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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 preview your sharpening settings inside of Camera RAW. Now this may seem like a pretty straightforward topic. You would think, you turn on the Preview check box and there you go, you start to preview things. Actually, it doesn't work that way. It's not quite that simple. There are some limitations that are thrown up in your way and then there are some cool previewing tricks that you might want to take advantage of. Now I have opened up this image Festive Ornaments.dng that was shot, by the way, with a Nikon D80. It's found inside the 05_For_Source folder that is inside your exercise files folder.
I have gone ahead and opened it up inside of Camera RAW. Lets go ahead and switch over to the Detail tab, which I was telling you, you can get to it by pressing Ctrl+Alt+3 or Command+Option+3 if you like. Now I am looking at the 33.3% zoom ratio, you might be seeing the image larger or smaller on screen and I do have the Preview check box turned on, so I should be able to preview the settings that were applied inside of this panel. Note, by the way that the Preview check box turns off the previewing of the settings inside the visible panel only, so other modifications that you have applied are not affected.
Notice what I am going to do is, I am going to go ahead and crank the Amount value all the way up to 150 and you would think based especially on what I told you in the previous exercise that the Amount value is very strong modifier inside of Camera RAW. Much more pronounced than the Amount values inside the Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen dialog boxes. You would think that you would see a big difference here on screen. You don't, you should see out absolutely no difference whatsoever. The reason is explained by this warning down here in the bottom right corner of the dialog box, notice that it says that you have to zoom the preview to a 100% or larger to see the effect of the controls from this panel.
Now that is just bizarre. It really is. And the Camera RAW has come under a lot of criticism, rightly so I believe, for this limitation because it means that you cant preview how your sharpening settings are going to affect the printed version of the image. So you cant anti-alias the sharpening settings down. In defense, and its hard to defend this limitation, but in its defense I will say this, the good news is that it makes a big case for the fact, it highlights the fact that we're only sharpening for the source.
How these modifications affect a final printed image is not important at this point. We are just sharpening for the effects of the photographic process. So I am going to go ahead and zoom the image just by clicking in it with this Zoom tool right here, you can press Ctrl+plus or Command +plus, to zoom in or if you just want to go straight for a 100%, you can press Ctrl+Alt+0 or Command+Option+0 on the Mac and that does takes me to 100%. Notice, my little warning disappears because I am now accurately previewing the setting. So if I were to turn the Preview check box off, you would see that this is the way the image looks unsharpened without any sharpening modifications.
This is the way it looks with sharpening modifications. I am going to go ahead and zoom in another click here and by the way, the reason I am clicking on the center of this a ball right here that we are zoomed it on, is that shows me. It's actually kind of a self portrait there, it's me shooting the photo from a million miles away there. I have got the focal length set to a 135mm sort of thing. So I have got this tele-photoed way to heck in. Alright, so just for the sake of the comparison once again, I will turn on and off the Preview check box, but I will do it from the keyboard just by pressing the P key. P for preview. So this is before and this is after the amount modifications.
So that's one way to preview. You have to be zoomed in to a 100% and that goes, by the way, for the lens correction options as well, the Chromatic Aberrations setting right here. You don't get a warning for these settings, but they only display properly at the 100% or higher zoom ratio as well. Lets go back to Detail then, that's a limitation that's not good in my opinion. These guys and I am about to show you these preview tricks are really, really wonderful. You can Alt or Option-drag the slider triangles that are associated with any of the four sharpening slider bars right here and if you do, you will get a special kind of preview.
So notice if I Alt or Option-drag the Amount slider, I am seeing a grayscale version of the sharpened image. Why is that useful? because that is all your sharpening inside of Camera RAW. You are only sharpening the luminance information always. So you don't have to apply a Luminosity blend mode or you don't have to go to LAB color mode or any of that stuff. You are always sharpening only the luminance information when you are applying this Amount value. You can also Alt-drag or Option-drag the Radius value and notice as you do, you will see the size of the halos grow.
So I have got the Alt key down here on the PC and as I drag it higher, as I drag that Radius value higher that is. You will see that the halos grow and imagine that we are working with the High Pass Filter so that all non-edges appear as gray and the edges are going to appear white or black, depending on whether they are on the highlight or shadow side of the edge. So this give us a really great preview of Radius. I will go ahead and max it out so that we can also gauge detail. This gives us if I am Alt-dragging or Option-dragging this detail slider triangle, I am seeing grayscale version of the detail modifications to the image.
So you can see if max out detail, I am basically second pass sharpening the contours, we will come to that later. If I take it all the way down with the Alt or Option key down, you will see that we are smoothing out our contour. So its almost as if we have applied a pass of the median filter, although a little more sophisticated than that. Then finally, if I alter option drag on the masking slider triangle, I will see the edge mask. So wherever I am white, wherever the mask appear white, that's going to be an edge that gets modified where its black that is protected areas.
You can see how it does a heck of a job of tracing around me right there, especially if I go ahead and increase that detail value a little bit and I will take the Radius value down, so my edges aren't quite so thick and now I will alter option drag the masking value and you can see how that edge trances very nicely around me and around the other contours inside the image. So remember those two things when you are trying to preview your sharpening settings. Remember that you have to be looking at the image at a 100% or larger and you also have the ability to Alt or Option-drag the slider triangles that are associated with the four sharpening values at the top of the Detail panel.
In the next exercise, I am going to pass along one additional, little meta tip. It's a little just sort of dinky bit of information you should bear in mind and then after that we will move into how to put the sharpening modifiers to work inside of this particular image.
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