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  • Sharpening

    Hi everyone! This is my first be nice please I've been using photoshop for several years but this is my first time working as a full time retoucher, so I'm soaking up information at a rapid rate! The one thing I am constantly confused about is sharpening. I know there are tons of information online and there may be a post on this forum you can point to but I haven't found one that answers my first question. The two questions are:

    1.) When do I sharpen? Do I sharpen first thing or do I sharpen at the very end? I can see the advantage for both, but which is standard?

    2.) How do I sharpen? For years I've used unsharp mask because I was convinced it was the best, but lately I've been realizing that so many people use the opacity filter. I know it's a matter of personal taste, but what are the advantages of both?

    Thank you! I'm sure you'll see many more posts from me!

  • #2
    Re: Sharpening

    1) After you've finished everything else.

    2) You sharpen by using a result of the set radius to an inverted stamp of the image set to linear light, then masked selectively.

    alt+command+shift+E (make a stamp)
    command+I (invert the stamp)
    M (choose a tool that will give you access to shortcuts for the layer opacity, Marquee is just one of them)
    5 (set opacity of the layer to 50%)
    Filter>Blur>choose any kind of blur you'd like to use, it will give you different results, but "normal" is gaussian", and slide to see the detail aka radius you want enhanced (by bluring a grey, you're revealing the detail at any given radius)
    alt+command+shift+E (make another stamp, as you have to apply what you just created)
    alt+shift+J (set the second stamped layer to linear light to turn on it's effect)
    delete the first stamped layer(one that you inverted, so that you can see the sharpening)
    mask out your layer set to Linear Light

    THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY TO SHARPEN!!! You can achieve the SAME THING with apply image, High Pass(not just the high pass set to linear light, it's a bit more complicated, doing just a High Pass will mess things up!!!).

    Here is how to with high pass...

    alt+command+shift+E (Make a stamp)
    Image>Adjustments>Brightness-Contrast>Select Use Legacy, Set contrast to -50%
    NOW THE HIGH PASS(you se the same thing emerging like when you were blurring , that's because both of these way are based on blurring the INVERSION which in turn makes it sharper )
    Blend layer at liner light, and mask accordingly

    So why not just use High pass process all the time? Because the first way will give you deferent sharpening based on the blur you applied(it'll give you the opposite of the blur), and the HighPass is the oppoiste of Gaussian, so you can only sharpen it based on gaussian.

    3) There is no such thing as Opacity filter, correct me if I'm wrong.

    Have fun!


    • #3
      Re: Sharpening

      Originally posted by nrotunda View Post

      1.) When do I sharpen? Do I sharpen first thing or do I sharpen at the very end? I can see the advantage for both, but which is standard?
      I'd start here:


      • #4
        Re: Sharpening

        Along with Andrews suggestion as a very good starting point (by Bruce Fraser) also look for articles by Jeff Schewe and considering buying the book written by Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw and Lightroom - although not recently updated it will tell you pretty much all you need to know.

        There is no single right way to sharpen, although there are several poor methods including voodoo moves and also poor judgement leading to overhapening in particular.

        IMO (and taking the sage advice of those authors noted above!) single pass sharpening is unlikely to lead to an optimally sharpened image. Generally the best method is a multi stage workflow to include capture sharpening, creative sharpening and finally sharpening based on the destination device.

        If you are producing work yourself and working on raw files or you are being passed raw files to work on start with capture sharpening to improve the inevitable loss of sharpness the analogue to digital conversion introduces - assuming that you are passed a raw file that has had poor or no sharpening applied. Then move into creative sharpening to selectively enhance or even reduce sharpness. Final sharpening will depend on the destination device and will most likely be global - all of this covered in the book mentioned above.

        I think reference to Opacity filter refers to the potential to reduce the effect of your sharpening layer by using the opacity slider in the layers menu
        Last edited by Tony W; 01-16-2014, 02:09 PM.


        • #5
          Re: Sharpening

          I never said one pass, or global, I just explained how to sharpen correctly.

          Just like if some one asked me how to DNB, Id explain how, BUT IT'S NEVER ONE STROKE!!! EVER! You always have to fine tune adjustments. A little bit of everything.


          • #6
            Re: Sharpening

            Well, I was not suggesting that you did suggest one pass or even global just replying to the OP's question when to sharpen first or at the end with a suggestion that this is more than a one step process. So where you get the idea that the reply was based on what you said I have no idea .

            Other than you stressing in your post 'THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY TO SHARPEN!!!' which I do disagree with along with your latest assertion 'I just explained how to sharpen correctly'. This is your opinion rather than a statement of fact.

            What you have described is just one way to sharpen an image and if this is what gets you the best results that is fine but is not necessarily either the right way or the correct way for others or for images in general.

            There are many ways to sharpen and image content along with experience will dictate the likely best way to go. There are some strange and wonderful methods to increase apparent image sharpeness including using even using Gaussian blur along with blending modes to add fine edge contrast. Is this method the best or correct, not really as it depends on what needs to be achieved


            • #7
              Re: Sharpening

              Personally I'm happy with the bog standard USM feature but I'd like to see alternative methods. Can anyone post an example of an image showing a comparison between USM and a superior method please.


              • #8
                Re: Sharpening

                Repairman, I think you are correct to be happy with USM or Smart sharpen or particularly the sharpening and noise reduction tools in ACR or LR.

                There are probably dozens of plugins offering sharpening claiming to be better than those found in the aforementioned. There maybe some evidence that this is the case but I suspect improvements generally marginal - I dont know for a fact as I have neither the time nor the inclination to try them unless recommended by someone I consider to be an authority on the subject.

