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Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, updated for CS5, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
In this exercise I will introduce you to how sharpening works inside of Photoshop. I also want you to have a sense of what sharpening can and can't do. Despite the fact that sharpening is the foremost filtering effect inside of Photoshop so much so by the way that if you go to the Filter menu and choose Sharpen, you will see a total of five commands available in this submenu and that's not quite everything. There are a couple of other sharpening features that we will see as well. So Photoshop is throwing a lot of commands at the task of sharpening and Photoshop is an exceedingly powerful program, but the one thing you have to remember about Photoshop is that it cannot generate detail where no detail exists.
So, for example, just as when you re- sample an image that is you increase the number of pixels or decrease the number of pixels, you are not going to suddenly add clarity. Those new pixels if you up sample the image are merely transitional pixels. They are not making up new detail that was there in that original scene, but the camera has somehow did not pick up and the same goes for sharpness of focus. Ultimately, that is an optical effect; focus is captured by the camera as you shoot the image after that you can't generate new focus.
So here I am working inside this image called Macro butterfly.jpg. It's found inside the 15_sharpen folder and I am going to press Ctrl+1 or Command+1 on a Mac to go ahead and zoom the image to 100% so that we are devoting one screen pixel to every image pixel. Now I shot this image using an Olympus E-30 and if you are ever curious about what kind of lens for example was used to capture an image and it was captured with a digital SLR, then you can go up to the File menu and you can choose the File Info command or press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+I, Command+Shift+Option+I on a Mac and then switch from the Description panel to Camera Data right there.
This is exif data that was captured by the camera at the moment the image was shot. So you can see that sure enough the Make is Olympus, the model is E-30. If we dropdown here you can see that I was using a 14.0-54.0 mm lens which was the stock lens that shipped along with a camera. Notice the Focal Length is 54.0 mm. So, if you will, I will zoom all the way and I will go ahead and cancel out of this dialog box here. As a result we have a very shallow plane of focus. That is to say, because this is a macro image.
We have probably got a few millimeters of information of depth that is to say, that's in focus. Everything else is drifting out of focus. So this butterfly's eye is in focus, its proboscis, its curlicue right here is in focus. This knee right here of its leg is in focus, this rear leg though is completely out of focus, and there is no way I am going to change that. I am not going to bring the out of focus details into focus no matter how hard I try unless I go in there and hand-generate detail.
Over the years I have received so many heartbreaking photos from folks. Once in a lifetime photos that are blurry, they ask me how do I bring out the detail and the answer is, I am afraid you can't. You have to shoot the image in focus in the first place in order to sharpen in effectively inside of Photoshop. That said, if you are working with an image with good focus you can make that detail absolutely tactile onscreen you can make it leap off the page using sharpening. So let's see how that works. I will go up to the Filter menu, I will choose Sharpen and I am going to choose this command here without going into detail about how this command works.
We will see that in future exercises. If you loaded Deke keys you have got a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F6 that brings up this big dialog box here. I will go ahead and drag the head of the butterfly over a little bit inside this in-dialog box preview. Here are my default settings that is an Amount of 100%, Radius 1.0 Remove set to Gaussian Blur, More Accurate turned off. It's very important for now. I am going to go ahead and maximize this amount value, so that we get as much sharpening as possible from this filter.
Now this more sharpening than we need. We are actually over-sharpening the image for the sake of demonstration. Notice if I click-and-hold inside of this preview here, I will see the before version of the butterfly, as soon as I release this I see the after version. So you can see the difference we are making. I will go ahead and click OK in order to accept that effect, and just to make sure that the effects of the Smart Sharpen filter survive the transition of video I am going to go ahead and zoom this image in here to 200%. This is the before version of the butterfly and this is the after version.
What Photoshop is doing where sharpening is concerned is it's exaggerating edge contrast. So an edge is an area of rapid luminance transition inside of the image. For example, right here we have got an edge. We go from bright pixels in the background to very dark pixels inside of the leg extremely rapidly just over the course of a few pixels here. What Photoshop does when we apply a sharpening filter it goes ahead and takes the light side of the edge and makes it slightly lighter and it takes the dark side of the edge and makes it slightly darker.
So it's actually tracing tiny lines as we will see in a future exercise. What that does is, it make our eyes lock on to that feature, because we are trained as human beings to read areas of rapid luminance transition as sharp edges. Now notice what happens to sharply focus details like this leg here. It appears more tactile, more articulated than ever versus what happens to areas that are not in focus like this rear leg. That doesn't really look any better than it did before.
So this is the before version of the image, this is the after version. Really all we are doing in the areas of low focus is we are bringing out noise and noise of course is random luminance variations between neighboring pixels. So anywhere where you have good detail, you get more articulated detail more tactile detail, if you will. Anywhere where you have low detail, you get more noise and that's what's going on with sharpening inside Photoshop.
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