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Photoshop CS4 for Photographers is an essential course for any digital photographer who wants to master the software's vast array of image enhancement techniques. Professional photographer and instructor Chris Orwig uses his own compelling images to demonstrate how the power of Photoshop can make photographers more passionate about their work. He covers many aspects of the application, such as working with RAW images, using curves and levels, making images snap, and enhancing bland photographs by converting them to black and white. Exercise files accompany this course.
Select the file corwig_wolf_kids and then double-click it open it in Photoshop. We have this nice portrait of these three sisters. What I want to do is I want to sharpen this image. I want to sharpen this with a technique that's called High Pass. So let's go ahead and Ctrl- click or Right-click on the Background layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. Next we are going to navigate to our Filter pulldown menu, Other and then choose good old High Pass. Now you probably haven't gone here before. So I want to deconstruct a little bit what's happening. I'm going to zoom-in on my image. So I'll go ahead and press Command+ on the Mac, Ctrl+ on a PC and then press the Spacebar to reposition the image. So we can actually see what we have here and then I'll reposition this dialog as well so we can see another view.
All right. Well I have my radius amount. How does that work? When I take this all the way off, I'm just seeing gray. But when I bring it up, I'm starting to see these little edges and what's that about and if I increase it more and more, I'm starting to see more and more of the image until I see almost just the image itself. Well, let's bring it back to on to one of these locations here. When you sharpen an image, what you are actually doing? You are taking an edge and you are saying, hey, this edge has a highlight and a shadow. Let's make the shadow stronger and the highlight stronger. That will then create the illusion of sharpness. So we are going to tap into that. We are going to use this filter in order to darken or brighten edges, in order to add this real interesting sharpening effect.
Now keep in mind that this sharpening effect works on a wide range of photographs. All right, well what I want to do here, is I want to look to find a radius that has just some of the most important details. Now that looks pretty good. I don't want to crank it up too far where I'm seeing a lot of detail on the face. That's not going to be a good thing because then I'm going to have a problem. But I'm just looking to find the spot where the radius amount shows me some nice edge detail. Now each image is going to be different because it will be contingent upon the resolution. Meaning if this were a higher res file, your radius would be higher. But it doesn't really matter what your radius is, more importantly matters what the image looks like. So again, we are looking for those edges there. Now I'm going to increase this just a bit more in order to talk about how we can modify this further. I'll click OK to apply that.
All right, well so far so good. I'm not seeing much. It doesn't look very good. I then need to double-click this icon here and take my blend mode to either Soft Light or Overlay. Now when I take that blend mode to Soft Light or Overlay, what I'm starting to see is that I now have the sharpening effect. How do you compare the two? Well think of Overlay as more intense sharpening and then Soft Light is a little bit less sharpening. We will click OK to apply that and then move around the image a bit so we can see what's actually happening. So here is our before and then after and again, I'm going to zoom-in even further. I think you will be able to see some nice detail on the hair here.
Here is our before and then after. All right, well that looks pretty nice. Let's double-click the icon for the blend modes here and change this to a blend mode of Overlay. What you should see is that the sharpening the hair is that much more strong. So again, we go from Soft Light, pretty subtle, Overlay, a little bit more intense. Click OK to apply that. Well the nice thing about now having applied our blend mode is we can also then double-click the word High Pass, which will open up this dialog. Now we are not seeing that gray overview. We are seeing the image itself, right and here I can then increase the radius.
So I'm going to go ahead and increase the radius really significantly and I can see my sharpening before and after. And let's say that what I'm noticing here is I really like what's happening with the hair. I don't like what's happening with the background. I also don't like what's happening with the skin. Now that's just a little bit too high, but I leave it pretty high, so we can see how we can modify this. We will click OK. Well you can modify this in any number of different ways. One way, click in the mask, grab your Brush tool and I'll go ahead and paint with black and I'm just going to mask out the sharpening from these areas. So I'll go ahead and paint through that and I'll mask the sharpening out from the skin. And again, just a real quick job here in regards to masking and I'm using my mouse. I'm not using the Wacom tablet here.
