Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
Illustration by Don Barnett

Sharpening a low-frequency portrait


Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

with Deke McClelland

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Video: Sharpening a low-frequency portrait

In this exercise we are going to take a look at how to sharpen a low frequency portrait shot with the source in mind. I want you to go ahead and navigate to the 05_for_source folder, here inside the Bridge, find Dangerous gentleman.dng. This image comes to us from photographer, Nick Monu of I am going to go ahead and open it on up by pressing Ctrl+R or Command+R in the Mac, in order to invoke Camera RAW here inside the Bridge. Lets go ahead and press crtl+alt+0, or Command option 0 on the Mac in order to switch to the 100% zoom level.
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  1. 50m 30s
    1. Why every image needs sharpening
      2m 37s
    2. Understanding the effects of sharpening
      5m 26s
    3. Understanding the mechanics of sharpening
      4m 19s
    4. Understanding sharpening and gradual transitions
      3m 21s
    5. Understanding sharpening and noise reduction
      4m 0s
    6. Understanding amount and radius
      7m 50s
    7. Measuring your screen resolution
      6m 19s
    8. Using reliable zoom ratios
      5m 30s
    9. Calculating the actual print size
      4m 55s
    10. Gauging the ideal sharpening settings
      6m 13s
  2. 59m 28s
    1. Everyone knows you sharpen last (and everyone is wrong)
      1m 7s
    2. Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow
      5m 3s
    3. Flattening and saving to TIFF
      6m 40s
    4. Downsampling (and why you shouldn't upsample)
      6m 8s
    5. Understanding last-step sharpening
      6m 43s
    6. Recognizing problems with the conventional workflow
      9m 38s
    7. Erasing sharpening with the history brush
      4m 30s
    8. Using alternative sharpening workflows
      2m 37s
    9. Sharpening a scanned photograph shot on film
      2m 45s
    10. Sharpening a digital photograph
      3m 6s
    11. Sharpening specific details
      3m 43s
    12. Finding broad workflow conclusions
      2m 48s
    13. Learning that technique trumps timing
      4m 40s
  3. 1h 30m
    1. Comparing and contrasting neighboring pixels
      1m 6s
    2. Using the Gaussian Blur filter
      4m 25s
    3. Using Gaussian luminance distribution
      7m 47s
    4. Using the Unsharp Mask filter
      4m 54s
    5. Understanding the history of Unsharp Mask
      3m 51s
    6. Building your own USM with Gaussian Blur
      7m 35s
    7. Using the Smart Sharpen filter
      7m 35s
    8. Compensating for camera shake
      8m 50s
    9. Building your own Smart Sharpen with Lens Blur
      6m 59s
    10. Using directional sharpening with Emboss
      9m 13s
    11. Using Smart Sharpen extras
      8m 56s
    12. Using Convolution Kernels for more accuracy
      7m 8s
    13. Using the High Pass filter
      7m 32s
    14. Using Luminance Sharpening
      5m 5s
  4. 2h 14m
    1. Smoothing filters, smart objects, and masks
      1m 24s
    2. Using the Median filter and Dust and Scratches
      7m 6s
    3. Using Smart Blur and Surface Blur
      6m 14s
    4. Using the Despeckle filter
      8m 18s
    5. Softening flesh tones selectively
      10m 16s
    6. Using the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 27s
    7. Combining smoothing and sharpening
      8m 23s
    8. Making an image into a smart object
      9m 23s
    9. Applying editable smart filters
      6m 10s
    10. Combining two smart filters
      8m 6s
    11. Assigning a filter mask
      5m 59s
    12. Nesting one smart object inside another
      10m 31s
    13. Employing a static High Pass layer
      9m 0s
    14. Matching static pixel-level edits
      4m 37s
    15. Avoiding clipping with luminance blending
      9m 7s
    16. Sharpening and smoothing
      6m 37s
    17. Making an edge mask
      8m 15s
    18. Making a non-edge mask
      7m 17s
  5. 1h 33m
    1. Sharpening with Adobe Camera Raw
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing Camera Raw (4.1 or later)
      8m 12s
    3. Understanding why to sharpen for source
      5m 14s
    4. Using Camera Raw’s sharpening control
      5m 51s
    5. Previewing limitations and tricks
      6m 45s
    6. Why downsampling doesn’t work
      3m 12s
    7. Reducing chromatic aberration
      7m 29s
    8. Using the Defringe option
      3m 31s
    9. Understanding high frequency, low radius
      5m 21s
    10. Raising the Detail value
      3m 6s
    11. Using on-the-fly edge masking
      5m 40s
    12. Sharpening a low-frequency portrait
      6m 35s
    13. Eliminating color noise
      4m 47s
    14. Reducing luminance noise
      4m 41s
    15. Correcting “false sharpening”
      7m 14s
    16. Reducing shadow noise
      5m 22s
    17. Approximating ACR sharpening in Photoshop
      8m 35s
  6. 59m 12s
    1. Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
      1m 26s
    2. Using low-frequency source sharpening
      5m 53s
    3. Using High Pass for portraits
      4m 19s
    4. Actioning a low-frequency edge mask
      7m 42s
    5. Modifying the source sharpening
      5m 21s
    6. Using high-frequency source sharpening
      5m 26s
    7. Using Smart Sharpen for cityscapes
      3m 1s
    8. Actioning a high-frequency edge mask
      5m 5s
    9. Downplaying color artifacts and clipping
      4m 5s
    10. Sharpening a medium-frequency image
      5m 25s
    11. Sharpening a layered composition
      7m 17s
    12. Sharpening for multiple frequencies
      4m 12s
  7. 1h 8m
    1. Who needs dull when you have sharp?
    2. Focusing in on a person’s eyes
      4m 22s
    3. Blurring the area outside the eyes
      4m 22s
    4. Sharpening eyes and other details
      5m 38s
    5. Darkening the lashes and eyebrows
      7m 13s
    6. Sharpening dark-haired people
      5m 2s
    7. Edge mask and emphasize
      3m 38s
    8. Nesting a Smart Sharpen effect
      4m 48s
    9. Density mask sharpening
      5m 35s
    10. Adding depth of field
      4m 39s
    11. Sharpening a background
      4m 23s
    12. Masking background from foreground
      8m 51s
    13. Eliminating halos around a person
      5m 38s
    14. Deepening and warming a background
      3m 27s
  8. 1h 18m
    1. Reverting back to convention
      1m 36s
    2. Understanding the use-neutral composition
      4m 15s
    3. Restoring much-needed antialiasing
      4m 2s
    4. Reducing noise in a high-frequency image
      7m 24s
    5. Making a third-level smart object
      3m 55s
    6. Preparing an image for print
      5m 19s
    7. Using ideal settings for commercial reproduction
      5m 37s
    8. Calculating very large-format settings
      5m 11s
    9. Using ideal settings for inkjet output
      4m 26s
    10. Sharpening for commercial reproduction
      5m 44s
    11. Sharpening for inkjet output
      4m 57s
    12. Revealing high-frequency multipass sharpening
      5m 21s
    13. Using Gaussian Blur to sharpen hair
      5m 42s
    14. Flatten, Save As, Resample, and Sharpen
      5m 10s
    15. Revealing low-frequency multipass sharpening
      3m 31s
    16. Sharpening an image for web or screen
      6m 22s
  9. 1m 51s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 51s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
10h 33m Intermediate Feb 15, 2008

