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Since the beginning of the photographic art form, photographers have been searching for clearer and sharper images. Now, you don't have to settle for what was captured in camera; you can perfect your photos in post-production. In this course, Chris Orwig tackles sharpening in three programs: Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, and Photoshop. They all have their strengths, so he shows you how to get the best results from specific sharpening challenges with each one. Chris shows you how to reduce noise and sharpen with sliders and make selective adjustments to certain areas of raw images. In Photoshop, he uses powerful filters like Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen to sharpen larger areas of pictures, and masking to paint in sharpening. Last, he shares two advanced techniques, one using high pass sharpening and another that limits sharpening to the edges of your images.
One of the things that I've discovered myself when I'm trying to learn something new is that it's one thing to understand how a slider or control works, and it's something completely different to apply what you've learned to different scenarios. Well, this movie is all about the application. Here in this movie, we'll work with a RAW file as it appears straight out of the camera. And we'll go through a bit of a workflow beginning in the Basic panel, making a few simple adjustments. Then we'll jump to the Detail panel, in order to improve the sharpness, and also to reduce the noise.
All right, well let's begin by opening up the Basic panel. Here we'll click on the Basic panel tab, and this image doesn't need a lot of work. So we'll keep things simple here. Start off by increasing the exposure a little bit. I'll also bring up a touch of contrast. In doing that it seems like the brightest tones in the image, the highlights on the face and the flowers are too bright, so I want to drop down my highlights, and that will help us to have a little bit more of an even tonality in the photograph.
And then next I'm going to go back and decrease my contrast a little bit more there as well. And then what I want to do is add a bit of clarity, which will add just some nice mid-tone contrast, and then we'll increase our vibrance just a few points. Again, just some really simple adjustments. Not a ton that we need to do with this photograph. Well, after we've finished our workflow here in the Basic panel, we're now ready to work in the Detail panel. So let's collapse or close the Basic panel, and let's open up the Detail panel and apply what we've learned.
Now one of the first things we learned is that we need to zoom into 100%. There are a couple ways we can do that. One way is to click on the one to one view in the Navigator panel. Another technique is to click on the warning indicator icon here in the Detail panel. Well, either way, let's zoom into 100% and take a look at what we have here in regards to the details in this photograph. Well, one of the things that I notice with the details is that there's quite a bit of sort of grain or luminance noise in the image.
I'm also seeing some color noise. If we're to zoom in close, let me do that just for demo purposes here, when I try four to one what we'll see is that the color noise is showing up on the skin, on the background. It's kind of everywhere. Well we can deal with that. So let's go back to our one to one view here so that we can evaluate this image. I should also point out that this is a photograph of one of my friends, Emily, on her big day, her wedding day with her flower girl. And Emily has the bluest eyes.
Can you believe that? I mean they're absolutely amazing. I think they're even bluer in real life. Well anyway with this image because I'm seeing some of the noise or the structure issue I want to target that first. So the best way to do that is to make sure you can see some important content, skin tone and background in this case. Then let's increase our luminance amount until that luminance noise or the artifacts that we have there, really just disappear. As we start to get rid of that, it's hard to tell how high to go because I'm seeing some of the color blotchiness.
So I'm going to drop down to my color slider and bring that up. It looks like we don't need to add a lot of color noise reduction. Really, really not that far at all. Now I can then go back to my luminance slider here, and just make sure I've found just the right spot. You know, sometimes you want to be careful not to go too high with luminance, because it will smooth out the photograph. Yet if it's a portrait of two beautiful people like this image here, you kind of want to cheat this up little bit higher. Because it can add a really nice, smooth, soft, kind of glow look to the overall image.
Now we don't want the image to go soft or kind of smudgy. So we're not going to take this too high. But I am going to bring it up a little bit higher than I typically would. Say if it was a photograph of her groom, I wouldn't quite bring this to this level. I would drop it down so the image was a little bit tougher. Alright, well what about the detail slider? With the detail slider I'm going to drop this down. I want less details that are noticeable, less luminance details. For the contrast slider, what I've noticed in my own workflow is that the contrast slider is a bit of a tag-along to the luminance slider.
