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The last step in a digital editing workflow is to sharpen the photo. Almost every photograph needs sharpening, even if it looks sharp to you already because just capturing and working on a digital image will soften it. Before you sharpen, try to make all your major edits to the photo and if you are going to resize it, do that first. Because the size of a photo affects how much sharpening it needs. Normally, you should set your magnification or you zoom to 100% before you start sharpening so that you can preview what the image is going to really look like when it is sharpened. I'm going to zoom in now, so I can show you exactly how sharpening works? I have got my zoom tool and I'm just going to click around the eye a few times to zoom in and now I'm going to sharpen the image. In the Enhance menu at the top of the screen, you will find two sharpening features, Unsharp Mask and Adjust Sharpness. Let's look at Unsharp Mask.
This dialogue box has three sliders - Amount, Radius, and Threshold. To understand what they do so you can use them properly it is useful to understand how sharpening works. So that you can see that on this image, I'm going to exaggerate these two sliders at the top - Amount, which I'll drag wherever and Radius, which I'll drag over as well. The way that sharpening works is that Elements looks for an edge in the photo, which is any place where dark pixels meet light pixels. At that edge, Elements lightens the light pixels and darkens the dark pixels. Those lightened and darkened pixels are called the Sharpening Halo. When you are back at 100% this process gives the illusion of sharpness.
If you look in this image, you can see that the light pixels along the bottom of the eyebrow and along the top of the eyebrow are now very light and the dark pixels in the eyebrow are now pretty dark that's the result of using the Amount and Radius Sliders in this dialogue box. The Radius Slider, as you move it to the right, expands the width of that Sharpening Halo and the Amount Slider changes the intensity of the light pixels and dark pixels in the halo. Now that you understand how sharpening works, I'm going to cancel out of this dialogue box and go back to 100%. One way to do that is to double-click the zoom tool and now I'm going to sharpen the photo for real.
So I'll go back to the Enhance dialogue box, down to Unsharp Mask and here in the Unsharp Mask dialogue box I have preview. When I press down on this preview, it shows me the original image and when I release my mouse, it shows me the image with these sharpening settings. There are no magic numbers here for sharpening; basically it is trial and error. I usually start with the Amount Slider and drag it over until the image looks reasonably sharp to me; maybe I'll try around 100 here. Then I'll move the Radius Slider and I don't move it very much. I usually don't make Radius more than maybe two or a little over two because look what happens if I put way over to the right, the image looks way too crispy, so we will go back here, maybe just a bit more to make it sharper, and that looks acceptable to me. Now there are some parts of this image that became sharp that I really don't want to emphasize that's where the Threshold Slider comes in.
When the Threshold Slider is set to zero, everything in the image is being sharpened, but as I drag the Threshold Slider to the right and again not too far, only the true edges in the photo are sharpened and the other parts of the photos like some of the blemishes on the face are protected from sharpening. Normally, I would click OK at this point to accept these changes, but I'm just going to cancel out of there and I'm going to go back to the Enhance menu and down to Adjust Sharpness to show you that option. You can use either Adjust Sharpness or Unsharp Mask; they are pretty similar. Here you see an Amount Slider and a Radius Slider so I can set the radius a little higher, I'll leave the amount around 100, but there is an additional field here that you don't find in Unsharp Mask and that is the Remove Field.
Although, sharpening is not designed to fix blurry images, it is really just designed to sharpen up digital softness in an image. This feature does make an attempt to fix certain kinds of blur. The default Gaussian Blur is not different than what you find in Unsharp Mask, but Lens blur sometimes will make an image look better. It will concentrate on sharpening details in an image; let's try that one here. Hmm... I don't see much of a difference on this particular photo and Motion Blur is designed to reduce blur that's caused by either moving the camera or the subject moving, but again it's not going to fix a very blurry photo, so we will try a little Motion Blur here. There is also this More Refined check box, which you can check to get more accurate blurry moving and notice that there is no Threshold field here.
So those are the main differences between Unsharp Mask and Adjust Sharpness. I usually use Unsharp Mask, but you are welcome to use either. I'm going to click OK to apply these settings and I want to mention that there are a couple of other sharpness features in the editor. If I go to the Enhance menu, here you will find an Auto Sharpen menu item it's right here among all the other Auto Commands. Personally, I don't suggest that you use the Auto Commands here. The beauty of working in the full edit workspace is that you have some control over all of these adjustments. So, I prefer to use the adjustments that I have shown you in these movies including Unsharp Mask and Adjust Sharpness as opposed to Auto Sharpen, but you are welcome to try it if you are in a hurry.
Also if you go to the tool Box underneath the Blur tool here there is a Sharpen tool and this can come in handy if you just want to sharpen a very small portion of your image. I'll sometimes use this tool to sharpen people's eyes just a little bit. I'm going to go up to the Options bar for the Sharpen tool and I'm going to reduce the Strength because I don't want too obvious a result and then I'm going to click on the eye a couple of times just to sharpen it up a little to put focus on the eye.
So a couple of things to remember about sharpening your own images, if you have got a really blurry image unfortunately the sharpening features aren't going to help you remove extreme blur, but sharpening will make a normal image look crisper and better particularly if you are going to be printing it. Please do get in the habit of sharpening all your images at the end of your digital workflow.
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