious to try the technique.

    • Jeremy

      I use the High Pass option a lot but you need to be careful if there is any noise in your images as this option emphasises everything.

    • Judy Howle

      You could also use the Clarity slider in Lightroom or ACR, or in Elements if it’s a jpg you go open it in Adobe Camera Raw and use the Clarity slider.

      Soft light is a blend mode seen in the layers panel. High pass is found under Filter > Other > high pass.

    • Nigel

      I have to agree with the comment on the lack of clarity of the intructions. There are steps and explanations missing that a PSE10 beginner like me, has problems with. At the last step, for instance, do I save the finished image, somehow, before closing it? If I just open another image to work on, does the earlier one get saved or lost? Does the process described also work in Lightroom 3? What are the outcomes of changing the original image and do the steps only apply to RAW or only to jpg versions? What, if anything, does the image title’s sub-i.d. change to, in either the RAW OR the jpg version that is edited?What effect do any or all of these changes have on the metadata and/or the library data – just how much additional work has to be done, post editing? Back in the day, in many ways, only having eight character spaces to choose from in the folder or file header, or document title was a blessing! Is space possibly at a premium in the published web shot? Ah, so many ifs, ands or buts!

    • Kevin F

      Just tried this technique on a flower shot so as to compare it with the article example. The result was interesting but could look “over-photoshopped” if you are not careful with it; perhaps I will use the Opacity slider (Elements 10) in future. Nice technique to try with selected shots though.

    • Kelly

      How do u flatten layers?

    • I agre with Bob, I also used only high pass filter and layer mask to open some sharpness area.

    • What a great forum this is really impressed with all the information and advise.

    • I had been looking around for a tutorial on this exact technique. This is perfect!

    • Great techniques, really helpful. Surely, I will try to implement these tips for my photo editing business.

    • Wow! It’s a great techniques. I applied it in my project and worked perfectly. I am delighted to see the post here. Keep continue your writing.