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Real focus happens inside the camera's lens element. The sharpening features in Photoshop CS3 exaggerate the contrast along edges in a photograph to transform a well-focused image into an outstanding image. In Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images, Deke McClelland teaches a host of sharpening and noise reduction techniques, including using filters such as Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, High Pass, and Reduce Noise. The training teaches the essentials of sharpening, including what it does, why it's important, and how the filters function. Plus, the training covers Deke's recommended best practices, including the four distinct varieties of sharpening, which can be used independently or in combination with each other. Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images is about how to transform images from looking good to looking their absolute best. Exercise files accompany the course.
Alright this time around, as promised, I am going to show you how to resolve clipped highlights and shadows that are a function of a sharpening effect that are created by a sharpening effect. We will get rid of those clipped highlights and shadows using luminance blending, which is only applicable to static layers; you can't apply it to a Smart Filter. Of course I'll show you what I mean, but first I am working inside of this image here called High Pass layers.PSD, its available inside of the 04_support_staff folder, for those of you who are just joining me. It includes the High Pass layer and the clipped Levels adjustment layer.
I want you to see something about High Pass and this amount elevation right there. If I zoom in on the fur and I want to show you before and after view, so if I click on the eyeball to turn off this layer, this is what it looked like before. This is the unsharpened version of the image, that is to say, and this is the sharpened version. Now the highlights and shadows are a lot more noticeable, so we have created these hot highlights inside of the fur, thanks to High Pass, and these dark shadows. But we are not clipping at this point.
High Pass is very good about avoiding clipping; the clipping of highlights and shadows, it does a great job, which is why its such a splendid sharpening effect in my opinion. But you do get clipping when you work with Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen, more often than not anyway. Not all of the time but very often you do. I'll show you what I mean. So I am going to go ahead and Alt+click or Option+click on the eyeball in front of the background layer in order to hide the other layers for now. Lets go ahead and apply Smart Sharpen by the Smart Filter route very quickly here.
I'll go to the Layers palette menu; I'll choose Convert to Smart Object. I am not going to worry that's called Layer 2. I don't care about that for now because we are going to get rid of it in just a moment. I am going to go up to the Filter menu and I am going to choose Sharpen and I am going to choose Smart Sharpen. Now we'll bring up the last settings I applied. Now these are the settings I applied to the Bison, you may recall, an Amount of 350%, the Radius of 4.0 pixels, Lens Blur, that's just fine. You can see, you may be able to see that we are definitely clipping highlights and shadows this time around. We have some very light information here. This is white, white information that's clipped inside of the hairs and some very black clipped shadows around the hairs, around the outside of the hairs and underneath her chin, just all kinds of clipped shadows as well.
That's no good. Now you could resolve it using Advanced. If you clicked on the Advanced radio button right there and you go to Shadow, you could back off your shadows if you want to. You could fade those shadows like so and that helps a little bit. We get a lot of fading if we go with- if we decide to fade the highlights, we are going to have a nice faded effect to those highlights there. It works out pretty nicely. The only problem is that same old problem I was telling you about before. If I now switch back to Basic that doesn't undo those modifications.
So those changes that I made will persist throughout my use of the Smart Sharpen filter in the future. You may want that to happen. If we find that desirable, that's great and you can go ahead and work it out with those advanced settings if you like. I don't like the fact that they persist; I think they should retract as soon as we go back to Basic. So anyway, I am going to go back to Advanced here and I am going to unfade these amounts like so and then I am going to switch back to Basic and I am going to leave those controls alone, so that we can focus on luminance blending instead. Click OK in order to apply that Smart Filter.
Now lets change the blending options. Luminance blending is part of the blending options, right? We also need to get rid, of course, the color artifacts that are showing up here. So I'll double click on these little slider guys right there, next to the word Smart Sharpen and I will change the Mode to Luminosity and that will get rid of the color weirdnesses. But otherwise we just have an Opacity value. We don't have independent luminance blending control and if you are not sure what I am talking about, you will be in just a moment. But it ain't here inside the Smart Filter. I am going to cancel out. This is not doing me any good and I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+C, Ctrl+Alt+C a couple of times in a row.
