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Just about every image you are going to work on can benefit from some level of sharpening to enhance the details and make your images really pop and stand out. So let's take a look at how Camera Raw makes sharpening images pretty easy. Let's go ahead and double-click on this raw file here that we're going to sharpen. The first thing you've got to remember right off the bat, is to make sure you're viewing your image at the 100% view. Any other view is only kind of an approximation of what that image would look like when you print it or output it in some other various format. So getting to the 100% view is what you want to do before you go sharpen.
To do that, a really easy way is just to double- click on the Zoom tool in the top of the toolbar here. That takes your image to the 100% view. You could also use the view switcher button down here, but I find the double-click is pretty quick and easy there. So we've got the 100% view. Now we want to go to the Detail tab, which is where the sharpening controls are located. We'll go ahead and click on that button here, the third from the left. You'll see here in the Detail panel there are four different sliders to control sharpening. Now before we get into the details of sharpening, let's make sure that we kind of understand what's happening when you're doing sharpening.
So what's going on here is you're increasing the contrast of edges. Now, an edge in Photoshop or Camera Raw's definition is simply a light pixel next to a dark pixel. It doesn't necessarily, from an editorial perspective, know what an edge is. It's purely based on lights next to dark. So we'd look at the shirt and see there's a natural edge between foreground and background, but what we might consider a dust spot, let's say you had a spec of dust in the lens and that was showing up in the background. We wouldn't necessarily want that to be sharpened per se. So from an editorial perspective, you have to make some choices about where the sharpening's going to occur, and that's what these four sliders over on the right are going to give you some control over.
Okay, so the first slider is the Amount slider. This is like just a general volume knob. It determines how much brighter or how much darker each half of that edge is going to get. So it actually helps to think about sharpening being split in half; the light half of the edge, and the dark half of the edge. When you increase that amount, the lighter half is going to get lighter, the darker half is going to get darker. Kind of make sense now that you understand what the edge is all about. So notice that the default amount is 25%. That's because we have a raw file open right now.
If I had opened up a JPEG file in Camera Raw, the default amount would actually be 0. Camera Raw is smart enough to detect if it's a JPEG or a RAW file, and assumes that a raw file has had no sharpening applied to it because it's a raw capture. And a JPEG file has already had some sharpening applied to it in the camera during capture time. So that's why you might see different values for your start value depending on what file format you actually have opened up in the Camera Raw Editor. So let's go ahead and crank up the amount quite a bit. Your range is going to vary depending on the image type and to your liking as well.
There is really no right number here. You will have to fiddle around somewhat to get it to look exactly the way you want. Here, I've taken it up to 80. You can see the image is overall looking a lot sharper, for better or for worse depending on your perspective here. One way to kind of again see the before and after, we'll just press the P key on our keyboard. So there it is before we've increased the sharpening. If I press the P again, it goes back to showing you the 80% value. Now, when you're playing with that Amount slider the one thing you want to be looking out for are Halos; little blips or pockets of white.
So take a look at let's say the side of her cheek here. I'm going to really crank up the amount significantly. Now, you can see it not just on the cheek but elsewhere. You are seeing this light half of the edge getting overemphasized or over-sharpened. The contrast is getting too severe and so you're ending up with these Halo Effects. I am going to take the Amount back down to about 80, let's say, where we were before. What the Radius slider lets you do, it lets you determine how wide the edge is in Camera Raw's mind. How wide is that range of Halo enhancement going to be? Now, one of these tricks in Photoshop and Camera Raw that really come in handy is the ability to preview the slider as kind of an isolation.
So I'm going to hold down the Option key, or the Alt key in Windows, and as I click-and-drag that slider, this actually helps you visualize what the radius is all about. I take it all the way down to the smallest setting. You can see that the width of the sharpening effect, that white and black halo edge there is at its minimum. When I really crank it up, you can see the Radius, what it's doing. It's actually increasing the range of what an edge is considered to be. So obviously a high Radius is going to give you a lot of posterization and a lot of intense sharpening around those edges.
