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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.
In this exercise I am going to show you how to make a non-edge mask that allows us to smooth away the noise inside the image and the other non-edges inside the image while leaving the edges more of less intact so that the Sharpen filter can operate upon them. Now I am working on a catch-up document and I am calling edge mask.PSD, if you are just joining me, you can open it inside the 04_Support_Stuff folder. Notice that it includes a Smart Object along with the Smart Sharpen Smart Filter that's mitigated by this Filter Mask right there.
A non-edge mask is in many ways the opposite of an edge mask. It allows us to select the non-edges inside the image. As you may recall, Smart Filters, a group of Smart Filters can only be modified by a single layer mask. So we can't actually add the Reduce Noise filter to the same Smart Object here and apply a different Mask to it. Instead what we have to do is, we have to create a nested Smart Object, the way we did for the buffalo image. So I am going to double-click on the model thumbnail right here in order to open her up as a standard static image.
Notice that it says Background layer right there. We are then going to turn around to convert this into a Smart Object. So we have a nested Smart Object to work with. To this end I will go ahead and bring up the Layers palette menu and I will choose Convert to Smart Object and I will go ahead and call this one Noise or something along those lines. Now I am going to approach this Smart Filter differently and its mask as well, before we assign the Smart Filter. Lets go ahead and load the red channel as a selection outline. So I am going to the Channels palette and I am going to Ctrl-click or Command-click on the Mac on the red channel right there, on the red channel thumbnail, in order to load it up as a selection outline.
Now I am going to return to the Layers palette and I am going to go up to the Filter menu, choose the Noise command, and I am going to choose this guy right here, Reduce Noise, and I am going to apply the same settings I applied to this image several exercises ago now, which are these settings right here: Strength of 8, Preserve Details set to 20%, Reduce Color Noise 45%, Sharpen Details 0%. And if you want to see how that effects that area of noise in her neck you can go ahead and drag down to that location. You will see that it smoothes it out very nicely and it does this by the way without ruining the detail inside the image, just ruins it over a little bit but not too much.
So I will go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and notice what happens, Photoshop goes ahead and assigns the Smart Filter and applies the selection outline as the filter mask in one operation and there it is right there. So that's kind of handy I think. Now lets go about modifying that mask and we are going to click on the mask in order select it and I am actually going to Alt-click or Option-click on the mask so we can view the mask by itself. Step number one is still that same step we applied with the edge mask. You want to go up to the Filter menu, choose the Noise command and then choose Median. I will say that some folks use Gaussian Blur at this state instead of Median but I find Median to be the better filter for smoothing over digital noise.
So I am going to go ahead and choose the Median command and I am going to apply that same Radius value that I applied in the previous exercise, which is 10 pixels and then I am going to click OK. The second step is exactly the same as well. You go up to the Filter menu, you choose Stylize, and you choose Find Edges, which gives you those black edges against a white background. Now we want to select the non-edges inside the image and protect the edges. So we are not going to invert the mask this time around, we are going to leave it Not Inverted, but I am going to go ahead and increase the levels so that we have more contrast going on here.
I am going to go ahead and zoom in on her face a little bit so that we can see her neck as well and I am going to press Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac and I am going to drag this black triangle over to the right until it hits the beginning of the slope. Notice our Histogram is kind of the opposite of what we were seeing before, which figures because we didn't invert. So if we had inverted the image, this histogram would be flipped over to the left side of the dialog box. I am going to go ahead and move that black slider triangle over to the value of 210 there so that its hitting the beginning of the slope, but now that leaves sort of this topographical map effects behind on her cheeks and so on.
I am going to get rid of that topography by moving the white slider triangle over to the left, just a 10 luminance level, so that we get a value of 245 in the right hand position here and then I am going to click OK to accept that modification. Finally, notice we are not protecting much inside this image at this point and the reason that we are not protecting much is because as I was saying Reduce Noise function is a more subtle command than Smart Sharpen, so we don't need to protect that much information inside the file, just the most obvious edges.
But I do want to avoid having this sort of scalloped relief sort of effect going on here. So I am going to blur this mask. Actually let me zoom in to 50% so we can view this mask accurately. I am going to go to the Filter menu and I will choose Blur and Gaussian Blur, and I am going to go ahead and match the Median value this time, so I will enter a Radius value of 10 pixels and I will click OK in order to accept that modification and now lets see what we have done here. I will Alt-click or Option-click on that Filter Mask in order to check out the full-colored version of the image.
Lets go ahead and zoom in on her eyes so that we can see them very closely here. So if I was to turn off the Mask, which I will do by Shift-clicking on it. So Shift-clicking on a filter mask turns it off, puts a big X to it as you can see there. So this is the smooth version of the eye and then I will Shift-click again to reveal the protected version of the eye. So it's not that much difference. In fact, you would have to have a very keen eye indeed in order to see that difference, but while you can't see it very much, Photoshop can and it is going to make it difference in terms of the sharpening operation.
Alright. So that's the non-edge mask and we have used non-edge mask to mitigate to a slight extent the Reduce Noise filter. We are now done working with the nested Smart Object. I am going to go up to the File menu and choose the Close command. Photoshop is going to ask me if I want to save my changes. Yes, I do, that will save my changes into the larger composition, which is that edge mask.PSD composition as you may recall, and here it is, edge mask.PSD. We can see the original model Smart Object with the Smart Sharpen, Smart Filter applied as mitigated by the edge mask of course.
Lets go ahead and move up from her bodice there so that we can check out her face and her neck and if I were to zoom in you can see that we're not bringing out much in the way of noise in the neck still. In fact we have defeated a lot of that noise using the Reduce Noise Filter. So this is a perfect sharpening of this image. It does take a little bit of extra time, but it's going to deliver some amazing results. So if you have noisy but beautiful image like this one here and you want to treat it with tender loving care, remember that you will sharpen with an edge mask and smooth with a non-edge mask and you will create a smooth effect inside of a nested Smart Object and the sharpen effect inside the consuming Smart Object.
Then go ahead and save this image out as a layered PSD file and you are good to go. In the next chapter, in Chapter 5 we are going to take a look at sharpening for the source and we are going to focus much of our attention on Camera RAW.
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