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Jeff Schewe explains the basics in his write up of Camera Raw 4.1 and gives a link to another article on the Luminous Landscape, which gives a couple more links (the link to Cambridge in Colour is very good). It is a method to increase local contrast in the mid tones. Please refer to the cited links for further details. It is often achieved by using unsharp masking with a large radius and small amount. In his sharpening book, Bruce Fraser used the High Pass filter set to a high radius on a layer with Overlay blending and the Blend If sliders set to constrain the effect to the mid tones.
Similar techniques can be used to reduce haze (where Bruce combined regular sharpening with mid tone contrast and added a warming filter to reduce the blue and applied the effect with a brush).
Try USM in PS with a Radius from 50 to 70 and an Amount starting about 15. Not quite the same, but it does provide a bit more control. It has been referred elsewhere as Contrast Coating and came along when a need was seen to remove a certain filminess present in many images. It can be overdone.
Thanks, Bill. That is about what I was thinking... it looks about the same as the midtone contrast in Highlight/shadow.
What I like about it is that it doesn't seem to introduce any artifacts.
Lawrence-<br /><br />Don't you feel that USM creates more artifacts than CLARITY? I stopped using USM in favor of NIK sharpener (which does some stuff I don't understand either <g>) to reduce the artifacting.<br /><br />tom
More like blooming than anything else. I've pushed Contrast Coating pretty hard at times and eventually have to back off. At the starting values indicated, it offers no problem, but at that level, it seems Clarity does better. Unfortunately, once you are out of RAW, you got it as it is. It is very seductive at first look.
Dupe the Background layer first and apply CC there. You can always dump it if it starts looking off as you progress.
You can also blend such a duped contrast coating layer with Advanced Layer Blending to avoid the halos, and balance the effect.
Any time I have such layers, I at least mess with the blending to see what happens.
I don't know about this distaste for halos. The angels are getting pissed! (Esp Michael).