For my first tutorial on this site I am going to a simple one that can add a lot of pop to just about any photo with very little complication. Local Contrast Enhancement (LCE) will slightly up the contrast in your image’s tones to help sharpen up the fine details, this is infinitely useful with digital images which tend to look kind of “plasticky” right out of the camera.
Local Contrast Enhancement is done through the Unsharp Mask tool in Photoshop, it can be found at:
Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp mask (USM) [as seen below]
Start your settings with a Radius of 60px and experiment with an Amount somewhere between 8-18%, if your image is looking too contrast you can reduce the radius by a little bit. Every photograph is different so these settings will change, but the above settings are a great starting point for most photographs. While a radius of 60px is a good place to start I personally stick around 40px, maybe even less if there is something like power lines in the photograph.
If you preview a section of your photo where there is a hard edge against a smooth background and you can see a halo then your settings are too strong. This applies to any photo when doing any type of sharpening, once you see halos you should start backing off your settings. I will always duplicate my image before applying a LCE and then mask out areas that are too sharp and are producing halos.
There you have it, with about a minutes worth of work you can add an extra bit of detail into your images, if you’re looking to really sharp photos this can be combined with a High Pass Filter and/or Smart Sharpen. Don’t be afraid to play around, that’s what the ctrl + z is for.