The higher the luminance, well I noticed that contrast kind of tags along and sort of sneaks up there. It doesn't ever really surpass it or go past that but it does tend to gravitate towards that area. This isn't always true but it's just the way that I've tended to see how that works. Alright, well now that we've worked on the noise reduction, the image looks a little bit too soft. We need to bring back a bit of the snap to the photograph. To do that, let's go up to our sharpening controls. The first thing that we need to do isn't start at the top.
Rather we need to go down to the detail slider. Remember when you have a portrait typically you're detail amount will be really low, maybe somewhere between zero and ten. With this image I'm going to drop it all the way down to zero to just get rid of the sharpening that's applied to the little teeny details. I don't want to bring out any of those. Next, we'll bring up our sharpening amount. With the sharpening slider I like to think of sort of sneaking this over to the right. You know, we aren't interested in sharpening the photograph to over-exaggerate the sharpening.
Rather, we want it to look clean, crisp, and natural because this is input sharpening. This is the first stage of the sharpening that we're applying. We're taking a RAW file, in a sense I think we're bringing that RAW file to a happier place. All right, well what about radius? Well, very rarely will you need to modify this. This is a high resolution file with a really high end camera, so a radius of about one, I think, works well. We could try to bring it up, but then what tends to happen is the edges just glow too much.
With this photograph we won't want to go too high, but maybe a little bit higher would look good. Now what about masking? Now some people tend to think, well just crank your masking all the way up. That will limit the sharpening from the areas that you don't want it. But what we have to do is be a little bit more intelligent than that and say let's use the shortcut modifier key. Hold down the Option on Mac, Alt on Windows, and let's click and drag this to the right. As we drag this to the right we can see that the area which is black won't be sharpened, the area that's white will.
Now if we go too far with this, what it will do is apply edge sharpening. In a sense it will make the image look edgier. Now that's a little of a bad comparison but in a sense it does. This works well if you're photographing a football player or maybe if you're photographing a building. With this image, we probably want to have a bit more of a natural transition from that area which is sharp to the areas which aren't. Now this again isn't always the case, but what I want you to start to think about is, how can you apply this amount? And really think about the look and the feeling that you want in the photograph.
And, how can you use these controls to try to accomplish that? Now after you've done all of that work with the sliders, one of the most important steps to integrate into your workflow is to click on the Before and After view, by clicking the toggle or flip switch right here. This shows us the image without any of these controls applied. You want to look at the image in some important areas, say like the background, the hair, the skin tone, and the face. And then click on the toggle switch again. And you want to make sure that you've actually improved the image.
You know, sometimes I'll click on that switch, and realize that the photograph looks worse, because I've gone too high with my sharpening, or maybe too high with my luminance noise reduction. With this image I think it looks really good and natural. It doesn't look overdone, yet what I do notice here is that I think that I could actually go a little bit higher with my amount. I think I was a little bit too cautious with that. Probably because I, I'm just cautious of over-sharpening photographs, which is a good thing, but I think I didn't go quite far enough, and I only was able to realize that realistically, you know, because I clicked on the flip switch.
So again in your own workflow make sure you take that final step. After you've done that what you also want to do is zoom out. So here, I'll go back to my navigator, and just click on this fit in view so I can see the entire image. Why is zooming out important? Well it's important because sometimes you can focus in on one little area of the image and neglect another area which is equally as important. With this photograph there really isn't another area. The bride, it's her day, that's the most important part of the photograph.
I'm want to make sure she looks her best. Yet, occasionally I'll zoom out on a photograph and realize, oh, man, I need to, I need to go check out this other area. So if ever you notice that, just zoom in on that area and then evaluate it and make any needed tweaks to those adjustments so that the whole photograph looks its best.
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