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Clarity and sharpening

From: Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

Video: Clarity and sharpening

As photographers, we all strive for detail in our images. To that end, we buy more expensive lenses, we worry about depth of field, also that every tiny bit of texture in a scene can be visible. To help in this detailed mania, Camera Raw includes a couple of handy tools. Now, you've seen how contrast affects saturation, but what you may not have noticed yet is that contrast also affects the apparent sharpness in your image. I want to return to the Badwater image now to give you a demonstration of what I'm talking about.

Clarity and sharpening

As photographers, we all strive for detail in our images. To that end, we buy more expensive lenses, we worry about depth of field, also that every tiny bit of texture in a scene can be visible. To help in this detailed mania, Camera Raw includes a couple of handy tools. Now, you've seen how contrast affects saturation, but what you may not have noticed yet is that contrast also affects the apparent sharpness in your image. I want to return to the Badwater image now to give you a demonstration of what I'm talking about.

I'm going to zoom in a little bit here, and previously, we did a contrast adjustment to this image. I'm going to turn it off now, basically. I'm going to put the Blacks back out to here. So my black point has moved back out here, the image is now lower contrast, and it appears that there is less detail in there. These areas are little more washed out. I don't see as much detail. When I start dragging the Blacks slider back in, I do see detail. So, why does contrast lead to more detail? An edge in an image is always composed of a light pixel next to a dark pixel.

So, this mountain range here, which now that I zoom in on it, I see is suffering maybe for a little chromatic aberration that I want to correct, this edge here is a light pixel followed by a dark pixel, side-by-side. So that contrast makes for the appearance of that edge. Texture is the same way. The more variation in pixel color I have, the more texture I see, the more detail. So, when I increase contrast, I'm increasing the apparent shift from this light pixel to this dark pixel, and that's making that texture appear more pronounced.

Do this over the entire image, and I can get a pretty radical change in the appearance of texture in my image. With that in mind, it's important to keep an eye on overall texture when you're adjusting contrast. If you take your contrast too far, in addition to the image possibly becoming too lighter or too dark, it could actually become too texture-y. You may think, well, how could there be too much texture? I thought the idea was to get as much detail on an image as possible. Not always. Because sometimes texture can be a little bit overwhelming to the eye. It can make the image too busy or too noisy somehow, not noisy in the camera noise sense, but just too much for the eye to deal with.

So, I'm going to back off of that edit that we made. If you notice down here, the Cancel button, which we've talked about before, if I hold down the Option key, it turns into a Reset button. Click that and my image settings go back to where they were when I opened the file, not to where they were originally when it came out of the camera - for that, I can use the Default button - but back to where they were when I last saved the image. If you're working with a RAW file, your images will come out of the camera looking a little bit soft. This is an unfortunate necessity of digital image sensors, and it happens for all RAW-capable cameras, no matter how good your lens is, no matter how expensive your camera was.

It has to do with the method that a camera uses to capture color. Fortunately, the softening can be easily corrected through software, and your camera does this when you shoot in JPEG mode. But when you're working with a RAW file, it will be up to you to add a sharpening step to your workflow. Camera Raw includes some sharpening tools, but we are not going to use them. The sharpening should always be performed as the last step in your workflow, and we'll learn more about why later, when we'll talk about sharpening in the output chapter. Camera Raw is not the last step for us.

We're going to be going on into Photoshop and doing a lot more editing. So, we don't want to apply any sharpening on. However, when you sharpen, you often increase the amount of contrast in your image, because as we've seen, more contrast means more detail. So, sharpening by adding more detail often leads to increased contrast. Consequently, it can be difficult to know if you've got the contrast set properly in your image. You might go do a lot of work refining your contrast in your image, then apply some sharpening and find that you get more contrast, maybe more than you want. So, Camera Raw does allow you to see a preview of your sharpening without actually applying any effects.

This can be a good way of assessing whether you've got the sharpness right in your image. Now, by default, Camera Raw does apply sharpening, and it's been doing that for your images all along. But we haven't actually opened any into Photoshop yet and done anything. So, we haven't already applied some sharpening to our images. I'm here in Camera Raw's Preferences, which you get to by clicking this Preferences button right here. You'll notice in the General section there is an Apply sharpening to pop-up menu. I'm going to change that from All images to Preview images only. This means that Camera Raw will not actually apply any sharpening to the image, but it will show me sharpening onscreen when I'm in Camera Raw, as controlled by these settings over here.

