It’s easy to become reliant on plug-ins for simple editing tasks when in reality, a lot of these effects can be accomplished with a little knowledge of Photoshop’s built-in functionality. Take “dynamic contrast” — turns out you can do this yourself with the help of PS’ Unsharp Mask, High Pass filter and blend modes.
Blake Rudis of f64 Academy has a ten-minute clip available that goes through all the necessary steps, while explaining exactly why the effect works the way it does.
If you’re not particularly interested in the theory, the video’s description features a guide on how to apply dynamic contrast yourself:
1. Duplicate the Background Layer
2. Make a High Pass on the Background layer set to something rather high anywhere from 8-25 (depending on the resolution of your photo, higher for high-resolution images)
3. Desaturate the HighPass Layer by pressing Command or Ctrl+SHIFT+U
4. Run an Unsharp Mask on the High Pass Layer
5. Adjust the Threshold, Radius, and Amount to Taste
6. Using Blend Modes, Opacity and Blend If to adjust the effect.
7. Use a clipping mask Curves Adjustment Layer to modify the effect even further.
And for those who just want the actions, Rudis provides those as well. Though I’d suggest doing to manually a few times to understand how each stage affects the final image.