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Real focus happens inside the camera's lens element. The sharpening features in Photoshop CS3 exaggerate the contrast along edges in a photograph to transform a well-focused image into an outstanding image. In Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images, Deke McClelland teaches a host of sharpening and noise reduction techniques, including using filters such as Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, High Pass, and Reduce Noise. The training teaches the essentials of sharpening, including what it does, why it's important, and how the filters function. Plus, the training covers Deke's recommended best practices, including the four distinct varieties of sharpening, which can be used independently or in combination with each other. Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images is about how to transform images from looking good to looking their absolute best. Exercise files accompany the course.
We now return to the original question posed by this Chapter is, when do you sharpen? When in the editing cycle do you sharpen your image? What I hope I have made clear with this ad nauseam discussion of these various sharpening workflows is that that's a very difficult question to answer. There is no one answer to when you sharpen. You can sharpen at various stages in the editing cycle. In fact, I would go farther than that. I would say that the technique, the sharpening techniques, that are available to you are more important than the timing.
This is going to seem to some folks like a radical, even dangerous proposition, but let me explain what I am talking about here. Notice the title to this final slide of the Chapter, it says 'Technique Comes Before Timing', which is true, and if you want to open this image, it's called Technique Trumps Timing.PSD found inside the O2_when_to_sharpen folder. There are four broad categories of sharpening techniques that are available to you. Two of them are time specific, so you have to apply them at specific stages in the editing cycle.
Now once you come to terms with that, the other two you can apply at any time you like. So let's go ahead and review these four broad techniques here. The first one is pretty familiar, Sharpen for the Source. So either immediately after or as you open an image, in other words at the very outset of the editing cycle, you have the option of compensating for the noise and softness introduced by the capture device, whether that capture device is a scanner or a digital camera. So for example, if you are working with a RAW image from a digital camera, you would open it inside of say Adobe Camera RAW.
You would apply your sharpening settings along with a variety of color adjustments. Then you would send the image to Photoshop, most likely as a flat file. You could open the image as a Camera RAW Smart Object, but more often than not, you are just going to sharpen it and have it open as a flat file, which is entirely acceptable, a very acceptable way to work. The next technique that's available to us is Sharpen for Detail. Now the idea here is that different images contain different sorts of details, and you need to customize your sharpening to those details.
For example, if you are working with a portrait shot, like a close-up, it would be characterized by gradual, that is to say low frequency transitions, and that would require different attention than a wide shot of a city scape, for example, that comprises mostly rapid high frequency transitions. So those two extreme images would require very different sharpening treatments, and as long as you keep your sharpening treatments nondestructive, then you can apply them at any stage in the editing cycle, and even treat different layers differently if you like.
Next we have Sharpening for Effect. The idea here is that you should feel free to sharpen different portions of an image to heighten the impact or effect. Let's say you are working with a portrait shot. You might sharpen the eyes, and then you might smooth the skin contours, you might increase the contrast of the hair, and you might blur the background, all inside of a single image. On top are these other sharpening techniques that we have applied, and that again, as long as you keep it nondestructive, you can apply these changes at any stage in the editing cycle that you like.
Then finally Sharpening for Output. Again, this is the conventional workflow right here. It has to happen at the end. In fact, it has to happen in a very specific way at the end. Whether your image is bound for page or for screen, you will want to add a final pass of sharpening to account for the output. Be sure to flatten first, that's important. Then save the image under a different file name, presumably as an LZW compressed TIFF image. Resample it down, and then apply the sharpening pass; either before or after converting it to CMYK, if you are going to convert it to CMYK.
So this happens at the end of the cycle. So we have got four different techniques: one at the beginning, one at the end, and two in between, and this adds up to a multipass sharpening workflow, essentially. You might say well, altogether we could have four different passes of sharpening, but even more than that. Sharpening for Detail, you might do different passes, apply different passes to different layers, and Sharpening for Effect, you might apply different passes to different areas, different regions, inside of an image. So a single composition can contain seven or eight or upward of a dozen different sharpening passes, if you apply those passes with specific intentions, that you are trying to accomplish specific goals, and you apply those passes nondestructively.
So technique trumps timing. We will be looking at every single one of these techniques. I devote an entire Chapter to every one of these four techniques, but before we check out the techniques, we are going to check out our tools starting in the very next Chapter.
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