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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.
When it comes to ensuring that your photographs look their absolute best, one of the most important, yet often overlooked, steps is to apply some final output sharpening in Photoshop. And so in this movie, we'll have a conversation about that topic. You know, by the time we bring an image over to Photoshop, we've already worked on it, in Adobe Camera or Lightroom, and we've already reduced noise and sharpened the image. Yet, what we need to do here, in Photoshop, is begin to focus in on the finish line.
We want to think about that final output size and how we're going to print the photograph. So, in this case, let's say that we want to print this image as a 4 x 6 photograph. Well, to do that, we'll start off by navigating to our Image pull-down menu, and here, we'll choose Image Size. Go ahead and select Image > Image Size. We want to think about that final size for the image. When we go to this dialog, we'll see a 100% view of the image. And, there's a lot of noise here. It's also a touch soft.
It's because I was shooting with a higher ISO and a low light scenario. It isn't that big of a deal because we're focusing in on how we want to resize the image, which is to change our dimensions. So over here, I'll change these values so it's 4 by 6. I do most of my printing at 240 pixels per inch. And now, this is the view we want to start to analyze and evaluate. This is where we want to get familiar with the details, and the sharpness, that we have. You know, I like the quality of the image in this view, yet it's lacking a little bit of an extra snap, or punch, or sharpness.
So we'll add that, by going through our sharpening workflow next. So again, first step is to simply resize the image and to think about how you want to reproduce the photograph, or how you want to resize it at its final state. Let's go ahead and click OK, in order to apply those resize settings. Then I'll double-click the Zoom tool to bring this back to 100%, so we can start to view it this way. Now, I like to sharpen by copying the layer, and to do so, we'll click on the background layer. Then drag this to the New Layer icon, and double-click the layer name, we'll name this one Sharpen.
So far, we're going through a typical workflow. We already know all of the things that we're doing at this point. The next step is to go to our Filter pulldown menu. Choose the Sharpening method that we want to use. The one that I most commonly use is Smart Sharpen. That's Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. Inside of the Sharpen dialogue, let's bring these values down, and let's talk a little bit about the controls and settings here, before we start to work with them. This is a incredibly important step.
And this is important because we really need to think about how we're going to finally output this image. With this photograph, I'm going to print it as a 4 by 6 photograph, so the viewers can hold it proudly in their hands. They're going to be really close to the image. I'm also going to use a matte paper, maybe a watercolor paper, or velvet fine art, which is one of my all time favorites. One of the things that I know about that paper, is that the the ink really, sort of, settles into the paper, and so the image appears a touch softer.
Because I know that, I'm going to then dial in my sharpening settings a little bit differently, say than, if I was going to print on glossy paper. Now the point isn't to use a matte versus glossy paper, rather it's to start to think about that issue, and then ask yourself if this really is the icing on the cake, so to speak, this output sharpening here in Photoshop. How thick do I want that icing to be? Really, it's subjective and up to you, but you'll want to think about that issue. Alright, well for me, I'm going to bring up my Radius.
I'm going to bring it up to close to 1. It is a lower resolution file, so the radius will be a touch lower. I also want to remove some of the noise, because this image, it had a lot of noise which I saw originally, so I want to make sure I'm not drawing out too much of that. And, at this point, I think it's a little bit too high for my view on the screen. Probably somewhere around here. Yet if I were to use these settings, so that they look good to my eye, well, on that velvet fine art matte paper, it would look a, still, a bit too soft.
So here, I'm going to go even a little bit higher. And I hate to even say that, because sometimes people will take that to suggest, oh, you need to over-sharpen your photograph. In certain scenarios, yes, you may need to. In others, maybe not. It's really thinking about the finish line and asking yourself, well, how am I going to output this photograph? In this case, I'm using a matte paper, so I'll bring that value up a little bit. Either way, I think the whole point of this is just to say that this amount of sharpening is subjective. And it's about your own artistic vision.
I have colleagues and friends, who are accomplished photographers, who apply really low and subtle amounts to their images because they like soft, smooth aesthetic. I have other colleagues and friends who like that sharp, snappy, edgy look, and so they crank these values up a little bit higher. Again, it's completely subjective. All right, well here, I like the way that looks. I think that will reproduce well. We'll click OK to apply those settings. Next up is to use the skills which we've already learned. One of those skills is to selectively sharpen certain areas of the photograph.
If we zoom out so we can see more of the image, we can see that it has a really shallow depth of field, and we don't necessarily want to sharpen the background. So let's, really quickly, create a mask. I've already covered the masking topics and techniques in a previous chapter, so I'm going to go a little bit quicker here. I'll click on the Add Layer Mask icon. Then I'll invert the mask by pressing Cmd+I. Next step, press the B key to select the Brush tool. We want to paint with white to reveal the sharpening.
Then we will decrease the brush size, here, it's a little bit too big. 0% hardness, and I'll drop my opacity down, probably below 50%. Then we can just start to paint in the sharpening in a few areas. I'm going to paint it in on the sweater, on the hair, zoom in a little bit more to work on the face. Tap the left bracket key to make my brush smaller, so it can sharpen the eyes. No need to sharpen all of the skin tone there, sharpen the lips and the teeth, then get a little bit more of the hair, and I'm just selectively painting this in. Again, I've referred to this a few times, kind of as the icing on the cake.
And with that, I'm trying to decide, well, how far do I want to go with this? What areas do I want to sharpen? I want it to be nice and consistent. I want to add just a little extra snap, and I think, that's pretty good, with how we've started to bring that in. And if we click on the Eye icon, we'll be able to see our before and after. It will be really difficult to see, in your view, because this is a lower, or a more subtle, amount. Yet on your monitor, you should start to be able to see those differences. You want to evaluate those differences at that 100% view.
And make sure, most importantly, you want to make sure you take this extra, or this final step, of applying output sharpening, which is really all about focusing on the finishing line, and beginning to think about how you're going to output your images. And by taking this step, you will ensure that your photographs look their best.
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