If I were wanting to get into the details, I would need to reach for that. You know what, maybe I should here just to get the pressure sensitivity, this looking good. A little bit better the brush strokes, smaller brush. There, make sure I'm getting rid of the skin, everything. Here is my before and after. So again, we are getting that real nice sharpening around the edges. Now how do we determine if this is a good sharpening? We will double-click the Zoom tool and then look at our before and after. So here is our before and then our after. Now when I look at the before and after, I say you know what, I like that just a little bit too high for me. It's a little bit too snappy. Now when an image is over sharpened, that's a problem.
So I'm going to zoom in on this file and I'm going to click on my mask and one of the most common problem areas here is eyes because we have this bright contrast here, whites and black. So I'm going to go ahead and paint with black on those areas to remove some of the sharpening around the edge of the eye. I also want to pay attention to the edges like around the chin here. I don't need that to be that sharp and I'm going to go ahead and modify these eyes here, just paint in away some of the sharpening to those areas. Do the same thing over here. That jaw line doesn't need to be quite as sharp. Paint away some of the sharpening around the eyes and that looks pretty good. I'll then zoom out. Take a look at my before and after now. Here is my before and then after and just couple more steps here.
Next thing I want to do is click on this option to change my blending and I lower the Opacity of the effect, right. Here I can modify this till I find that sweet spot. Now keep in mind a lot of times what I would like to do is I like to apply a filter or an effect so that it's pretty high. So that when I'm revising, I can really see my edges and then I almost always back it off. Now there are other people who say, Chris, that's a waste of time. I want to get it right from the get go and I'm going to apply a little bit less amount and I'm going to work with that less amount. And if that works for you, great.
I just want to show you my workflow and I tend to do that because it helps me find blemishes a little bit more easily. And then I can sweetened up by finding the Opacity sweet spot there. Click OK to apply that and then look at my before and after. All right, well that works really good. Last thing I want to do with this image is zoom out, click on the background here, grab one of my Selection tools, right-click select. Now I want to try to make a pretty rough quick selection. In this case, it selected some of the hair. So hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt key on a PC to deselect that. And what I'm interested in doing here is making a selection that I can then mask off. Of course, I could make that selection and then I could go into my mask and in my mask, I'm going to grab my Brush tool or I could use one of my fill shortcuts and I'm just going to paint that away.
The reason I want to make a selection is because it will help me get to those areas a little bit more quickly. Now, you don't want to make a selection? No big deal, but you do definitely want to paint away this area that's out of focus. Do we need to sharpen the noise or the pixels in the background here? No, not at all. There are also maybe some other areas that we want to unsharpen or limit the sharpening to. In this case, that garment down here, the arms, I need those to be very sharp. One of the things you can do in regards to sharpening your files is try to sharpen the areas that are more important.
That will then direct the viewers eyes to those areas and I'll go ahead and double-click the Zoom tool to zoom-in just a bit here and now we can see our before and after. I'll zoom in ever further so we can see that. I know these movies get a little smaller, here is our before and after. Hey, that looks pretty nice before and then after. Some really nice sharpening. We have a ton of flexibility. Now keep in mind that this sharpening technique works really well across a wide range of images. So what sharpening technique is best? Well, it really depends on the photograph. It also depends on the type of effect that you want to create.
So my intent in this chapter is to show you a few different types of sharpening. What you will need to do is experiment with those different types of sharpening on different types of images and do keep this in mind for me. Do this for me. There isn't one perfect way to sharpen. One of the things that happens to my students is that they learn high pass sharpening. That's all they will do. Everything is high pass sharpening. Well there are pros and cons using high pass as there are to the other sharpening techniques. Really, it's more about knowing the different types of sharpening and then trying those out, applying them on your images and seeing what works best.
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