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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.
In this exercise, we are going to experiment with the ideal settings. We are going to try to find the ideal settings for this particular photograph, the telephoto shot of the ornaments that I shot with a focal length of 135 mm, so I assume pretty far in here. By the way, if you werent with me for the last couple of exercises, you can catch right up by opening the Ornaments defringed.dng file, that's found inside the 05_for_source folder. Note, by the way, that this Ornaments defringed.dng file is identical to the Festive ornaments.dng file that you may have open before you, the original version of this image.
The only difference is the metadata instructions, which amount to the Camera RAW settings, so the numerical Camera RAW settings; all parametric, meaning that they are just numerical parameters that are being applied on the fly to the image. The original pixels are still intact inside of both files are identical, meaning that of course Camera RAW, everything you do inside Camera RAW, is absolutely, totally nondestructive. Alright, so I have maxed out the Amount value here inside of the Detail panel, inside the Camera RAW dialog box, just so that we can gauge what we are doing.
This is way too much sharpening at this point, but I want to be able to experiment with the Radius setting. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in a click here, like So and drag this ball over a little bit so that we can take in the texture and reflective detail. Now this image incidentally- actually, let me zoom out for a moment so that we can take in more of the image while I tell you sort of a little bit of a story about this image. This is what's known as a Medium Frequency Shot, meaning that it combines areas of gradual luminance transition with areas of rapid luminance transition, like inside of the texture and inside of the pine needles in the background, but these reflective areas, these smooth reflective areas, are low frequency areas, gradual transitions.
So we have Low Frequency detail and High Frequency detail, combined together that gives you a Medium Frequency Shot. Also by the way, this is a still life, this is not a portrait, so we are not worried about surface imperfections the way we are with portrait shots. We are really interested in bringing out as much detail as we can inside of this image. That typically means while we are working with the Medium or High Frequency Shot, we are typically going to combine a high Amount value with a low Radius value, and a high Detail value and a low Masking value.
So did you get that? Basically it goes high, low, high, low, with a High Frequency to Medium Frequency Shot like this one here. If we were working with the Low Frequency or Portrait Shot, we would go low Amount, high Radius, low Detail, and high Masking, so exactly the opposite; low, high, low, high, and we will see that in an upcoming exercise. Alright, but in this exercise we are going to focus in, hone in, on the Radius value here. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in on this detail once again, just because its by far the most reflective area of the good and bad stuff that's going on inside of this photograph.
Now notice what happens when I increase the Radius value. First of all, we don't see the Preview update until after I release the slider triangle, that's important to note. If you want to see a live preview, you have to press and hold that Alt key or the Option key on the Mac as you drag that slider triangle around. That does give you real time preview, but at the same time it also gives you that High Pass preview, meaning that we are seeing gray in the non-edge areas, and we are seeing highlights and shadows in the edge areas, which isn't necessarily the most useful way to work in my opinion where Radius is concerned.
I am going to go ahead and release my mouse button so that we can see the full color preview, which really helps I think to illustrate whats going on with Radius. Notice when I am working with a high Radius value that I end up getting very gummy transitions, these overly smooth transitions. So as I am expanding those halos, which I am doing as I am raising the Radius value, I am also smoothing over the corners, and that just happens to be a function of the way this particular sharpening algorithm works. that's not something you see with Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen.
Now sometimes folks point at the Detail value as being the culprit. It's not really the Detail value that's at work here, it's the Radius value too; both Radius and Detail help us smooth out some of the corner detail inside of the textures. Anyway, that's great if I am working, once again, with a Low Frequency Shot or a Portrait Shot, but when I am working with rapidly transitioning luminance levels inside of this texture, for example, it's not something I want. So I would want to take this Radius value down. I am going to start by taking it all the way down to its minimum value, which is 0.5.
Now at this point we get some pretty choppy detail. You can see these kind of vertical lines that are showing up here, that's because this area of the image is not in tight focus; this is slightly out of focus, this region here. So we are bringing out some artifacts, some weird edges that werent really there, but that's OK, and actually it works out well for this image, and we are bringing out other very good details inside of the image. I am going to go ahead and take that Radius value and just raise it one click. So I press the Up Arrow key to take it up to 0.6, which is a very good Radius value, albeit we are combining with too high of an Amount value, but its a very good Radius value for this image.
Now we are going to compensate for Radius by adjusting Detail and Masking, and we are going to begin to do that in the next exercise.
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