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One could argue that the filter that you'll end up using the most is one of the Sharpen filters in Photoshop. Now I do recommend that you sharpen your images in Camera Raw before you bring them into Photoshop, especially if you are starting from a RAW file. But even if you have sharpened the image in Camera Raw, you might need to sharpen it further once you have the image in Photoshop, especially if you re-sampled image. If you've made the image smaller and thrown away pixels, you're always going to end up with the softer image when you do that. So, you'll still need to learn how to sharpen directly in Photoshop as well.
Tip number one is you need to make sure you sharpen at the 100% view. That's the most accurate view for sharpening. What you see at the 100% view is what you'll notice in your final destination, whether that be a print or onscreen. So, let's take this to the 100% view the quick way, Command+1 or Ctrl+1, back to 100% here. And I have got my Hand tool. Just press H if you don't have it. And we'll pan this down so we can see a good representative slice of the image here. So we'll see his face, and her face, her hair and his shirt and so forth. All right. So let's start sharpening the image.
Unlike any filter that we want to run on the image, before we actually run the filter, I always recommend that you convert it for Smart Filters first. So, convert this layer to a Smart Object, so that you can run the filter non-destructively. Then let's go to Filter > Sharpen, and we'll use Unsharp Mask. Unsharp Mask gives you three sliders. Now before we get too much further though, let's actually describe what you're doing when you sharpen an image in Photoshop. You're looking for edges. Now what's Photoshop's definition of an edge? It's a light pixel next to a dark pixel.
And when you sharpen those edges, the dark half of that edge gets darker, and the light half of that edge gets lighter, so you're increasing contrast of edge pixels. The Amount slider basically says, how much brighter and how much darker should you make each half of that edge? The Radius is how wide should you go out from the edge to do that enhancement, the darkening and the lightning of those edge pixels? How far out from the middle of that edge should this adjustment occur over? And then the Threshold is where you tell Photoshop what to consider an edge, how many tonal levels, when it says levels there it says, how many toner levels apart do two adjacent pixels need to be before Photoshop treats them as an edge? So, the amount, I typically start out with 150% just to kind of give me a good baseline.
The Radius is going to be determined by the resolution of your image. The higher the resolution, the higher the radius you'll use. Again, there is really no magic numbers here Each image might need a little bit adjustment, but somewhere in the range of 1 to 2 is a great starting point, so I am going to make it 1.5, and then the Threshold, I just leave it at the default of 4. If I make this threshold too high, then basically, Photoshop isn't going to find any edges. You see the overall sharpening just went away because pixels that are already 90 levels apart, in terms of tonality, are probably already sharp enough, because there is already enough contrast between them.
So, Photoshop ends up only sharpening edges that don't really need to be sharpened. If the Radius is too low, then Photoshop thinks everything is an edge. And you can see on his face here, we're actually sharpening the skin tone or the skin texture there, and that's probably not what we want either. So, I am going to increase the Threshold back to 4, and it's default. And you can see it did a much better job on the face texture. And if we are still seeing too much sharpening there, then I can just increase the threshold slightly to, say, about 9. Somewhere between 7 and 9 is a good setting when you are trying to protect the skin and not oversharpen skin detail. All right.
Here is before. Then we will turn the Preview off. Here is after. You can see that shirt is really starting to pop, and we're sharpening the scruffiness of his beard there as well and her earrings are starting to get really sharp as well. So, Unsharp Mask, Amount, Radius, Threshold, you play with these sliders until you get the look you are looking for. We'll go ahead and click OK. And again, if it's too sharp, no worries. Because we did this as a Smart Filter, I can always go back and tweak those values by double-clicking on the word Unsharp Mask and either lowering the Radius, increasing the Amount.
It really just depending on what you're trying to achieve, and in which direction you are trying to shift the sharpness of that particular image.
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