So, in other words, I can have Camera Raw kind of throw in a simulation of what my final sharpening might be, to give me a better sense of whether I've got the contrast that I want in my final image. But when I open the image in Photoshop, there won't be any of the sharpening applied. That's fine! We're going to be talk about sharpening in great detail later in the Output chapter. After we do that, you'll have a better understanding of what these sliders are. Simply put, just fiddle with the balance of these until you get a little bit of sharpening that you like. You may think, well, I want my image to be as sharp as possible, so I'm going to drag this all the way over here. As you can see, there is such a thing as too much sharpening.

We'll understand why that is when we get to the Sharpening section. For now, apply a little bit of light sharpening in Preview Only mode, and we'll learn about real sharpening in the Output chapter.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography
Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography

59 video lessons · 22406 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 14s
    1. Welcome
      1m 44s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 30s
  2. 46m 35s
    1. Defining landscape photography
      2m 23s
    2. Considering cameras and gear
      10m 41s
    3. Shooting and composition tips
      6m 39s
    4. Why you should shoot raw instead of JPEG
      4m 25s
    5. Making selects
      10m 42s
    6. Understanding the histogram
      6m 53s
    7. A little color theory
      4m 52s
  3. 1h 14m
    1. Opening an image
      4m 42s
    2. Cropping and straightening
      9m 56s
    3. Nondestructive editing
      6m 23s
    4. Spotting and cleanup
      3m 53s
    5. Cleaning the camera sensor
      11m 17s
    6. Lens correction
      6m 26s
    7. Correcting overexposed highlights
      7m 29s
    8. Basic tonal correction
      5m 45s
    9. Correcting blacks
      11m 54s
    10. Correcting white balance
      6m 35s
  4. 21m 34s
    1. Performing localized edits with the Gradient Filter tool
      7m 24s
    2. Performing localized edits with the Adjustment brush
      7m 54s
    3. Controlling brush and gradient edits
      6m 16s
  5. 16m 34s
    1. Working with noise reduction
      5m 33s
    2. Clarity and sharpening
      5m 23s
    3. Exiting Camera Raw
      5m 38s
  6. 58m 5s
    1. Retouching
      8m 23s
    2. Using Levels adjustment layers
      10m 59s
    3. Saving images with adjustment layers
      4m 18s
    4. Advanced Levels adjustment layers
      9m 36s
    5. Guiding the viewer's eye with Levels
      8m 48s
    6. Using gradient masks for multiple adjustments
      5m 32s
    7. Correcting color in JPEG images
      3m 15s
    8. Adding a vignette
      3m 25s
    9. Knowing when edits have gone too far
      3m 49s
  7. 33m 24s
    1. Preparing to stitch
      5m 59s
    2. Stitching
      7m 39s
    3. Panoramic touchup
      7m 17s
    4. Shooting a panorama
      4m 58s
    5. Stitching a panorama
      7m 31s
  8. 27m 18s
    1. Shooting an HDR Image
      7m 53s
    2. Merging with HDR Pro
      11m 52s
    3. Adjusting and retouching
      7m 33s
  9. 24m 4s
    1. Why use black and white for images?
      2m 26s
    2. Black-and-white conversion
      7m 13s
    3. Correcting tone in black-and-white images
      7m 38s
    4. Adding highlights to black-and-white images
      6m 47s
  10. 49m 32s
    1. Painting light and shadow pt. 1
      11m 22s
    2. Painting light and shadow pt. 2
      12m 42s
    3. Painting light and shadow pt. 3
      9m 19s
    4. HDR + LDR
      5m 7s
    5. Reviewing sample images for inspiration
      11m 2s
  11. 48m 2s
    1. Sizing
      9m 8s
    2. Enlarging and reducing
      5m 3s
    3. Saving
      1m 24s
    4. Sharpening
      8m 23s
    5. Outputting an electronic file
      9m 4s
    6. Making a web gallery
      4m 17s
    7. Printing
      10m 43s
  12. 20s
    1. Goodbye
      20s

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