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Faux sharpening: Tricks to fake focus

From: Noise Reduction and Sharpening in Lightroom and Photoshop

Video: Faux sharpening: Tricks to fake focus

At its most basic, sharpening is essentially localized contrast. Now if I double click on any of these sliders,

Faux sharpening: Tricks to fake focus

At its most basic, sharpening is essentially localized contrast. You're magnifying the dark and light values so that something jumps out more. Every sharpening algorithm is essentially doing just that. What I want to talk about now is areas that aren't quite in focus and how to fake it. Because it's sort of a misunderstood thing that you can't sharpen to recover focus, but you can play some tricks on the eye to make things look like they're sharper than they really are. So we have some flowers that are in focus, like the one on the left.

And then there are some others, like the one down here that are out of focus. And then there are some areas that are kind of in focus. And if you shoot with a fast lens, that's pretty common. So let's take this image into the develop module, and just talk a little bit about what works and what doesn't. And so what you want to do is zoom in. And this is a nice perspective because we see some of these flowers that are in focus, and ones like this one on the lower right, totally out of focus. Contrast is probably the simplest way to exaggerate focus. It fakes your eye out. Things look a little more pleasing.

Its often overused, but if you have something that's out of focus and you need to bring it back in, you could use contrast to do that. The other area would be clarity. It's mid-tone contrast and you can see that it definitely has the effect of making things look sharper or easier to see. Its often overused, but again, it could certainly be used to save a file. Now if I double click on any of these sliders, I'm going to take them back to where they were. Of course, I could come down to sharpening and I could bump that up quite a bit. But the problem with this, if you notice, is we're creating a lot of artifacts as we do.

So with an image like this, if the intent is to make as many things as possible look like they're in focus, it ends up being that I want a little bit of sharpening with a pretty wide radius. I want some additive clarity, a little bit of contrast, and a general exposure correction. Now if I back up, while a bit crunchy, things are definitely giving the illusion that there's more of the image in focus than out.

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