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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 I am going to introduce you to what is essentially the upgrade to the Unsharp Mask filter And that is the Smart Sharpen command. Introduced a few years back inside Photoshop CS2, it allows you to do just about everything you can do with the Unsharp Mask command and then some. So I would go so far as to call it the preeminent sharpening function inside Photoshop,\. When in doubt, when you want to sharpen an image use Smart Sharpen. That's what I would say anyway. And I am going to demonstrate this filter on this Happy family.jpeg file, which of course comes to us from photographer Justin Horrocks of iStockphoto.com and its found inside the 03 sharpen filters folder.
Lets go up to the Filter menu choose Sharpen and then choose Smart Sharpen. I've gone ahead and assigned this filter a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F6 using the Keyboard Shortcuts Command under the Edit menu. And that brings up this big old dialog box here, a much larger dialog box and the one associated with the Unsharp Mask command, but I am going to zoom-in. Lets go ahead and zoom-in, not on the baby's face, lets look at Mpm this time around. I am going to crank that Amount value up to 250% I think. So you can see that basically we are outfitted with the same Amount and Radius values that we've seen before and that we saw inside of Unsharp Mask.
In fact, by default these Amount and Radius values behave just like they do inside the Unsharp Mask dialog box; they produce the same results and everything. The only option we're missing as you can see here is the Threshold value, and I was telling you I am not that fond pf Threshold in the first place, so I am not missing it anyway. I am going to ahead and raise the Radius value of 3 pixels, and by the way for now I just want you to focus on these three options right here: Amount, Radius and Remove. We'll come to More Accurate later and in a still later exercise we'll talk about Basic and Advanced and Settings which are kind of flawed options inside of this dialog box.
In fact, I would go so far as to call them sufficiently flawed as to be broken essentially, but as I say, we'll come back to those. But if all you ever do is mess around with Amount, Radius and Remove, you're still ahead of the game. You still having more flexible filter than what you have with Unsharp Mask. So you already understand Amount, you understand Radius, it controls the thickness of the edges of course. What about Remove? Notice that you have three different Remove settings to choose from: Gaussian Blur, Lens Blur and Motion Blur. For a moment I want you to think of this word, not as being Remove, but rather as being Use.
Should Photoshop use Gaussian Blur in order to correct the perceived focus of the image, in order to create the illusion of sharper focus? As we saw on the previous exercise, and recall if you were with me, that we used Gaussian Blur and nothing more than Gaussian Blur in order to fix the image. Or should it use the Lens Blur function or should it use the Motion Blur function? So its actually using these other filters, Lens Blur and Motion Blur are filters under the Blur sub-menu, and it's actually using these filters in order to correct the focus of the image.
And I will prove that to you because I am so fond of doing that, I will prove that to you in a couple of exercises. But at any rate for now what's more important than understanding what's going under the hood, even though I love to show you what's going under the hood, whats more important is to understand when and why you would these functions. So first of all, when you have Remove set to Gaussian Blur, this command, assuming that More Accurate is turned off, and you are not messing around with the basic and advanced functions up here. Then the Amount and Radius values behave exactly like they do inside the Unsharp Mask dialog box.
So if we were to choose Unsharp Mask and set the Amount to 250% and set the Radius to 3 and set the Threshold to 0, then you would see exactly the effect that's pictured here inside of the preview when Remove is set to Gaussian Blur. So why would you use Gaussian Blur though? I would suggest here's my very simple take on these three functions. When you're correcting for scanned artwork or a scanned film photograph you're generally better off setting Remove to Gaussian Blur. You can also experiment with Lens Blur if you want to, the Gaussian Blur is your best bet.
Then if you want to compensate for a digital photograph like this one right here, then you would work with Lens Blur because Lens Blur better simulates the effect of actual optical blurring, and so it's better suited to compensating for optical blurring inside of an image. So use Gaussian Blur for your scanned artwork, use Lens Blur for your digital photographs that come from a digital camera and use Motion Blur for a camera shake. That is to say, when the camera moves a little bit and you get a little bit of back and forth blur, that's when you want to use Motion Blur.
So what would we use for this image? Well this image happens to be a digital photograph. How do I know that? Well, I'll show you. I am going to go ahead and cancel out of here. Because I didnt shoot the photograph, right, so how am I so confident that it's a digital photograph? I'll go up to the File menu and I'll choose the File Info command right here, or I could press that big keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Alt+I or Command+Shift+Option+I on the Mac, and you'll see all this information about the photographer, about Justin Horrocks, and that he lives in Lake Stevens, Washington. Because I've gone ahead and included this metadata for you to track this image, so you know where it comes from and you could also checkout this guy's URL right here, just by clicking on the Go To URL button, but that still doesn't tell us that it's a digital photograph.
To see if its a digital photograph or not, you go to Camera Data 1 right there, click on it. If you don't see any information, any camera data, that means it's most likely, it's either a very old digital photographs or more likely because of the high-resolution of this image it came from a scanner- scanned artwork, but if you see a bunch of photographic information it means it's a digital photograph and then in this case, this image was shot with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and so on and so on and so on. This is all the information about the aperture and about whether the flash fired and about the focal length and all those other jobs.
So I am going to cancel out of here, but that's how you tell if something is a digital photograph. If it is, and of course you might also recall if you shot it yourself that its a digital photograph. If it is, then you want to compensate for the focus by going to the Filter menu, choosing Sharpen, by-passing Unsharp Mask, of course by-passing these other guys. These are just single-shot sharpeners that don't do that much good actually, and you would choose the Smart Sharpen function, you would change Remove to Lens Blur and then you would set up the value set you want to work with. For this image, I think I'll try out an Amount value of 200% and a Radius value of 3.
Now I want to show you one more thing about this Radius value, lets go ahead and zoom-in on the woman's face here for a moment, and notice the difference in the Radius, look at the thickness of the edges around her eyes and her nose and her mouth, all the edges inside the image. I'll switch the Gaussian Blur for a moment and did you notice how those edges just got thicker? Lets actually increase this Radius value to 6 so you can really see them. Look how thick and meaty those edges are. And recall one of the reasons that they are so thick and edgy is because of the Gaussian luminance distribution curve which ends up exaggerating the radius, exaggerating the size of those halos.
Whereas- watch those halos there. As soon as I switch the Lens Blur, they shrink, they get tighter, they get more discrete. This is why the setting right here of Lens Blur is so much better suited to digital photography because it does more discrete job of sharpening those edges. So in our case I'd probably take this Radius value down, to something like 3 pixels, lets say. So an Amount of 200%, Radius of 3, Remove set to Lens Blur, click OK and just so we get a sense of what kind of difference it makes in the happy family here; this is the before-view of the image and this is the after-view.
In the next exercise, I'll show you an example of camera shake which we can solve by setting the Remove function to Motion Blur.
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