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Old photos sometimes lose some of their detail, or perhaps it gets lost when you're removing texture, for instance. There are a couple ways to get it back, or at least a little of it. This image is just a little soft around the edges. It could have a little more clarity; it needs to be a little more sharp. So let's begin by duplicating the original layer using Ctrl+J, Command+J, and go to Filter > Other > High Pass.
The High Pass filter is in all versions of Photoshop, and what High Pass does, as with all sharpening filters, is find the edges in an image and enhances them. We need to find a radius that really brings out all the important parts in the image you are working on--and in this case that would be the people. So we're going to move our little window up here and find one of the people. We are going to bring it down a little so we can really see it.
Now you can move your slider and see how it's going to bring the detail out, still little soft over here. You won't be able to find an edge that isn't there. So if the edge is completely gone, you may not be able to get a really good sharpening. Let's see. That's with our sharpening back here. We can move this and see how this is coming along. That's it about 43.
Let's move it up just a bit. I want to get some pretty serious sharpening here. This is kind of soft, but we are more concerned, I think, with the faces. All right, let's go right around 50, 50.5, and click OK. Now go to your Layer Blend modes. I usually start with Soft Light because that's where I have the best luck. See how this has brought out some detail here that you didn't see very clearly in your original--here on the chair for instance. And even the important parts around the faces, it just makes them pop a little more.
If you think it's a bit much, of course you can lower your Opacity to adjust it if it doesn't look natural to you. So now we are going to hide the visibility of that layer, click back on our background, and go over one more method of sharpening that's only in Photoshop CS5. First thing we're going to do with this is go up to Image > Duplicate and just click Ok. It doesn't matter if you name it or not. Now on the copy you made, I'm going to go down here and click on our layer, and Flatten Image just discards that layer, because you have to have a flat image to use this method.
Go to Image > Adjustments > HDR Toning. Now, I came upon this as a sharpening method for restoration kind of by mistake. HDR Toning is a setting usually used in photography, not photo restoration, but it really works as a sharpening method. Now go up to Presets. You can run through your defaults and see how each one is going to look on your image. You will notice especially this one, Monochromatic artistic, has a lot of the look of the High Pass filter.
Just keep an eye on your original and see how it's going to bring out the details. Then if you click on one--let's say we like to look at Photorealistic, but we'd really like to bring some detail out. Go down here to Tone and Detail and move your Detail slider over. You can make some other adjustments. Here is your Shadows. See if that does anything you like. That brightens things up a little bit. Maybe Highlight, too light. You can just do everything you want and try things, and you can always hold down your Alt or Option to reset.
If you don't like how it's going, it turns your Cancel button into a Reset button. And you can just get move any slider you want, get a little Vibrance, Saturation, bring in your colors more. You can make your Radius larger. It does a little more of what the High Pass Filter did with the radius. Just move your sliders around and experiment. When you get to a point that you like that, you can click OK, and we will wait for it to do its calculating.
Now we want to get our HDR Toning copy, our sharpen copy, back into our original image. So what you'll do, make sure you have the Move tool selected and click on the picture and drag it over into the tab of your original photo. Hold down your Shift key, move your arrow over your image, and drop it, and now you've got it centered. By holding down the Shift key, it centers it. Again, Layer Blend mode, Soft Light. You can see that's brought the image out quite a bit.
Lower your Opacity about 75 or so, and you've got a much nicer, sharper image. If you need to clarify things a bit in an image or bring some detail back when you've had to soften things up, such as when you've reduced texture in a photo, you can try these methods, and chances are at least one of them will work to sharpen things up a bit.
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