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the effects of sharpening
  • In-depth examinations of Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, Emboss, and High Pass
  • Smoothing an image with the Surface Blur, Despeckle, and Reduce Noise features
  • Working with smart objects and smart filters
  • Creating edge masks and non-edge masks
  • Sharpening for digital-image capture using Camera Raw
  • Gauging and exploiting luminance frequency
  • Exploring creative applications of sharpening
  • Sharpening a multilayer composition
  • Sharpening eyes, hair, and out-of-focus backgrounds
  • Reducing noise in a high-frequency image
  • Determining ideal settings for commercial and inkjet output
  • Sharpening very large-format images
  • Sharpening an image for the web or screen output
Deke McClelland

Sharpening a low-frequency portrait

In this exercise we are going to take a look at how to sharpen a low frequency portrait shot with the source in mind. I want you to go ahead and navigate to the 05_for_source folder, here inside the Bridge, find Dangerous gentleman.dng. This image comes to us from photographer, Nick Monu of I am going to go ahead and open it on up by pressing Ctrl+R or Command+R in the Mac, in order to invoke Camera RAW here inside the Bridge. Lets go ahead and press crtl+alt+0, or Command option 0 on the Mac in order to switch to the 100% zoom level.

I am going to go ahead and keep his eye on screen, that's the part of the image I want to see, that's the portion of the image you want to keep an eye on whenever you are working with a portrait shot, because the eye is the detail that needs to stay most sharply focused, most of the time, generally speaking. Alright, lets go ahead and switch over to the Detail panel, which of course you can do by pressing ctrl+alt+3 or Command option 3 on the Mac. I am going to again raise the Amount value, you know that its set to 14 for this image, I am going to raise the Amount value to 150%, once again, maxing it out, so that we can see the effects of the other options.

