Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images
Illustration by Don Barnett
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Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow


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Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images

with Deke McClelland

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Video: Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow

So I was saying in live action introduction, I believe in a flexible sharpening workflow. I believe you can sharpen at different phases in the development of an image and you want to keep your sharpening non-destructive if possible. But before we go down that, before we see the more flexible sharpening approach, I want to explain the conventional approach that suggests that you should sharpen once and only once at the end of the cycle and that sharpening is usually applied as a flat effect. So I'll walk through the conventional workflow inside of this exercise. I'll demonstrate it in the next exercise and then look a sense of what's wrong with it after that and some better approaches as well.
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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?
      55s
    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
Subject:
Photography
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Deke McClelland

Understanding the conventional sharpening workflow

So I was saying in live action introduction, I believe in a flexible sharpening workflow. I believe you can sharpen at different phases in the development of an image and you want to keep your sharpening non-destructive if possible. But before we go down that, before we see the more flexible sharpening approach, I want to explain the conventional approach that suggests that you should sharpen once and only once at the end of the cycle and that sharpening is usually applied as a flat effect. So I'll walk through the conventional workflow inside of this exercise. I'll demonstrate it in the next exercise and then look a sense of what's wrong with it after that and some better approaches as well.

So I am working inside of a slide called 'Conventional Workflow' that's found inside of the 02WhentoSharpen folder and we are going to examine the basically the four big broad steps here. The first step, I'll reveal it, is to edit the image, to apply whatever edits you are going to apply to an image. So perform any and all edits in the image's native colors space, which is most likely RGB. So you are probably going to be starting with a red, green, blue image as opposed CMYK but you never know. Everybody's workflow is a little different in that regard.

Assuming best practices, your composition will contain non-destructive edits applied as independent layers. So of course you want to keep your modifications as non-destructive as possible, use adjustment layers, use Smart Objects, that sort of thing. Next, you would flatten the image before you go to print it. Now this assumes that you've already saved all layers, alpha channels, paths, Layer Comps, everything else in the PSD format, the native Photoshop document format. I suggest you turn off Maximize File Compatibility.

There is this check box that comes up as you'll see in the next exercise, and what that does is that embeds a flat version of the image inside the larger file, which can increase the size of the document by a third or a half. It's a big waste of space, especially if you are not going to be doing anything with that file aside from just saving your modification. You are not going to be directly importing that file into Premiere or InDesign or one of the other Adobe products. So just go ahead and turn it off in order to minimize the file size, it's not going to hurt anything, you can was always turn it on it later and then go ahead choose Layer, Flatten Image.

So this again first thing you do before you flatten the image, as you go ahead and save it in the PSD file format or update the file by using the Save command, then you choose Layer, Flatten Image. Then you turn right around, after you have flattened that image, after you have no layers left, you turn right around and go ahead and choose the Save As command and save the flat image as a separate TIFF file. That way you don't overwrite any of the stuff you did in the layered composition. The next step is to resample the image. So this assumes by the way that we are going to print, that we are going to printing the image.

So you want to resample it, you'd use the Image Size command under the Image menu, with the Resample Image check box turned on to adjust the dimensions and resolution of the printed image. So you are trying to basically specify that you want to print the image at 8x10, for example, at 300 pixels per inch, something long those lines. Now I suggest you downsample, which is to say you reduce the size of the image only. There is no benefit to upsampling for print. There is no sense in adding pixels and I will show you what I mean in the next exercise, but if you want downsample, that's fine.

If you are thinking of upsampling, don't. Just go ahead and turn off the Resample Image check box and then enter your new dimensions. If it turns out to be a low resolution image, fine, you didn't have the pixels to work within the first place, don't make them up, it doesn't do you any good. Then finally the next step would be to sharpen and convert the image. So right at the end, after you have done all this other work, and again this is the conventional sharpening workflow, this is not the workflow I necessarily recommend. It does work to a limited extent, but it's not the best approach.

Now you would apply the desired amount of sharpening to counteract the softness introduced by re-sampling. When you downsample an image, you typically soften the image a little bit. There are ways around that inside the Image Size dialog box. I don't recommend them though. I just would stick with bicubic interpolation and then apply your own sharpening after the fact and you also want apply that sharpening to anticipate the print resolution. You need to anticipate the fact that the image is going to become smaller when it's goes to print. If the image is bound for commercial reproduction that is, process color output, then you convert it to CMYK. That's the only time you convert it to CMYK by the way. You do not convert to see CMYK if you having Inkjet printer or a laser printer or any other local device, only if you are handling it off to a commercial print house and of course you are specifically outputting the process colors, cyan, magenta, yellow and black. And even then some print houses will allow you to submits RGB images and they'll take care of conversion of CMYK.

But when in doubt you'd want to convert it to CMYK or talk to your print house. So that's the conventional approach. I am going to demonstrate the conventional approach, have no fear, in the very next exercise.

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