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Every digital photograph can use a little sharpening to help boost contrast and bring out the detail in an image. Sharpening is especially important if you're planning to print your images on photo paper. This is because printing in general is a softening process. With this movie I would like to show you how to sharpen your images properly using the Unsharp Mask feature in Elements. I'm currently in the Bridge application and I'm viewing the exercise files folders. Here in the Content panel, I'm going to go ahead and scroll down a bit and double-click on the Chapter 13 folder, then double-click on the Unsharp Mask folder and then double- click on the sponge diver-2 image.
Okay, here we have our sponge diver image. I have actually gone ahead with this image and reduced some noise that was in it. That's something that you would always want to do before you sharpen an image. So if you have an image that both contains noise and also need some sharpening, it's always a good idea to reduce the noise first and then apply sharpening. Okay, because you don't want them to counteract each other and you have to be careful in doing so. All right, so with some noise already reduced in this. This particular image contained a lot of color noise; I went ahead and reduced that in another movie.
Now what I'm going to do is apply some sharpening to it. Now the first thing that you need to do before you start applying sharpening using the Unsharp Mask filter is to view your image at a 100%. So let's go ahead under the View menu and choose Actual Pixels. That's another way of saying let's view this at a 100% magnification. There we have it. We have a 100% here up at the top of the title bar so we know that we're viewing it at a 100%. We can also see that down here in the lower-left of the document window. We can go and hold down the spacebar in order to temporarily access the Hand tool and then click and drag to scroll around the image, just to inspect it, just take a look at it. You can see that all that noise has been reduced, it looks really, really good and I do think so however, that it needs some sharpening. Okay, it's looking a little soft.
As I said before, printing in general is a softening process. So if you know that you're going to print the image, you want to make sure and compensate for that when you're applying your sharpening. Okay, so that your edges look nice and sharp. Right now everything is just a little, little too soft and for a hard statue like this, you really want to see all these nice, hard its details. So let's take a look at how we can apply some sharpening using Unsharp Mask. I'm going to go under the Enhance menu and I'm going to choose Unsharp Mask. That brings up a separate dialog box. You can see it's defaulting to the last used settings and these are way too strong. So here is the perfect example of over sharpening, okay. That doesn't look good at all, that's way over compensating. So let's go ahead and just 0 this out, drag everything off to the left, okay and start fresh.
Notice that your preview window in the Unsharp Mask dialog box defaults to 100%. That's because you have to be at a 100% in order to get an accurate preview of what's going to happen to your image when you apply sharpening. Okay, has to be at 100%. All right, so now that we know that, we can use the preview area here to scroll around through our image and inspect specific areas for sharpness. We can also refer to our image in the background as well, okay. We can use them both together as different preview. All right, maybe focus in on one area in here in the dialog box and a different area in the document window behind it with your Preview option turned on.
First thing you want to do is control the amount of sharpening that you're going to apply to this image overall, right. So I'm going to go ahead and just drag this up to about 50%, that's about a good starting point, somewhere around here. Take a look at what's happening to the image in the background. We can also refer to our preview area and just like it was with the other dialog box in Reduce Noise, you can click and hold down in order to see the before and then let up to see the after. Okay, it's not a having enough of an effect yet. So I would say we need to increase the Radius. This is controlling how far reaching into your image in order to sharpen the image.
Basically what is happening here is we're creating the illusion of things being more in focus. Okay and in doing so we're increasing contrast all along these edges where contrast already exists. So we need to raise this value here up to between, I would say, 1 and 2 pixels is usually a good range; 1 is usually a good starting point. Somewhere around 1 and that usually is where I keep it unless a particular image is so blurry and somewhat out of focus to the point we can save that by increasing this maybe up to about 2. But you don't usually go beyond 2 because if you do, you can start reaching too far into your image, it's going to be looking too far and going beyond just the obvious, contrast the edges here and then you can start to get this over sharpening effect. You can see it happening, that's not good.
So I'm going to stick to about 1.5 at least for this image. Then increase the Amount a little further, see what's happening. Now we're starting to get the effect that I want. Something you also want to be careful of as you're doing this is if you start over sharpening you can bring out noise in an image. Now we have already reduced some noise, so it's a less of a worry here but if I had not done that already, we would really be bringing out a lot of noise that's in here, in image like this. All right, so you want to be careful with that. That's actually looking pretty good to me so far and we also have the Threshold setting down here, this acts like a fader control, think of it as controlling how powerful these setting are. Right now we're at full power, it's at Threshold 0. If I drag this to the right, it's going to start to soften the effect, make it not as powerful. You can see it getting softer as I'm dragging to the right; we're lessening its power. Generally I keep this at 0 all the time. I don't see a reason to fade what I have done up here because if I wanted to fade what I have done up here, I just move these sliders, okay.
So generally I keep this at full power all the time, to the far left. Okay and just focus on working with the Amount slider and how far I'm reaching into my image with the Radius setting, okay. So this has started to look really good to me. I can see the before and after by turning off the Preview referring to the image in the background and turning it back on to see the effect of these settings. And that's actually looking pretty good to me. I think we're actually on the right course. So I'm going to go ahead and click OK to apply this Unsharp Mask filter. Again, creating this illusion of focus by just increasing contrast in these edges all along the image. Let's take a look. Command+ Minus, I'm going to zoom out a little bit just to look at the image overall. Looks really good. I'm liking that.
Okay, so Unsharp Mask can help you bring out the detail in an image. You have three controls in there, the Radius control, the Size and then of course -- or the Amount slider -- and then of course the Threshold control. Threshold, always keep it 0, the Radius, always keep in between 1 and 2 depending on your image. And the Amount, you can move just really as far as you need depending on the image. Usually it's between 60% and 100%; somewhere around there is usually where you will wind up dragging that slider. All right, so that's how you can sharpen an image using the Unsharp Mask filter.
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