A lower Radius is just going to be an overall softer effect. What kind of radius you need will depend on the type of image you're using. So if you're using an image with a lot of high level detail, like grass is a good example, or architecture with a lot of detail in the building, you might actually end up using a lower radius, because there's such a lot of detail that's not a lot of pixels wide. A softer image, like a portrait, can stand to use a higher radius, because there's not as many edges or the edges are a lot wider in terms of overall width.
So again hold down the Option key or the Alt key, that lets you drag and preview the effect of that slider in isolation of the grayscale image. You can also do that for the Amount and actually for all four of these sliders. So if I take the Amount slider, it's sometimes easier to see the overall sharpening when you just view the image as a grayscale image instead of the color. So again I'm holding down Option or Alt as I drag this. It's just a nice little helpful technique there to kind of really get a good understanding of what's happening as you're using these Sharpening sliders. So Amount is overall sharpening, Radius is how wide that range of haloing will be.
Then the other two sliders are for dampening or controlling or lessening the amount of overall sharpening being applied either to the entire image or specific areas within the image. So that brings us to the Detail slider. So while Radius determines the width of the halos, the Detail slider allows you to dampen or lower the intensity of those halos. So the lower the value, the softer the halos are going to be and the less detail enhancement you'll see. So we've got a starting point of 25 here. I'm going to crank this up again all the way over to the right, just to overemphasize and you can see you'd never used this.
But what you're revealing here is that a lot more details are being considered to be edges and therefore they're getting sharpened by the Amount and Radius adjustments. Again, it helps to hold down that Option or Alt key, and drag that slider left or right to actually see what is going to be considered detail or not. So if I really lower that Detail slider, you can see the skin texture is not being included and all the little pores are not getting that enhancement which in some cases is exactly what you want. You don't want to overemphasize areas that you don't want your viewer to notice.
If I drag that slider to the right, you can see more details are being considered edges, and you can start seeing the hair get a lot of contrast there. So that's going to get some sharpening. So again there's no magic number, there's no right setting here. You just had to do it for taste. I'm going to take it back to about a detail of 20. That seems to be a nice balance between hair detail and facial detail. Now the Mask slider, this is really powerful. It allows you to apply an edge mask to the sharpening effect. Basically actually deciding where the overall sharpening is going to be allowed to appear.
It's kind of like when you're using layer masks in Photoshop if you've done that before. Let's go ahead and hold down the Option key and drag the Mask slider. It starts out with just completely white, so nothing's being masked. Like I said in talking about layer masks in Photoshop, white reveals and black hides. So if everything is white, every available pixel is a candidate to get sharpening here. If I start dragging this to the right, you'll start seeing areas of black are starting to appear. So Camera Raw is building a mask for you, anywhere you see black, and if I keep going to the right, more black will appear, anywhere it's black or really dark gray, the sharpening will either not be allowed at all or only be allowed a little bit depending on how gray it is.
If I take it all the way to the right, you can see I can really limit this, it's like the Find Edges command or the Find Edges Filter, built-in here as a slider and being applied as a mask on the overall sharpening effect. So where you put this again it's up to you, where do you want to emphasize the detail. I am going to take it to about 65 here. You can see I'm getting some nice sharpening on the eyes and the hair, but I'm not over-sharpening the skin texture and making the pores pop out here. Here's before, we'll click in the Preview checkbox and there's after.
You can see I've really limited the sharpening exactly where I want it. So the trick here is to learn the relationship of each of these four sliders so that you can make good decisions based on the image type that you have. As a review, Amount is the overall, Amount or Sharpening, how much lighter and darker the edges are going to get, the Radius is how wide of a range should that edge be considered, how wide will those halos be? The Detail lets you determine how much detail will be considered to be sharpened or not, and then the masking lets you basically hide where that sharpening comes into play.
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