The view of Hells Gate from Middlehurst, South Island, New Zealand. Phase One XF 100MP, 60 seconds @ f12, ISO 50, ND filter
A popular Photoshop technique to great perceived sharpness and detail is to use a High Pass filter on a copy layer and change the blend mode to soft light. It creates a similar effect to the clarity slider found in Lightroom, ACR and Capture One. However, there are lots of variations in the technique, including the different blend modes which I want to discuss here.
The photo above is a long exposure taken on my Phase One XF with the amazing 100-megapixel IQ3 sensor, processed in Capture One and then finished in Photoshop. To create the 'sharpness' in the mountains, I applied the High Pass technique with hard light to the lower foothills, but this strength was too much for the crags up above. The solution was to copy the layer and change the blend mode to soft light, adjusting the mask accordingly.
A similar result could be achieved using the clarity tool in Lightroom with the Adjustment Brush and Capture One with its Local Adjustments.
So, what is the difference between soft and hard light? Take a look at the following comparisons on the website.
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