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A big part of the reason that I spend time optimizing the appearance of my photos is so that I can share them with others, whether sending via email, posting online, or producing a print. In all of those cases I use a consistent output workflow process so that I make sure that I'm number one being careful about how I process my image but also being organized in preparing an image for output. The first thing I'll do of course is to save my master image. In this case I've already saved the image with multiple layers. I'm then going to create a copy of my image, and this will be a working copy.
I'll preserve my original with all the layers intact, and then use the duplicate for all of the destructive things I need to do in the output preparation work flow. For example, resizing the image to a particular size. To duplicate the image I'll go to the Image menu and choose Duplicate. That will bring up the duplicate image dialog. You'll notice that the new name just adds copy to your existing file name. That's perfectly fine with me, we can always save it as something else later if we want. And then I turn on the Duplicate Merge Layers Only check box. And what that actually means is that I want the duplicate image to be flattened. So with that option turned on, I'll click the OK button and now you can see that all of my layers have disappeared.
The image has been flattened into a single layer. The reason that's important is that I want to make sure that everything else I'm doing is being done consistently to the entire image. For example if I perform some image cleanup work on a separate layer, I want to sharpen that layer along with the background image layer and so working with a flat inversion simplifies that process. At this point I'm going to close my original master image, you can see, I still have my layers intact there, but I want to close it, just so I don't get confused, and accidentally do something to this image.
So I'll click the X on the tab for that image, in order to close it. Next I'm ready to resize the image, so I'll choose Image and then Image Size from the menu. In this case, the image is a very small sample image, so I can't really print it very large. But I'll want to consider the final output size. If I'm preparing the image for an electronic display, for example, to send via email or post on a website I only need to worry about pixel dimensions. And there I'll just adjust the size, based on how I'm sharing. Via email, for example, I might set the width to about 800 or 1,000 pixels.
For online sharing, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, depending on what I'm doing. The point is that all we're worried about in those types of situations is the specific number of pixels in the image. If we're printing the image, then we need to pay attention to document size. And here we need to set a resolution and an output size. If you're actually going to resize the image to change the number of pixels in the photo, you do need to make sure the Resample Image check box is turned on. Then you can set the resolution based on the recommendation for your output device.
For example with offset press printing you would typically use a value of 300, whereas for photo ink jet printing you would use a value of 360. Let's assume that I'm going to send this image off to someone else to be printed in a book, so I'll use 300 as the offset press printing standard. I can then specify the size of the image. And let's assume they only need an image of about five inches by three inches. I'll go ahead and set the width to five. Notice that the height adjusts automatically, because I have the Constrained Proportions check box turned on.
In other words, the aspect ratio will be retained so the image is not stretched in one direction or the other. So now I've resized the image to the appropriate size based on what I'm trying to do for this photo. I can then take a look at the resampling option, the interpolation algorithm. And there are really only a few options to consider here. Bicubic is the one I use most often. But Bicubic Smoother is also helpful, if you're significantly enlarging an image. But Photoshop CS6 also includes a Bicubic Automatic option. And I recommend just using that, especially as you get started with Photoshop because it simplifies your workflow a little bit. You don't have to worry about which algorithm is going to work best, for your image with the enlargement that you're applying for example. With the re-sizing established I'll go ahead and click OK, and the image is re-sized.
The next step of the output preparation workflow is to sharpen the image. And I always save this sharpening for the end of the workflow process. I'll go ahead and choose Filter from the menu. And then Sharpen, followed by Smart Sharpen. That will bring up the Smart Sharpen Dialogue. Notice that the preview is at 100% and that's very important. I want to be able to evaluate the actual pixel values in the image. With a 100% view, one pixel in the image is represented by one pixel on the monitor.
I'll then make sure that the Remove option is set to Lens Blur. Gaussian blur is not quite as sophisticated and Motion blur is for special situations where you have some blur you're trying to compensate for. In most cases, you'll simply want to use Lens Blur. You can then adjust the radius and amount. Radius determines the size of the contrast enhancement along edges in the photo. In most cases, you'll use a very small value, typically around one pixel or less. The Amount adjustment allows you to adjust the intensity of that Contrast enhancement.
I'll increase the Radius here, so you can get a better sense. With the amount set very high, we get a high degree of Contrast, and with it set low, we don't get too much Contrast at all. I'll go ahead and reduce radius down to around one pixel, perhaps a little less since this is a low resolution image, and then I'll fine tune that amount. At any time I can click on the Preview Image to see the before version and then Release to see the after. That's looking a little bit too strong so I think I'll reduce the amount a little bit here, and that looks much better. We also have a More Accurate check box. More accurate doesn't really mean that the preview will be more accurate or that the sharpening effect will be more accurate, it relates to whether or not the sharpening effect will apply to even the finest detail in an image. Unless you really want to enhance textures in an image, and I mean every little bit of texture I recommend leaving the More Accurate option turned off. It will help ensure that areas in the image that should appear smooth do remain smooth.
With those settings established, the image is looking pretty good. I'll go ahead and click the OK button and now I'm ready to print the image or save the image as applicable in order to share it with others.
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