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Almost every image can benefit from some amount of sharpening in Camera Raw. You'll notice when I move over to the Detail panel that if you're working on a RAW file, there's actually a default amount of sharpening applied to your image. This Amount slider will be set to 25. Because we've got a JPEG file here, the Amount slider is set to zero because Camera Raw is not sure if the camera has actually already applied sharpening, so it doesn't want to apply sharpening on top of something that's already been sharpened.
On the other hand, if you're working with your RAW files, Camera Raw is going to assume that it needs a little bit of sharpening and will set the amount to 25. That amount, that 25, is actually different, under the hood, based on the camera that you've used to capture your image. Even though you might bring up 10 different images from 10 different cameras, the Amount setting in Camera Raw will always be set 25, but under the hood, some of those images are getting more or less sharpening, depending on the quality of the sensor and the camera that they were photographed with.
Let's talk about the different settings in the Sharpening area here. The amount is how much contrast or how much sharpening you are going to add. In order to accurately see this, we want to go ahead and zoom in to 100%. So I'll use Command Option Zero and then hold down the spacebar in order to move over to the face. In fact, for the tutorial I think I'll even zoom in one more time using just Command+Plus to make sure that we are seeing the effects as I move the different sliders.
So the Amount controls the amount of contrast that Camera Raw applies when it finds an edge. If I move this all the way over to the right, you can see that in this case Camera Raw is finding a lot of little edges because this is a JPEG file and it's been compressed, so it's actually sharpening all those little areas of that have already been compressed. If you were working with your own RAW file, even if you move the Amount to 150, you probably won't see as much of a drastic change.
So the Amount is the amount of contrast. The Radius determines how many pixels are affected when Camera Raw applies the Amount or the contrast to an edge. If I move this all the way over to 3, you can see now there are little halos that are starting to appear along edges. For example we've got a halo right here where one side of the edge is darker along the wood and then along the wall the edge is lighter. Same with around the pumpkin eye here. You can see that right around the eye it's getting lighter, whereas the inside of the eye is getting darker.
Obviously, I have applied far too much, or far too great a value for the Amount slider in the Radius, but I want to make sure that you can see what's happening, because the next step that we're going to do is we are going to use either the Detail or the Masking slider in order to suppress the noise in the less contrasty area. So both Detail and Masking are ways to suppress; they just have different- looking masks or different ways of suppressing information. Let's use the Detail slider first, and I'll move it all the way to the right.
You can see that when it's at 100 we're not actually masking any of the detail, say for example, in the wall. As I move the detail slider to the left, you can see that we're now suppressing the Amount and the Radius in those areas that have less contrast, but we're still applying them to the heavier edges or the more contrasty edges. And if I tap the P key, we can toggle on and off the preview, and you can see that in fact the image does look sharper, but the edges that we are applying the sharpening to are only the most predominant edges.
If I hold down the Option key and we start sliding the Detail slider, you can actually get a good visual of the areas that are being suppressed. So if we move the Detail slider all the way to the right, you can see that the Amount and Radius are being applied to all of the edges throughout the image. As I move the slider to the left, you can see that I'm reducing the amount of sharpening applied to the areas that have less contrast, like that back wall and the face of the pumpkin, but it's still being applied to the high-contrast areas, like around the eyes and some of the straw maybe that's in the scarecrow's neck.
Let's go ahead and remove that detail by moving it all the way to the right again. And now I'm going to use the Masking slider in order to remove or mask the detail in the less contrasty area. So you can see as I move this over to the right, I'm eliminating any sharpening from happening in the areas that are not as contrasty. If we hold down the Option key with the masking, you can see that where the mask is black is where I'm suppressing the sharpening; no sharpening is happening there. Where the mask is white, that's where the sharpening is occurring.
So as I move this to the left, you can see that we are now sharpening the entire image equally in all areas. And if I move the mouse to the right, we are suppressing the sharpening in the areas that have less contrast. And they're just too different masks but they're actually really important, because if you look at the mask that's created with this Masking slider, you can see that it's much more organic; it's not as sharp. So the way that you want to suppress the noise when you're working on portraits is by using this Masking slider. It doesn't look as good, however, on an image like this where you've got a landscape or you've got a lot of high- frequency detailed areas.
In a case like this, I would want to use the Detail slider and just use it to suppress the sharpening from being applied in the lower frequency areas. Obviously, this is still too much so for the final sharpening that I would actually apply to this image, I am going to bring the Radius way down to maybe near 1 or 1.2, and I'll bring the Amount slider down as well. And now we can tap the P key to toggle the Preview on and off, because I don't want to oversharpen at this point; I want to enough sharpening here to make my image look good.
This is considered capture sharpening. This is not the sharpening that I want to do for my output device. That is going to be applied either when I export the file, or if I use the option here to save out my images. Or I could even apply the output shortening after opening the image in Photoshop, adding layers, making adjustments, and when I am finally finished with the image, that's when I want to sharpen it in Photoshop for my output device. So as a reminder, the Detail panel in Camera Raw is for adding your capture sharpening. The Amount slider is going to add the contrast to trick your eye into thinking that the edges are sharper. The Radius determines how many pixels are actually affected.
And then you'll use the Detail or the Masking slider to suppress the sharpening in the areas that have lower frequency. And typically, you'll use the Detail slider to suppress when you're using sharpening on your landscape images, and you'll use the Masking slider to suppress the sharpening in the detailed areas when you're working with portraits. As you can see, adding sharpening to exactly the areas you want is easy once you know what each of these sliders controls.
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