Now you may recall that when we are working with a high frequency or medium frequency shots, you want to go high with amount, low with radius, high with detail and low with masking. Its just the opposite when you are working with a low frequency image or a portrait shot, and recall that low frequency means that we have gradual transitions between luminous levels, and opposite would mean a low Amount value combined with a high Radius value, low detail and high masking. Once again, this is all relative, I am not suggesting you go way low with the Amount value or that you crank the radius through the roof.

In fact, lets see what happens to this image when we crank the radius through the roof. I will take it up to 3.0 pixels, and you can see that we end up rounding up the contours again, we are applying something resembling median to this image. So we are gooping up the details. I don't like that at all, I don't think it does the image any degree of good to go this high with radius. Most images suffer for it. So I am going to take the Radius value to about half that, which is 1.5, and then I am going to press the Tab key. 1.5 is actually a very high Radius value, when you are sharpening for the source, and where you are sharpening inside of Camera RAW.

So you want to keep your Radius values low in general. With a portrait shot, we are talking about 1.5, maybe as high as two, but that's pushing, in my opinion 2.0. When we are talking about a medium frequency or a high frequency shot at still life, then we want to go low with the radius value and as low as the minimum value, 0.5. Alright, anyway, what works well for this image is a Radius value of 1.5. I am now going to go ahead and take the detail value up just so that we can see what happens if we raise that detail value.

You can see that we are getting very, very crunchy details, we are sharpening the pores, and all the other surface imperfections inside of this image, not something we want to do when we are working with a portrait shot, so its just like we don't want to apply the More Accurate check box when we are working with portraits. Similarly, we don't want to go high with the detail value. So lets go ahead and take it down. Now if we take it all the way down to a value of zero, we are again rounding off the details, we are smoothing off the details, smoothing off the corners, inside of the image.

Again, I feel like we are going too far, so I would take the detail value to something around 20. 20 is actually a really great value, something in the 20-30 range, it really works well with portraiture. Then I am going to raise that masking value as well. I encourage you to go ahead and alt+drag or option+drag on this slider triangle here, in order to see the mask generate on the fly, so that you can keep track of exactly which portions of the image are being concealed or being protected with the black, and which portions are being revealed or affected with the white.

Masking value for this image, a masking value of about 70 works very nicely. Now because we started with the original shot, we can do a before and after preview here, just by turning on and off the preview check box. So this is the image as we originally found it, a little bit soft, and this is the image as it appears Now little bit over-sharpened as you can see, and that's because we have the Amount value set way too high. Now for this shot I would probably take the Amount value down to about 50%, which is a fairly subtle modification. I have seen people go even lower where portraits are concerned.

But you are not getting much done if you go below 50%, you are applying a pretty darn subtle effect, and I am not sure its going to serve you very well. So in an image like this I would probably take it to about 50%, but again, for the sake of detail here in this video, I am going to go ahead and raise the Amount value to 80% for this particular image. Alright, so again, here is what the image looked like originally, if I press the P key, I will turn off the preview check box, and if I press P again, you got to keep your eye on the image here, if I press P again, you will see the effect of the sharpening.

So its already quite a subtle effect as it turns out, but we can begin to make out of this wonderful details, such as the hairs on -- his sideburn here, and the small growth of beard that he has going, so this is before and this is after. You can also see that he has a little bit of a thread or a long hair or something hanging off of his ear. You can make out a few sort of weird little things going on; the guys skin is incredibly smooth, he is absolutely a deadly handsome man, but he does have a little green thread hanging off his chin down here, so you can make that out.

We can also make out, this is the bottom of his chin incidentally, we can also make out a ton of noise that's going on inside of his tie, and if we were looking at the background, you could see the noise in the background as well. So that's something we will have to take care of. I will show you how to address this noise in a future exercise, but these are just some things to bear in mind; this sharpening is bringing out the noise detail inside the image, as well as the good detail, of course. Alright, so just to give you a sense, here is the lips, by the way, this is the before and this is the after version of those lips.

So we are doing a dynamite job I think of sharpening this particular image. So again, I have got 81.5, 20, 70, low, relatively low, relatively high, low for detail, high for masking, I wouldn't go really this high for the Amount value, I would probably take it down to more like 50%. These are the sharpening settings I would go for, for this particular image. In the next exercise, we are going to take a look at how to work with the noise reduction functions; luminance and color.

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