A typical landscape scene can easily have a range of 10 stops or more. But with modern digital cameras, we can only capture around 8 stops. And when we go to print, we are further reduced to about 5 stops. The rule of thumb for shooting a scene with a high dynamic range is to “expose for the highlights and let the the shadows take care of themselves.” This works fine, but by the time we go to print, we’ve tried to compress this 10 stop scene into 5 stops. What ends up happening is we lose contrast.
The Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop provides the solutions. Although this tool is generally intended for sharpening images, the way in which it works makes it ideal for enhancing the contrast in the shadow areas. Set the amount to 20%, radius to 50, and threshold to 0 as shown in the picture below.
The effect can be rather subtle as shown in the pictures below. But it is an easy way to give a little pop to your images.