                The idea of a comparison of methods is good in theory but maybe flawed in practice due to an individuals desire to prove their theory that method a. is superior to method b, c or d. In testing it is likely that evidence contrary to their opinion will be disregarded as an anomoly and only those images that display their theories shown and regarded as correct.

                EDIT:Just remembered this article which includes a lot of relevent info and a method of combining USM with High Pass which works very well. And also mentions something I forgot about comparison images. How do we compare. If it is not intended for screen display only we need to be aware of the output destination as only then will sharpening reveal itself as sucessful or lacking - you cannot judge print output sharpening for instance just by looking at a monitor at 100% view. Well at least I cannot as the monitor image needs to be judged at much smaller size to equate to the final print size.

                Last edited by Tony W; 01-16-2014, 03:52 PM.


                • #9
                  Re: Sharpening

                  Originally posted by skoobey View Post
                  You can achieve the SAME THING with apply image, High Pass
                  Probably should have add ed etc. Image also appears sharper as a result of dnb, adding grain, adding noise, adding contrast etc etc etc etc. Do I really need to write this, as I already wrote a very helpful answer as to what a better equivalent to sharpening in RAW processor (which you can also do)?

                  So please do kill me for I have given a step by step direction.

                  All those plug ins basically combine the exact same thing you can do in a more controlled way in PS itself, but they might be faster if you're doing a bunch of images.

                  P.S. It's such a a wast subject, I was talking about frequency based sharpening, and there are so many other ways, but frequency is what is mostly referred to as sharpening.
                  Last edited by skoobey; 01-16-2014, 05:37 PM.


                  • #10
                    Re: Sharpening

                    Nice link Tony. I'm just fishing to see if there are other methods out there worth changing the habits of a lifetime for! When I used to work from scans only (which ALWAYS came with USM applied) it could be tricky to mask images which had the attendant enhanced contrast edging. You could end up with a 1 pixel black or white halo! Now I always add the sharpening last because images tend to be multi-purposed: what's good for a poster won't necessarily work on a website page. Because sharpening is case dependent and I would recommend that the OP output some sample ref prints that display the effects of USM at different settings and sizes.


                    • #11
                      Re: Sharpening

                      Originally posted by skoobey View Post
                      ...Do I really need to write this, as I already wrote a very helpful answer as to what a better equivalent to sharpening in RAW processor (which you can also do)?
                      Which is it, a better sharpening to or an equivalent to ACR or other raw processor in your opinion? If you believe that how so, i.e explain your reasoning and methodology at arriving at such a conclusion?

                      I really do think that you should study the book and articles mentioned in this thread to understand the principles and purposes behind sharpening in ACR and the methods.

                      So please do kill me for I have given a step by step direction.
                      You already seem to be quite capable of self harm by shooting yourself in the foot several times in this thread, therefore no further action by others required


                      • #12
                        Re: Sharpening

                        Originally posted by skoobey View Post
                        Image>Adjustments>Brightness-Contrast>Select Use Legacy, Set contrast to -50%
                        NOW THE HIGH PASS
                        I have a question for a long time, but i don't understand why we need -50 Legacy when we sharppen or IHP?


                        • #13
                          Re: Sharpening

                          You can use things to achieve the same thing. What legacy does is make the image flat in a linear way(pulling white point down and black point up in curves). You can even reduce the contrast in the high pass after you've applied it.

                          What is it then? Well, I don't know the exact math mostly because i never cared to ask as I never needed to know and I do guess it employs both the frequency and radius in it's calculations, but now I am interested, so if someone of gurus here does please reply, but it is mostly with the fact that it is way stronger of an effect than the opposite of gaussian blur is. It is giving the effect so strong it often ends up clipping the whites, and making things look "crispy". And, no it can't be "fixed" by reducing the opacity of the layer, because it's not the midtone that's affected, so this is why we apply contrast reduction, keeping the midtones where they were, and linearly reducing the high and low point of the image. If we used a non linear adjustment for this, we'd end up with shifted contrast, instead of reduced evenly above and bellow 128. 50% because it matches the opposite of gaussian best, and it will never match it completely, as you're averaging nearby pixels.
                          Last edited by skoobey; 01-18-2014, 10:30 PM.


                          • #14
                            Re: Sharpening

                            Wish one of the seniors from above would actually contribute to this one.


                            • #15
                              Re: Sharpening

                              Originally posted by adtechniques View Post
                              I have a question for a long time, but i don't understand why we need -50 Legacy when we sharppen or IHP?
                              I believe the reason for using Legacy is due to the changes made to the Brightness and Contrast control in later versions of PS.

                              The original Brightness and Contrast found in versions prior to CS3? were seen to be pretty poor by many and virtually guaranteed to destroy your image if used without care. It did make images either brighter or darker but applied the effect equally over the image therefore the chance of forcing the lighter or darker points of your image to clipping was quite high. With the improved control in later versions of PS Brightness acted more like the midtone slider in levels without the tendency to clip highlights and shadows and therefore much improved.

                              So the old style settings (Legacy) could be viewed as linear adjustments which is more suited to this application than using the current version.

                              The -50 contrast therefore flattens the image in a more linear manner i.e. lowering the highlights and raising the shadows while still mainting the midtones where needed and maybe easier to apply than playing with just curves alone. I think that it should be possible to get a similar effect by using the Blend If sliders to roll off the effect in the shadows and highlights and thereby limit the effect to the desired tonal areas.


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