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Photoshop is one of the world’s most powerful image editors, and it can be daunting to try to use skillfully. Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, 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 CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise, I'm going to give you a sense of how sharpening works inside of Photoshop. I'm working inside this image called Orange on blue.jpg found inside the 14_ sharpen folder, if you've access to it. This image comes to us from photographer Andrea Gingerich of iStockphoto.com. Let's learn how to sharpen. Something that's really important to note here is that this image is a little bit soft in terms of its focus quality, especially when we were zoomed in. But it is by no means blurry, it is ultimately a focused photograph, and that's very important, you've to have your photos in focus in order to sharpen them inside a Photoshop, because Photoshop what? Cannot make up detail. It can't make up detail when it's upsampling an image. It can't make up detail when it's sharpening the image.
So we are not really sharpening the focus of the image, we are essentially sharpening the detail inside the image, or at least creating the effect of enhanced detail. So how do we go about doing that, and what does it look like? Well, I'm going to go up to the Filter menu. In the Filter menu by the way is this big hotchpotch of more than a hundred different completely unrelated commands, but those filters that are good, tend to be edged detection filters and there is a variety of them that can look for edges inside of an image, and what's an edge? An edge, where a photographic image is concerned, is an area of rapid contrast between neighboring pixels, and we'll see what that looks like over the span of these many exercises inside of this chapter.
But anyway, the last filter I chose was the Sharpen Filter and I'm just going to apply it again. I'll tell you about it in the next exercise along with some of the other sharpness, filters inside the software. So, I'll go ahead and choose that command, and notice what just happened, the image appears to have become more sharply focused. This is before, and this is after, and I'm doing the before, after just by pressing Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. I am going to zoom in another click for you all here, so that we can see it in better detail, here's before and here's after.
After is more of a high impact snake, and what's really happening though, how is it working this mysterious magic, how is Photoshop doing it? I'm going to zoom in even farther. Well, it's looking at the edges as I said inside of the image, the areas of rapid contrast, and it's enhancing that contrast. So this is before, this is the prior to sharpening the snake; this is the unsharpened snake, and you'll see for example, around the eye is a good example of an area of rapid contrast. So this would qualify as a nice edge inside of this image, and notice right here along the inside of the eye gets dark, and then it starts lightning up as we go farther in. On the outside of the eye it's lighter.
All right, so if I were to apply sharpening, I'll go ahead and re-apply by pressing Ctrl+Z, Command+Z again. You can see what it's done is it's made this dark edge even darker, and it's made this light edge even lighter. So basically traces halos around the edges, so it's kind of carving a little bit of a line drawing on top of the original image in order to create the effect of sharpness. So it's not just increasing the contrast of the image, this is important; it's not just increasing the overall contrast. It's increasing the contrast specifically along the edges. So it finds an edge, increase its contrast of that edge, and we are going to learn more about how that works in subsequent exercises.
But I just want you to know the primary thing that I want you to walk away from this exercise is that you have to start with a focused image in the first place, and then you sharpen it inside of Photoshop in order to create the effect of enhanced detail. And as I say, we'll see exactly which commands you apply, and which ones are good and which ones are bad, and so on, and how you used the good ones in the following exercises.
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