That would be Command+Option+C twice in a row on the Mac. Here is the better way to work if your goal is to get rid of the clipped highlights and shadows. You want to press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J in order to jump that Background layer, which is no longer Smart Object as you can see. And I'll go ahead and call it Smart Sharpen because that's what its going to be and I'll click OK. Now with this independent layer available to us and you can see that my file size is going quite a bit down here in the lower left hand corner of the window that is a function of working with pixel based layers.
I am now going to go up to the Filter menu and choose that first command Smart Sharpen in order to repeat those settings and we are going to get exactly the same effect of course. Now I definitely want to change the blend mode right here from Normal to Luminosity to get rid of those aberrant colors and then I am going to double click on the thumbnail for the layer to bring up the Layer Style dialog box and I am going to direct your attention to these slider bars down here. Now you'll sometimes hear people refer to these as the Blend If Sliders, but they are not. Blend If refers to this popup menu right here and that's it.
I call these the Luminance Blending sliders because they give you selective control over the luminance levels inside of the active layer and the composite view of the layers below. So what I want to do is I want to drop out these highlights and I can do that by dragging this white slider triangle over to the left. And notice if I drag it to 230, I am saying anything with a luminance level of 230 or higher becomes invisible, anything 230 or darker remains visible. Now I am going to zoom in here, so you can see what a cruddy mess this has become, we have all of these jagged transitions.
Normally, what you can do is you can Alt+drag or Option+drag the two halves of this triangle apart from each other and that creates a smooth transition between the invisible pixels and the visible pixels. And if this is news to you, check out the first chapter in my Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques series and it goes into all kinds of detail about luminance blending. Its' a part of the lynda.com Online Training Library for those of you who are subscribers.
But in any case, this is not working for us, so for this specific image. Normally for another image, it might workout fine, but this image, it's not working at all. So lets just go ahead and take these guys and drag them back over to the right to make the whites visible once again. Instead, what I am going to do is I am going to Alt+drag or Option+drag the left half of this white slider triangle at the bottom in order to force through the more moderate highlights from the underlying background layer. So this looks a heck of lot better, you can see that I just got rid of my white.
So this is how the effect looked before with hot whites, this is how it looks now with the duller whites. That's actually- the duller whites- are a good thing; we don't want those highlights popping to that extent. So in this case, what I am saying is anywhere where the luminance levels on the background layer are 135 or darker, let them be covered up by Smart Sharpen. Anywhere where they are 135 or lighter, they are going to gradually force through the Smart Sharpen layer. So we are going to be able to see those highlights as we are seeing them right now. Now lets move the image over a little bit so that we can go ahead and get rid of some of the shadows and I am doing this by dragging the black slider triangle over to the right.
I don't want to go too far with it. I'll take it to about 30, lets say, so a luminance level of 30 or darker is becoming invisible at this point. You can see a bunch of jagged transitions right here around the hairs. So I'll go ahead and Alt+drag or Option+drag the right half of this triangle over to the right and I might actually drag this guy down over to the left a little bit as well so that we have nice group of transitional pixels between 16 and 60 here. If that's not enough for you, you could also force through a few of the original colors using the Underlying Layer slider.
In my case, though, I am going to just move it over a little like so to 20 and then I am going to Alt+drag or Option+drag the left half of that black triangle back over to zero. I end up getting some moderate values instead of those clipped highlights and shadows this time around, so it looks much better than before. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and then finally what I am going to do, because this effect is little bit over the top. It's much more severe, it's a much more severe sharpening affect than what we created using High Pass. So I am going to press the 5 key in order to back off the opacity to 50%.
So this is what the image looked like before we sharpened it and this is what it looks like after we have sharpened it. So basically what we are doing is we are focusing in on the midtones; we are just sharpening the midtones. You know what, I am going to take that Opacity value up to 70% so that I can make sure that you see the effect inside the video. So once again, this is before; the unsharpened image that is to say and this is the sharpened version of the image with Smart Sharpen honed in on those midtones inside the image and thereby, we are avoiding clipping the highlights and the shadows.
In the next exercise, we are going to take a look at how we can apply our sharpening selectively using an Edge Mask. Stay tuned.
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