Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
In certain situations, we may want to build up a selection, and then refine that selection, and build a mask out of that, yet there are other times when we may want to simply just paint in a filter or an effect to a particular area of our photograph. That's what we're going to take a look at here. In this image, I have a portrait of Jeff Johnson. Jeff is a writer, a photographer, a climber, a surfer, all-around just fascinating character. In order to capture a bit of his personality, I'm shooting at a really shallow depth of field. I don't know if you can really tell, because this video will be compressed, but his eyes are sharp, and the rest is really out of focus.
I'm shooting at f/1.2 here. In that case, in order to sharpen this image, I don't want to sharpen everything. Well, let's zoom in a little bit. Press Command+Plus on a Mac or Ctrl+Plus on the PC. Here, you can see again that the eyes are in focus; the background isn't. So if I want to sharpen the image, I only sharpen a selected area of the face, this portion. I don't need to sharpen the shirt or the background or other areas, because I have this shallow depth of field. Well, in order to do that, what we're going to do is copy our Background layer.
So click in the Background layer, and then press Command+J on a Mac or Ctrl+J on a PC. Next, we're going to name this layer "sharpen." So we're going to apply some sharpening there. We're going to go up to our Filter, and we're going to select Sharpen and then Smart Sharpen. Now this is a pretty low-res file, but I'm gong to zoom in on it, just so we can kind of illustrate how the sharpening will work. Now we're going to talk more about sharpening later, but for now, we have an Amount. This is low, all the way up to high. You can see it's over sharpened there.
Radius, because this is a low-res file, you're going to want a low amount of Radius; high-res files, perhaps a little bit more. Again, you can see the sharpening just looks horrible here. So, we want something like 0.3 or 0.4. Our Amount will probably be somewhere below 100. Now the only problem with this amount of sharpening is it's going to be kind of tricky to see in this movie, because it's compressed. Yet keep in mind, when you sharpen, typically, you're going for subtle yet significant sharpening. Click on the thumbnail here, and we'll see our before; let go, and then the after.
Now because this is a demo file, I'm going to increase my sharpening more than I should, and I'm going to do that, just so you can see how that's working: before and then after. All right. Well, let's click OK to apply that, and then let's zoom back to 100%. We'll do so by double-clicking the Zoom tool. Here is the image at its native file size. Now at this point, one of the problems is that I'm sharpening the face. The face looks great. The eyes look wonderful, but the background looks kind of horrible.
There is too much noise there. I don't need to sharpen the shirt. I want to limit the sharpening. So here is how we're going to do it. Couple of different techniques we can use here. One is to simply click on the Add Layer Mask icon, and then to Invert the mask, because we want to mask that's black. We want to conceal everything. We don't want white. So we can click on the Invert button, or you can press Command+I on a Mac or Ctrl+I on a PC. That will toggle back and forth between inverting that mask between black and white, or here is a great shortcut for you.
What you can do is delete this mask and then click on Delete. You can actually create a mask that starts off being filled with black. That's what we're going to do here. We'll hold down the Option key on the Mac, Alt key on a PC, and then click on the Add Layer Mask icon. Now when we do that, this black mask is concealing all of our sharpening. The image hasn't been sharpened at all. Next step, grab your Brush tool. Then we're going to pick white in our foreground color, because white reveals.
Remember, we want to reveal some of the sharpening that's applied here. I'll go ahead and paint on the eyes, and then paint down on the beard a little bit. I think that should be sharpened. The lips would be nice, maybe a little bit of the forehead, and here you can see we're selectively sharpening in specific areas of our photograph. If we turn off the visibility of the Background layer, you're going to see that these are the areas that I'm sharpening. Again, it's pretty subtle. Well, let's say that one of the things that I notice is when I zoom is that my brush strokes perhaps aren't soft enough. Well, if ever you need to soften up the edges of your brush strokes, you can use this Feather slider.
As I increase this, you're going to see that it's going to diffuse those edges more and more and defuse the overall selection. Another way to preview this is to hold down the Option key for the Mac users, Alt key for the PC users, click on your layer mask, and then click and drag the Feather slider here. You can see how it's diffusing that out. It's also decreasing the brightness value though; it's becoming a little gray. So there is going to be a less sharpening. Now sometimes, this can be incredibly effective, especially if you accidentally used the Hard Edge Brush.
Other times, like here, we don't really need to do this, except perhaps maybe just a couple of pixels, in order to have a little bit smoother transitions. All right, to turn off this view, hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt key on a PC, then click on that layer mask thumbnail. Let's turn on the Background layer, zoom in a little bit, so we can see this, and here we have our before and then after, our selective sharpening that we accomplished by creating a mask and painting the sharpening into just specific areas of our photograph.
Now of course, we're zoomed in a little bit too far here, but I'm doing that in order to illustrate. If we zoom out to 100% here, we can also look at the before and after. Here is the before and then the after. While this view may look a little subtle on your screen, on my screen this looks absolutely wonderful. We've really improved this image in some simple, yet significant ways.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
180 Video lessons · 66688 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 90578 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 59196 Viewers
103 Video lessons · 27678 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.