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It seems we tend to think of sharpening as first and foremost a way to compensate for softness in an image. And that's certainly one of the biggest reasons to apply sharpening. However, sharpening can also be used as a creative effect, as you'll see in this lesson. This particular image was photographed from a pier, looking down on the waves swirling around the rocks, at around sunset. I love the energy and drama of the image, which is largely owing to the fact that there's some motion blur. If you wanted to eccentuate that effect, the first thing that crosses your mind might very well be to add more blur to the image. But actually, the opposite can be a great effect.
Instead of adding more blur, I'm going to add sharpness. Now I'm not exactly going to try to remove the effect of the blur, rather, I'm going to extenuate that blur with a dramatic effect of sharpening. Because I'm adding this as a creative effect, I want to retain a bit of flexibility and I also want to be able to preserve my original pixel values. So I'm going to apply this effect as a smart filter. I'll start off by choosing Filter, Convert for Smart Filters from the menu.
And then click OK so that my background image layer is converted to a Smart Object. This will cause any filters I apply, to then be applied as a Smart Filter. I'll go ahead and choose Filter, Sharpen, and then Smart Sharpen, to bring up the Smart Sharpen dialog. I'll click on the area of the image that I want to focus my attention on, an area that shows good motion in this particular case, and then I can adjust my sharpening settings. In this particular case I want a very strong amount, I will use a high value for amount in order to create a more dramatic result and I'm also going to use a relatively high radius setting. I really want to accentuate the motion in the waves by adding Sharpening Halos. Those Sharpening Halos are usually something we try to avoid, but in this case I actually want to add them to the image.
I want to add a very dramatic effect. Now, of course, I don't want to go too far, so I'll mitigate this just a little bit, reduce my radius setting a little, and maybe tone down the amount just a little bit. And I'll click on my Preview so I can get a sense of the before and after. And also click around various areas of the image to get a better sense of that final effect. And that's looking pretty good. And I really like the way it's just adding to the drama of the scene, so I'll go ahead and click OK. In order to apply that Smart Sharpen filter.
And of'course, because I applied Smart Sharpen as a Smart Object, I can always go back and Refine the results as needed. But at this point, I think the sharpening effect is good, so I might continue adding adjustment layers, for example, to finalize the appearance of my image. This is an example of a situation where I use sharpening as more of a creative effect than a corrective effect. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is just many adjustments and effects within Photoshop tend to be thought of as having only a single purpose.
And yet, with a bit of creative thinking, many of these tools can produce a great and possibly even unexpected result in an image.
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